The wind chill may have been below zero at Busch Stadium, but a block over, St. Louis Cardinals fans were heating up as the Annual Winter Warm-Up kicked off on Saturday.
Neither the weather nor uncertainty about the 2008 season could keep St. Louis Cardinals fans away from the event in downtown St. Louis. Fans assembled in line early for a chance to receive a ticket to entitle them to stand in another line to get the autograph of one of their favorite present, former, or future Cardinals.
Highlighting the early autograph sessions were current Cardinal Joel Pineiro (below) and prospects Joe Mather and Chris Perez. Later in the day fans met the likes of Aaron Miles, Anthony Reyes, and Bryan Anderson.
At 10:50, the Cardinal Nation welcomed their newest soon-to-be fan favorite, Troy Glaus, to St. Louis. I think his reaction sums it up best; "It's overwhelming, I didn't expect this." Glaus says he remembers his first big league home run very well; it was off a certain pitcher by the name of Chris Carpenter. He probably didn't expect the long line of fans lining up to greet the new third baseman and get his autograph. Among those getting his signature was former Cardinal Ted Savage (below).
Joe Mather (first below) and Chris Perez (second) were pleasantly surprised at the turnout as well. The two were also amazed at seeing fans camped out in the hotel's lobby the night before. More from those two later.
If fans weren't in line getting autographs, they were stopping by the numerous booths and exhibits as well as attending forums presented by some of the Cardinals front office staff among others. I wanted to catch John Mozeliak's question and answer session (right) but by the time I arrived from the Troy Glaus' introduction, the forum was full.
I did attend the forum presented by Jeff Luhnow and John Vuch on the ins and outs of the Cardinals farm system. First, both presented a nice overview of the organization's minor league structure as well as talking prospects. Next was a very good Q and A session in which Luhnow was asked things such as, "Why would you pass on Porcello?" Look for the audio of this forum posted right here for our subscribers in the upcoming days.
Next was a forum for those who like the statistical analysis part of the game. Senior Quantitative Analyst Sig Mejdal and Scouting Department Coordinator Mike Girsch presented a forum on integrating old school scouting with new school number crunching. A very vague description of the Cardinals rating system of players was explained as well as their rating of college players. Also, the two went over how the Cardinals rank their own prospects. No surprise on the identity of their best hitting prospect, Colby Rasmus. One top-pitching prospect was a bit of a surprise. Jaime Garcia was expected but he is tied for the top spot with Mark Worrell. Look for audio of this forum in the coming days, too.
Chris Carpenter says he has had no setbacks and he began soft tossing from short distances. He is being patient on the advice of former and current teammates such as Jason Isringhausen, Matt Morris, and Pat Hentgen.
Izzy (above) delivered the best line of the day. When asked if this was his last contract, the reliever just smiled and said, "The way these owners like to spend money, I might as well stick around for a while."
Keep checking back at The Birdhouse for audio interviews with Joe Mather, Chris Perez, and Joel Pineiro. By the way, we may even have some video for you, too.
Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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