As I sit here at work with nothing to do this morning, it is 8 degrees outside with a windchill that makes it feel like -2. I work in the office of a concrete company, so bitter cold days like this means very little to do. I am lucky to have 2 bosses who do not mind my internet surfing to pass the time as long as all work is done. An 8 hour work day like this can go by very slow, but luckily I have plenty to write about for a few days. I hope to make more frequent posts in the upcoming months.
The Cardinals held their version of a fanfest this past weekend in St. Louis called the Winter Warm Up (WWU). This is the 20th anniversary of the event. It always takes place on Martin Luther King weekend so the event can run 3 days. My son and I attended on Saturday and Sunday, but I will leave those details for another post or two.
In association with the WWU, the Cardinals also host caravans throughout their listening area. The caravans are set up with 5 or 6 Cardinal players: 2 current players who have not been in the majors very long, 2 minor leaguers, and 1 or 2 former players. Some have free admission, others may charge a small fee. I believe the largest fee this year out of the 22 cities was $10. The program will last about 1.5-2 hours depending on the crowd. The players are introduced, followed by a question and answer session, and then an autograph session. The autograph session is advertised for the first 400 kids 15 and under. In the past it was open to anyone as time permitted, but things changed after 2012. David Freese was on the caravan in 2012, just a few months after his heroics in the 2011 World Series. Several cities reported unruly fans trying to get his auto for free. Fans were lining up the night before just to get him. Those not lucky to get in resorted to pushing, shoving, etc.
This is the 8th consecutive year my family has attended a caravan, all in Illinois. We have been to Mt. Vernon and Carbondale, but Champaign is our favorite spot. It is usually held on a Friday at noon, and admission is free. This stop is usually not overcrowded because of school being in session. The school district my children attend always has a half day on the Friday before MLK day, so the wife and I will take them out of school to go (does this make me a good or bad parent?) The caravan was held at the I hotel, just across from the State Farm Center at the University of Illinois. I would guess there were close to 300 people in attendance, with 164 of them being kids.
This year's players included Carlos Martinez, Mitch Harris, minor leaguers Michael Ohlman and Luke Weaver, and alumini Andy Benes and Tom Lawless. Not a bad group considering Martinez was an All Star last year, but some caravans had a little more star power. Michael Wacha and Stephen Piscotty were on the same caravan in Memphis. We still had a good time, and even got a few autos:
catch he made in the AFL this year. He should get moved to Triple A this year, with an outside chance of seeing the Majors if someone gets hurt. He is a big man, 6'5" tall and 240 pounds. He gave me some slack about not having a card off him ( in good humor).
A big reason I like going to Champaign is the radio station that sponsors the caravan will allow people to go through the auto line if all children are finished and time is left. There was about 30 minutes left, so my son went back through the line with me.
My daughter had all the players sign a bat. We had a Louisville Slugger bat made in 2011 with her name on it that she takes to caravans and the WWU. She is up to 47 signatures on it, none that cost her a dime.