The St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up

Photos courtesy of Cadence and Courtney, fans of I-70 Baseball

This weekend, the Cardinals celebrated their annual Winter Warm-Up at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown St. Louis. The event, all proceeds from which benefit Cardinals Care, serves as the first unofficial benchmark that spring and a new baseball season is on the way.

A Fan Festival like No Other

The event ran all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of the holiday weekend. Fans lined up early for the kickoff of the festivities; before the doors opened at 9 a.m. the first day, the hotel lobby was full to the gills and the line ran outside into the cold January morning. But such is the nature of the fanaticism of Cardinal Nation; a little standing and a little chill is well worth it when it comes to supporting the team.

Once the doors opened, the second and fourth levels of the hotel became a steady stream of fans clad in Cardinal gear they may have dug out for the first time since the end of last season. The crowd was thick but manageable, and the venue was well prepared and properly staffed for such an event.

On the second floor, fans were treated to a ballroom filled with memorabilia vendors of all kinds. From jerseys and other apparel to trading cards, bobble heads, signs and baseballs, the vendor room was ground zero for everything Cardinals. Next to it was the kids’ area, which features Nintendo Wii stations, sports-themed skill challenges, and fun bounce-around attractions like an inflatable slide and a Velcro wall. Around the corner, presentation rooms housed informational sessions with collectors, members of the Cardinals’ front office operations staff, team photographers, and up close and personal discussions with the likes of Farm Director John Vuch, General Manager John Mozeliak, and Team President Bill DeWitt III.

The fourth floor boasted the main stage, where fans can hear the team’s broadcasters and St. Louis radio personalities emcee events from player interviews to the live auction. Out in the hall, booths were set up for various charities and team-affiliated merchandise vendors.

The biggest draw of the weekend was surely the player autograph sessions, which took place on either side of the Main Stage. Fans purchased tickets for the privilege of getting signatures directly from players currently on the team as well as some of the Cardinal greats of the past. Some autographs were at a premium, others were relatively inexpensive…but the players realize the good Cardinals Care does in the community, so they happily donated the time and took none of the proceeds.

Each and every Cardinal fan should make it a point to attend the Winter Warm-Up at least once in his or her life. It does not have to be an expensive experience, and all the money that is spent supports a really good cause. And it does not have to be a weekend-consuming event, either. Some fans dedicated themselves to waiting in long lines for autographs, sat through presentations, and perused every piece of memorabilia offered. Others targeted a few desirable events, did one thorough walk-through, and were satisfied. But the Winter Warm-Up certainly offers something for all ages and interest levels, and seeing all that Cardinal red reminds us that in just a few short weeks, the crack of the bat will be heard once again.

Chris Reed is a freelance writer from Belleville, IL who also writes about the Cardinals for InsideSTL on Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he wants. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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