Despite the bitter chill in the St. Louis temperature, there’s nothing but sweet hope in the air. It’s “Truck Day” at Busch Stadium and there’s no better indication that the long, cold offseason is coming to an end than the ceremonious packing of the trucks for Spring Training. Baseball is back…well, almost.
There’s still a faint smell of champagne in the clubhouse air. Close your eyes and you can feel the celebrations that came and went (all too soon) last season. But open your eyes quickly because Fredbird got his wings on a moving cart, and there’s no telling what that bird is up to.
With the exception of our feathered friend’s antics, the rest of the process is a well-oiled machine. After all, clubhouse staff started the annual process almost immediately after the season ended –taking inventory, ordering supplies and packing equipment.
This weekend, boxes of team-issued apparel, pallets of sunflower seeds, bicycles, personal luggage, baseball equipment, and everything except the kitchen sink (although there WAS a refrigerator, if that counts), will make its way to Jupiter, Florida- home for the next couple of months.
The temperature in Jupiter will be a little warmer. The sun will shine a little brighter, and there will be nothing but sweet hope in the air. It’s a new season and another opportunity for Cardinals baseball.
Lindsey Weber is the Communications Coordinator for the St. Louis Cardinals.
JUPITER, FL- St. Louis Cardinals fans from all over the country ascended on Jupiter, Fl., over the weekend to don the Birds on the Bat at the club’s Spring Training complex amongst Cardinals greats, as a chance to see what it’s like to be a big leaguer for a few days.
“This is a real unique group. It’s a bucket list type of item, to be able to play as a Cardinal for a few days with Cardinals,” Camp Director Joe Pfeiffer explained. “You’re playing with guys like Larry Walker and Jason Isringhausen. You’ve got Ozzie Smith in the dugout. Willie McGee just hit a homerun yesterday off one of our campers and the camper hugged him before he got to home plate.”
The 15th annual Cardinals Fantasy Camp hosted at Roger Dean Stadium included three days of activities ranging from cocktail receptions and baseball dinners to a fantasy draft, five games and the “So You Think You Can Hit a Big-Leaguer?” contest where fans get a chance to see what it’s like to take heat against major league pitchers.
“It’s good for my soul,” explained Camp Commissioner and former Cardinal pitcher Rick Horton. “I’ve loved baseball my whole life and I get a chance to love it with campers who are almost going back to their youth a little bit. It’s not about performance but it’s about the joy of being connected through baseball.”
This was the second of two camps held this January in Jupiter, the first of which consisted of five days of activities. Campers experience a full schedule, where they are given unique access to Cardinal Legends and spend the entire day and experience with them.
“They (Cardinal legends) become your friends,” long-time camp goer Bump Williams explained. “So after the season is done — and when I say season, I mean Fantasy Camp — they stay in touch with you. They’ll give you a shout, they’ll send you a text, they’ll send you pictures of them, they’ll invite you down with their family.”
“We go back out to St. Louis and you’ll see Ricky Horton, you’ll see Hungo, you’ll see John Mabry, you’ll see all the players, Willie McGee. All these phenomenal Cardinal legends that will come out and say, ‘Bump, how you doing?’ and ‘Hey, I’m glad to see you at Busch Stadium.’ It just a dream come true.”
What’s more, the former Cardinals players give the campers a taste of what it’s like to be in the big league spot light.
“I think my favorite part is the morning meeting,” Horton said. “It’s a meeting where the cell phones are off, the video cameras are off and we just kind of have a very frank conversation about how the campers did the day before. Everybody certainly has thick skin about it. We warn them that they have to, because part of being is a player is that you are going to get criticized. You are going to have bad days and you are going to have good days, so you need to be able to handle some criticism, you need to have thick skin.”
The meeting is a factory of laughs and the “roast” becomes one of the participants’ favorite parts of Fantasy Camp.
Whether it’s your first time there or you’ve made it an annual tradition, campers say they walk away with an unbelievable experience where they are able to hang out with the guys, play baseball again and receive instruction from Cardinal Hall of Famers.
“There are guys here that are in their late 20’s, early 30’s all the way up to 75. Guys that didn’t even play high school ball or college ball,” said first-time camp goer Mike Harris. “This is great, it’s for everybody.”
Last year the Cardinals brought their first ever Fantasy Camp to Busch stadium during the season in July and teamed up with Mercy Hospital to donate a portion of the proceeds to Mercy Cardinals Kids Cancer Center in St. Louis.
While in town recently to promote his new film “Black or White,” Kevin Costner had a chance to talk baseball with Cardinals Team President Bill DeWitt III, former Cardinal Ted Savage, Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, and several other members of the Cardinals organization. Costner spent about 15 minutes talking to the group before walking the red carpet at a VIP screening of “Black or White” at the Ronnies 20 Cine in South County.
Costner said he began following the Cardinals in the late 60s while he was growing up in the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles. Lou Brock was one of Costner’s favorite players. Costner said he was heartbroken when the Cardinals lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers in 1968. In between photographs and laughs, Costner talked about filming “Field of Dreams,” and joked with the Ozzie that he once pitched a perfect game at Yankee Stadium…over 8 months (filming “For The Love of the Game”).
While walking the red carpet, Costner, who played the character Crash Davis in the movie Bull Durham, was presented with his own Cardinals Jersey by DeWitt, Savage and Smith. Costner conducted several media interviews before introducing his film prior to the screening. After the screening, Costner spoke about the themes raised in the film and answered questions.
Costner hosted a small gathering the following day in downtown St. Louis to get feedback on the film, which opens in theaters this week. Bill DeWitt, Ted Savage, and others from the Cardinals who attended the small gathering downtown spoke with Costner about the film that opens in theaters January 30th.
Costner told DeWitt that he looked forward to visiting the new Ballpark Village. He told DeWitt it looked impressive when he drove past the ballpark. DeWitt invited Costner to come back to St. Louis some time to visit the team and even encouraged him to have his band, Kevin Costner & Modern West, play a concert at Ballpark Village.
After more than 20 years as the chief of Major League Baseball, Commissioner Bud Selig spends his last day at the head of the reigns in New York City. But back in St. Louis, Cardinal Nation is reflecting on one of the most influential people in baseball history.
“He’s certainly going out on top, there’s no question about that,” St. Louis Cardinals Chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. told #CardsInsider during last week’s Winter Warm-Up. “The honors he’s gotten, the accolades are without equal and all well deserved.”
Just last week Selig paid a visit to Baseball Town U.S.A, where he was honored with the first ever Red Schoendienst award for his invaluable service to baseball at the St. Louis Baseball Writers Dinner. It was there, that he repeated his love for the Gateway City.
“And I am not saying because I am in St. Louis but there’s no question in my mind that this is the greatest baseball town in America.”
During his visit to the club back in September, Selig reflected that same sentiment.
“This is a magnificent baseball town, as good as there is in baseball, remarkable,” the ninth commissioner of baseball described in a sit-down interview with FOX Sports Midwest. “What they’ve done, not only have they continued to be competitive, exciting, but they’ve preserved the wonderful history of the Cardinal franchise. I’ve been here a lot in my 22 years and frankly it is one of my favorite places to come.”
His history with the Redbirds predates his time as commissioner, taking us back to the ‘70s when he purchased the Seattle Pilots and revived them as the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Go back to even my Milwaukee Braves days and we had a great rivalry with the Cardinals and I can think of a lot of things and of course all the great players,” Selig recalled. “I can go back before when you had Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson. Of course I have memories of the ‘82 World Series — of course I’d like to replay the seventh game again.”
Selig’s ties to St. Louis run deeper through his friendship with Bill DeWitt Jr. The two share a combined 70 years in baseball and a working relationship that DeWitt says is rooted in respect.
“It’s been great. He’s so open, he’s so available,” DeWitt described. “I never have ever called him that he didn’t get right back to me. And that’s not just me, there are 30 other owners out there and he’s the same way with every single one of them. He is always available for the media, he lives and dies baseball 24/7, knows what happened every game the next day. He’s all in on baseball.”
All-in on an era that saw labor piece, tackled the issue of steroids in society and the game, brought revenue sharing to help small-to-medium market clubs like the Cardinals, experienced fan and economic growth, while bringing excitement with the Wild Card, three divisions and interleague play under Selig.
“The amount of change, while still holding on to the tradition of the sport, you know, that’s pretty masterful work,” DeWitt explained. “So that legacy will be there forever.”
DeWitt led the seven-member committee in 2014, setup to appoint the change of guard. The succession committee ultimately chose Major League Baseball’s Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred to become the 10th commissioner.
“No game sort of stays the same, so he’s got a great opportunity to build on the base that we have today as a result of Bud’s great work,” DeWitt said. “So take all of the good things that we have today and just continue to build on it. We’ve got a very, very bright future and I know he’ll do a wonderful job.”
“He’s a very smart, understands the history, understands the condition,” Selig said of his successor, who has reported directly to the Commissioner since 2013. “We’ve worked closely together and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he’s going to be a terrific commissioner. Has a great passion for the sport, has a great understanding and baseball is in very good hands.”
Just as it has been in good hands for the past 20 years.
“It’s been a great honor to be the custodian, the commissioner of this sport for my generation.”
Commissioner Selig Visits Baseball Heaven To Say Thanks
On September 20, 2014 Commissioner Bud Selig visited St. Louis to say thanks to baseball’s best fans. Commissioner Selig made a point of meeting with the team’s front office staff to personally thank them for their hard work, talk with them about the game and answer their questions. Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and Cardinals Team President Bill DeWitt III gave the Commissioner a guided tour of the Cardinals Hall of Fame & Museum, Cardinals Nation, and Ballpark Village. The group also toured the ballpark and met with Cardinals players, Manager Mike Matheny and General Manager John Mozeliak.
The 2015 Cardinals Caravans managed to stop at 24 locations across 6 states in a matter of 4 days. On January 19, 2015, Caravan #6 made a very special stop at Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria. Current and former players including, Sam Tuivailala, Ty Kelly, Xavier Scruggs, Randal Grichuk, Brad Thompson, and Cliff Politte, were all part of the fun day, bringing smiles to all the children they were able to visit. While the kids were definitely excited to meet the players, the most popular visitor of the day was Fredbird. His silly antics always manage to make the kids (and most adults, too) chuckle.
Our host, Demetra Gaines, Special Visitor Coordinator for Children’s Hospital of Illinois said, “My favorite thing about being in Child Life is being able to make a difference in a child’s life right now, in the midst of the medical uncertainty and health issues they are facing while in the hospital. Being able to provide a momentary distraction from the difficulties they are experiencing is a daily joy. I thank the Cardinals for coming to visit the children. I hope that they know what a true blessing they are.”
Photos of the visit are posted below….enjoy!
The St. Louis Cardinals kicked off the 2015 season with a fun-filled weekend, sending off six Cardinals Caravans throughout the region and holding it’s 19th Annual Winter Warm-Up.
“We as players enjoy this. A lot of times we get to see guys we haven’t seen in a little while and we get to interact with the fans and obviously it all goes to a great cause,” St. Louis Cardinals Outfielder, Matt Holliday said. “So this is something I think that is unique to the Cardinals, I don’t know that every team does this, but we enjoy it.”
The Winter Warm-Up, held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown, allows fans to get an upclose look at their favorite Redbird stars.
“Winter Warm-Up is our version of a fan fest. We put on a lot of different events here, mainly the big attraction is the players being here. It’s the current roster, it’s the minor leaguers, it’s our alums, it’s our hall of famers. They draw a pretty big crowd,” Cardinals Care Executive Director, Michael Hall explained. “But besides that, we do some things on the main stage, we do some Q & A, have the opportunity to meet and talk to some of our front office, like our president, our owners and our general manager. And then we have a dedicated kids room and a dedicated vendors area.”
More than 70 former and current players and managers meet and sign autographs during the three-day event. With all the proceeds benefiting Cardinals Care, the team’s community foundation supporting kids.
“What you are supporting by participating in Winter Warm-Up is giving money back to kids in our community,” said Hall. “We do that through our Redbird Rookie program — our youth baseball development program, and we give cash grants to other non-profits that support kids and then we also build ballfields.”
You can learn more about Cardinals Care and about volunteering by visiting their website, cardinals.com/community.
January 20, 2015 – After more than a decade with the Cardinals, I had my first chance to be part of the Cardinals Caravan this weekend. I have to tell you it was a lot of fun!
In an era of mass media and almost non-stop social media, the Cardinals Caravan is refreshing reminder of what matters most…connecting with fans one on one.
The Cardinals have been conducting the annual Cardinals Caravan for more than forty years, growing our fan base the good old fashion way with face to face contact with fans young and old.
The Cardinals Caravan recipe is quite simple: the team comes to town, hosts a mini-town hall forum, signs some autographs, poses for photos and makes memories that promise to last a lifetime.
The 2015 Cardinals Caravan, presented by Missouri Farm Bureau Insurance, covered six states in four days (Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky & Indiana), making 22 stops in 21 cities.
Each Caravan is comprised of a delegation of current Cardinals players, former Cardinals, front office staff and a team broadcaster.
We had a great group on our adventure to Springfield, Joplin and Rolla.
We met a lot of wonderful fans, enjoyed some elite high school basketball, witnessed a hole in one on Golden Tee (kudos to Jason Simontacchi), managed through a little transportation adversity with our bus (thanks to Vince Ketterer of White Knight) and got to know one another better.
Be sure to check out the Cardinals Caravan the next time it comes to your town. It promises to be a great time you won’t want to miss.
Springfield, Missouri – 2015 Cardinals Caravan Presented by Missouri Farm Bureau Insurance
Joplin, Missouri – 2015 Cardinals Caravan Presented by Missouri Farm Bureau Insurance
Rolla, Missouri – 2015 Cardinals Caravan Presented by Missouri Farm Bureau Insurance
One Caravan – Three Buses & A Great Crew
With the debut of the #TheFrontOffice in September of 2013, the St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) became the first MLB team, and likely first overall, to tell a story episodically using Instagram video.
While the team was rolling out the new 53-episode series compliant with Instagram’s 15-second video capability starring Phyllis Smith, Fredbird, the Rally Squirrel, Cardinals players and an all-star cast from the Cardinals’ own front office, a new parody involving ‘Back to the Future’ was pitched to Ron Watermon, the Cardinals VP of Communications, by a Cardinals fan he had met during the Stand for Stan social media campaign.
Doc [Crotzer] came to us during the #NestFlix production of the Front Office last year and said, ‘I’ve got a cool idea I want to pitch to you,’ and he did. And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect because his idea fit so perfectly into this place,” Watermon explained, referring to the Cardinals Museum. “We were in the process of building a brand new museum and we thought, ‘What a cool and creative way to promote our museum and our archive.’”
The Cardinals enlisted the St. Louis native, turned Hollywood movie industry professional, Doc Crotzer to direct the production. Along with local production company ‘Media Watch,’ the crew got to work and eventually shot the movie in the summer of 2014.
“I’ve always had a special affinity to the ‘Back to the Future’ movies, they have been some of my favorite movies. When I was at Mizzou, studying Journalism I made a documentary about the making of the ‘Back to the Future’ movies and that was something that when I moved to Los Angeles after college, helped me get my first job, first couple of jobs really,” Crotzer relayed his relationship to both franchises. “It was just something that really jump started my career. The franchise has always had a special place in my heart. And the idea of kind of melding these two things that I love from my childhood together, ‘Back to the Future’ and the Cardinals, was kind of an obvious fit for me.”
The amount of talent is obvious as you watch the film. For example, Crotzer has really begun to make a name for himself in the industry, working on projects such as Glee, Sons of Anarchy and American Horror Story.
“One of the things I think that is incumbent on us in the communication side, is to tell the story of the organization, to introduce our fans to our organization, to show the people that work here and for the team,” Watermon said.
St. Louis’ connection to ‘Back to the Future’ goes even deeper than Crotzer.
“At the very last minute we were able to get Christopher Lloyd in the ‘Bird to the Future,’” Crotzer described. “One of the fun back stories about that is that the person who actually shot that is Bob Gale, who co-created the films and is from St. Louis and a big Cardinals fan. He was instrumental in getting Chris to do his little cameo in our thing, which was super generous in both of those guys.”
Another way that the crew was able to bring the story to life and transport Fredbird and the Rally Squirrel back in time, was through the use of the Cardinals archive photos that depicted the mascots in the past taking selfies and photos on their mobile phones.
“Rachel Brady from the communications department did a fantastic job going through, photo-by-photo, and picking some of these really cool images and spending a lot of time making you believe that Fredbird and the Rally Squirrel are actually there,” Watermon said, adding that fans can get in on the action with their new #FansToThePast promotion on social media in conjunction with the #BirdToTheFuture movie. (http://atmlb.com/149enZr)
In addition to searching #BirdToTheFuture on the @Cardinals Instagram, you may also watch the film in its entirety here: http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com/stl/fan_forum/nestflix.jsp
Below you will find a photo gallery of images from the making of #BirdToTheFuture