Thoughts on the 2011 Winter Warm-Up
Yes, baseball is almost back! Pitchers & Catchers report in less than a month and I can hear the sound of Adam Wainwright’s curveball hitting Yadier Molina’s glove already. Deep breaths people, winter is almost over and the boys of summer are preparing to do what they do best.
As everyone already knows, this past weekend was Winter Warm-Up at the Hyatt Regency in downtown St. Louis. Considering myself lucky enough to live just 30 minutes from Busch Stadium, my sister and I were able to attend for a second consecutive year. Being able to pull out some of my Cardinal t-shirts and jackets was such a great feeling – they get so lonely all folded up in my closet without regular wear like during the summer. I just love having a reason to wear Cardinal gear all weekend long (especially in the winter!).
This year, we had more tickets for autographs than last; Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jon Jay, Skip Schumaker & David Freese. Good thing we decided to actually purchase autograph tickets because the lines for some of the free autographs were extremely long. Lines for Shelby Miller & Zack Cox were so long it created a madhouse on the right side of the main ballroom. I won’t go into criticizing how terrible the organization of these lines was, but if you were there, you can back me up. Needless to say, sticking with our pre-mapped out plan, we had the right idea.
I know many people aren’t fans of the idea of paying for autographs and standing in long lines for a 2 second encounter with their favorite player. I understand this. However, I love the idea. At games, you tend to see a lot of people waiting along the first base line and around the home team dugout screaming at players for autographs. That isn’t really my style. I enjoying getting down close and conversing with the players/getting pictures, but you won’t find me screaming at them for autographs. So, if an event like the Winter Warm-Up has been created specifically for this, then I am willing to participate. Besides, I don’t think any other Major League Organization has an event like this where practically every single player and many former players show up to sign autographs and chat with fans/media for a couple hours. I consider us very lucky. I look forward to this every year. Not only do we get to see our favorites and our new additions, we get an almost 72-hour taste of baseball while the thermometer reads 8 degrees outside.
While I was looking forward to my autographs, there were several other things I look for when attending the Winter Warm-Up. While waiting in lines, I watch the big video screens to see what else is going on around the event. I look to see if other players are enjoying themselves, I look to see if new additions are interacting with the fans, and I look at the reactions of players being interviewed on the main stage. Lets face it, unless you get a good seat or you are in line to meet every single player, you can’t see any of that.
This year, I was looking to see what kind of reaction the newest Cardinals had to being at the Winter Warm-Up. Ok, yeah…I couldn’t bring myself to buying a ticket for Ryan Theriot or Lance Berkman just yet, but I did want to see how they were responding to being a part of the Cardinals. There have been many articles with Berkman saying that this team stacks up against any other in the NL and Theriot has said that he is now on the right side of the Cards/Cubs rivalry. Obviously all things Cardinal Nation wants to hear…and I applaud them for doing that. They know they have to win over the crowd. You can talk all you want, but if you don’t look like you are truly enjoying being in St. Louis, then I don’t believe you for a second. Good for them, I do believe it. I watched Berkman on the video screens chatting with fans and his new teammates, and I am convinced. Of course his on-field play has yet to be evaluated, but if he says he is glad to be here, I believe it. It was apparent from his constant smile throughout his entire autograph session at Winter Warm-Up that he is indeed happy to be here. Same with Ryan Theriot. He wasn’t on the video screens near as long as Berkman, but he appeared to me that he was also excited to be here – I mean, he has a lot of people to win over since he took the place of Brendan Ryan, he was a Cub, and he may not have THE best stats. But, if a former Cub (and fan favorite) can come out and say that he is now on the right side of the Cards/Cubs rivalry, you have immediately won over many fans. I still need to see more, but I am glad to see that he is trying. That is all I can ask for right now. I am a wait-and-see kind of fan. I get upset when my favorite player is traded (ahem, Ryan Ludwick) but I did give Westbrook a chance, and I am happy to see him a Cardinal for the next 2 seasons.
I think that Winter Warm-Up is one of those events that give fans a chance to see these things, and I know I can’t possibly be the only one who looks for these things as well.
Now, on to our Winter Warm-Up experience. I do my best to block out some of the rude volunteers – yeah, the ones who tell you you aren’t allowed to take a photo with a player after you waited 2 hours in line because they want to move the line along (did I mention I hate that??) – and instead I do my best to just enjoy the experience of getting to meet some of my favorite players.
Courtney had tickets for Jon Jay, David Freese & Skip Schumaker. I had those 3 as well as Chris Carpenter & Adam Wainwright. Our Saturday started with Chris Carpenter. I went over and over in my head what I would say to Carp when I finally got to meet him – after all, his jersey t-shirt was the first one I ever bought with my own money. And, my twitter handle (stl_cardsfan29) is because of his number and because my birthday is on the 29th of the month. Anyway…by the time I got up to him, I couldn’t say a word. He was so nice – his smile was so big and his eyes were sparkling (not to mention that beard!) – that I couldn’t say anything! I froze. At least I didn’t say anything stupid.
|His name is Jonathan.|
Jon Jay was next. While we were waiting in his line, we noticed that Brian Tallet had very few people in his line. Courtney and I felt bad, but I’m not gonna lie…that happens when people don’t know who you are. I am sure he doesn’t mind. Moving on…Jon Jay was nice but SOOOO quiet. Similar to fan photo day back in September, he didn’t look like he was saying anything to anyone. So, Courtney decided that she would ask him something to try and get him to crack a smile. If you watch SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight, you will notice that the reporters/anchors called him “Jonathan” but all of the local media call him “Jon”. When Courtney approached him it went something like this: “I just have to know something.” “OK.” “Do you want to be called Jonathan or Jon? Because I want to call you whatever you want to be called.” “Haha…It doesn’t matter to me. Whatever you want.” Courtney has decided that she will be calling him Jonathan. I think she made a new friend in Jonathan Jay. :)
Our final ticket for Saturday was for David Freese. And we couldn’t wait for this. We waited to get in line for about 2 hours, and finally we made it. Colby Rasmus was seated next to David. The Colby Rasmus 13-year-old-girl-Fan Club was in the photo-only area. As we rounded the first turn of the 2-turn line, we heard a shrill hyena-type scream. Apparently Colby had waved to the fan club after they had been yelling his name for 5 minutes. All we could do was look at each other and laugh. Yes, we get excited about our experiences with players, but we by no-means are huge fan girls in front of the players. We have a professional-type approach to our encounters. I turned to Courtney and reminded her of the time we were able to get Colby to say hello to us at a game last year. Courtney and I were down near the field taking pictures and watching the guys warm up when Courtney waved and said “Hi Colby” in probably the quietest voice possible. He stopped what he was doing and waved back. Moral of the story, you don’t have to be loud and crazy to get someones attention – you actually look idiotic when you do that. We looked back at Colby and David after the fan club went nuts and they were laughing almost hysterically at them. No, not because they were happy, they were obviously laughing at them. – End Mini-Rant –
|Courtney & David.|
We finally made our way to David Freese. I told him I was happy to see him all in one piece. He laughed and said “Thanks”. I told him we also saw that he had been attending Blues games and he had to be more careful. Again, he laughed and said “I know, I know.” I am sure I wasn’t the first person to say something to him about that, but I couldn’t help myself. I LOVE that Freese is one of many St. Louis athletes who supports the other teams, but come on, the guy needs to wear a bubble OR just sit in a suite way up high so there is no chance of a hockey puck coming near his head EVER. AGAIN. Other than that…Freese was really nice to us as well. I think he might have to be one of my new faves in 2011 since my two faves are gone.
|The boy that needs a bubble while at Scottrade.|
Day 2. Schumaker & Wainwright. Before we got in line, we sat in the seats in front of the main stage to listen to John Rooney for a bit. Some jerk had to ask some dumb question about why we don’t still try to get someone like Orlando Hudson because Theriot isn’t really an upgrade from Brendan Ryan. Hey guy, Hudson was signed by the Padres a couple weeks ago, but nice try……ugh, pay attention. Why do I always end up near these idiots?
|Courtney with Skip!|
Considering we had just about enough, we
decided to get in line for Skip. Nothing interesting happened this time. One thing that was different about Skip though, was that after I gave my routine “It’s so nice to meet you!” he answered back “It’s nice to meet you too! Are you having a good time?” Um, yeah Skip…I am surrounded by members of the St. Louis Cardinals and hundreds of fans who love them just as much as I do…of course I am! But I just stuck with “Yes, I am having a great time!” Seriously, one of the most sincere responses. I consider us so lucky to have/had some of the most sincerely nice guys to play for the Cardinals. It really makes it worth it. Besides, I could deal without having someone like Brandon Phillips EVER playing for the Cardinals. ;) I love how our guys seem to really care about being a part of this team and they must really believe that we are the “best fans in baseball”. It makes spending the time and money on them worth it.
After a quick lunch with a friend of mine from college, it was time for Adam Wainwright. I had been waiting for this moment all weekend. Besides Carp, Waino is up there on my list of faves – we are almost birthday twins (mine being the 29th, his the 30th of August). What I planned on saying to Waino was also something I had been thinking about all day. This time, I actually got it out. I knew I had to be creative. I had to think of something that not everyone would have asked him. Something that might catch him off guard, but in a good way. So, I decided I would ask him if he could show me his curveball and see what his response might be. After the guy in front of me finished asking Waino to right a letter to him on his photograph (ugh), it was my turn.
“Hi Adam, it’s so great to meet you.” “Thanks.” “Can I ask you one thing? Will you show me your curveball?” “Haha…what?” “Can I ask you to show me your curveball with that baseball? And then take a picture. Is that ok?” “Haha…of course.” “Thanks so much, you have no idea.” “You’re welcome!” Oh my gosh, I just got Adam Wainwright to show me his curveball! And I really do think I caught him off guard, in a good way! He laughed at me, but I think it was good. After all, he did oblige my request…and I have the photos to prove it!
|Waino showing me his curve…that’s one
Success. And now, I am more than ready for baseball season. I am still going to root on my Blues and my Missouri Basketball Tigers, but I cannot wait for February 13th. I am ready for those boys to make me jealous in the sunshine state, preparing for March 31st. Speaking of which…I cannot wait for March 31st. Opening Day…it’s right around the corner. I can feel it. Now, if only we could get the Cards front office to sign number 5 to a contract forever, I will be good to go.
One last thing…I am so happy I got to meet some awesome people from twitter at Winter Warm-Up; @emilyjune87, @nlw1013 & @MattSebek. You all were fantastic and I am so glad I got to meet you all! Sorry to those who I just couldn’t get together with…I look forward to meeting MANY more of you from my twitter family in 2011 at Busch Stadium!