Last year at this time I was wandering around the halls of the Millenium Hotel in downtown St. Louis for my first Cardinals Care Winter Warm-up. It was my first experience of seeing the Cardinals operation up close off the diamond.
It was a fun time and I got to see a lot of Cardinal players and former players.
Tony LaRussa was there answering questions and later signing autographs. As was the Cards GM John Mozeliak. I went with my uncle Gordon, who helped bring me into Cardinal Nation, who had gone to this event before.
The event is a fundraiser for the Cardinals Care charity. You pay an admission fee and then get to see speakers, stand in line for free autographs (heavy hitters require a paid ticket, sometimes more than $75 for an autograph) and sessions with managements, staff and stadium operations.
Pat Parris of Fox Sports Midwest was there. Parris used to anchor at WHO-TV in Des Moines if you go back before the Keith Murphy era at 13. I try to keep in touch as I was an intern under him during my first WHO tour.
KTRS radio has a set up that allows to pick players who come to the event a chance to talk to their radio audience before or after addressing the big crowd in-house.
The event lasts Saturday through Monday. It is the same each day, just the names are different that are signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans. One fun thing is hanging out in the lobby to see who you can see. Here, true Cardinal fans are sitting with books and books of baseball cards waiting to see if an up and coming player walks into the lobby to chase down for an autograph. I played named that Cardinal several times with Gordon as we guessed who was whom.
My favorite was seeing back up catcher Jason LaRue walk in with his cowboy boots, camo and wild wardrobe.
Monday night is the Baseball Writers of St. Louis annual dinner. This is where the players receive season awards, Gold Gloves or MVPs. This year, Albert will be getting his MVP at this dinner. Other team awards are given away as well during this dinner.
One additional note. Like many hotels, there’s a lounge area with a bar for fans to sit in and relax. The Sunday night of the ’09 Warm Up was the Arizona Cardinals NFL playoff game. The Arizona part still bothers many in St. Louis. You can tell whenever Bill Bidwell was shown on TV, the crowd would boo. But the majority of the fans were cheering for Kurt Warner. Even though he’s no longer the QB in STL, they still love their Iowa Boy.
I would imagine they’ll be cheering again tonight for Warner.