Kinney, who earned a World Series ring in his first partial season with St. Louis, took it all in stride, telling the crowd how much he enjoyed playing in Springfield and how the city felt like home to him.
"This city feels more like home to me than anywhere I go," Kinney said. I get to Springfield every chance I get because my girlfriend lives here. Someday, if things work out right, it is not unforeseeable that I could make my home in Springfield."
When asked if he ever thought the fans or the media would let him forget giving up a home run on his first pitch in the majors, Kinney said he doubted that anyone would ever forget, especially his teammates.
"How often does that happen?" said Kinney. "How many pitchers give up a home run on their very first pitch in the big leagues? Actually, Ricky Horton was the guy who made me feel better. He told me that he did the same thing his first time out in the majors."
The 27-year-old right-hander is somewhat of a Cardinal Country homeboy. Though he was born in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, he attended college in Quincy, Illinois and played for the River City Rascals, an independent team in the Frontier League located in St. Charles, Missouri, before being purchased by the Cardinals in 2001.
Kinney started with Springfield in their 2005 inaugural season and pitched for the Memphis Redbirds in 2006 where he spent the majority of the season. Though he gave up that home run on his first pitch he threw at a game in Atlanta on July 3, he did not allow a run in his final eight appearances with St. Louis, allowing six hits, walking one and fanning nine.
Kinney was initially the only Memphis player selected to play in the Triple-A All Star Game in 2006, after spending five seasons in the Cardinals' minor league system.
It was hard to tell it from the reaction of the large crowd gathered in the White River Room of Bass Pro, but Josh Kinney was not the only Cardinal to show up with the Caravan.
Among those present was veteran, and soon to be broadcast hall-of-famer, Jay Randolph, who was a voice of the Cardinals from 1975 until 1986. He will be returning to replace Wayne Hagin to do television coverage with Rick Horton.
"I am really looking forward to coming back to St. Louis," said Randolph. "Wayne has decided to seek fulltime employment and that opened up a wonderful opportunity for me. I will be sharing the TV coverage with Rick Horton and I am sure Mr. Shannon will be dropping by to check up on me every once in awhile."
Dave Duncan, pitching coach for St. Louis who makes his home about 40 miles south of Springfield in Kimberling City, said that last season was a real nail-biter. "When the players really seemed to get going, they would turn around and let it slip away, but the team played well in the post season when it counted and luckily we came out on top."
About his son Chris who played for the Cardinals last year? "I lived and died with every pitch to him," Duncan said. "Overall he did well, and I am proud of the job he did."
And about the 2007 season? "I am very optimistic about the upcoming season," Duncan said. "Jason Isringhausen is coming along much faster than we had earlier anticipated and he assures me that he will be ready on Opening Day to take the game into the ninth inning."
Also along on the Caravan tour was St. Louis Cardinals television broadcaster and former pitcher, Al Hrabosky (the Mad Hungarian himself) who threw in his take on the upcoming season. "The team we saw play during the regular season last year wasn't the best team we have seen in the last three years, but it was the best team in the end," said Hrabosky. "I believe the team we have this year is a better team."
Josh Hancock, right-handed relief pitcher who was picked up in 2006 spring
training after being released from Cincinnati and Chris Narveson,
left-hander acquired off waivers from the Boston Red Sox in 2005,
rounded out the Caravan.
John Brayfield, our Springfield correspondent, can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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