The previous UCB weekend was held last September (and blogged about here). The Cardinals decided to host us earlier in the season this year.
On Saturday evening, there was a UCB dinner held at Patrick’s in Westport Plaza. For the second year in a row, I didn’t make it to the dinner – I hope to rectify that next year. Dinner was sponsored by Blitzfest, Any City Sports Fan, and Out of the Park Baseball. There were giveaways from STL Sports Page, Bonfyre, Topps Baseball Cards, ISA Grading Service, and Fox Sports Midwest.
On Sunday, the blogger event was held in the conference room in Busch Stadium. I brought my neighbor, JoAnn Johnson, who was very excited.
We received our game tickets and Carlos Beltran bobbleheads. Ron Watermon was the master of ceremonies. Owner Bill DeWitt, Jr. and general manager John Mozeliak were the main speakers. Mozeliak said that they were pretty happy about what had happened in April. He mentioned the fact that several of our bloggers cover the minor leagues in depth and that he was appreciative of the fine coverage. Mozeliak said that the Cards have a good group of players at the minor league level that the Cards haven’t had to tap into yet, but he hoped they didn’t have to. Mozeliak said they take pride in the fact that the Cards have the best home grown talent in the major leagues. He then talked about Jermaine Curtis, the latest call up from the minor leagues.
Mozeliak turned the floor over to Bill DeWitt. DeWitt gave a report on Ballpark Village. He said they were on track for completion of Ballpark Village by next spring. The basic timeframe is that by July, there will be parking on the west side of the site. The three main tenants will be Cardinals Nation, which will be a bar/restaurant/store/Hall of Fame Museum and will have a seating deck with a party room attached to it. In the middle of Ballpark Village will be the Live Marketplace, and the third tenant will be Anheuser-Busch. DeWitt spoke at length about the new Hall of Fame Museum. The old Hall of Fame, which was located in the basement of the old Bowling Hall of Fame (which was demolished for Ballpark Village), just had plaques of the Cardinals who were in Cooperstown, but the new Hall of Fame Museum will have more Cardinals players featured. DeWitt mentioned that they had been purchasing memorabilia for the new Hall of Fame for fifteen years, at a cost of almost $2 million dollars.
The question/answer session then ensued. The first question was about whether the DH would ever come to the National League. Mozeliak said that he didn’t see it on the horizon. Mozeliak said from a strategy standpoint, it would add another bat to the lineup. He’s not overly concerned if the NL switches to the DH, but he hopes that they don’t. DeWitt said that there had been no discussions at owners’ meetings about the DH.
The next question was to Mo about his thoughts on Shelby Miller’s performance this April. Mozeliak knocked on the wooden podium, making us all laugh. “Damn good,” he said. (Of course, this was before today’s game.) Mozeliak said that although Shelby had some bumps along the way in his minor league career, he was destined to be a good major league pitcher. Mo stated that Shelby is ready to contribute every fifth day and that in the future, he could be a front of the rotation pitcher. Someone then asked an analytics question and asked whether the Cards relied on an analytic computer program.
A question was asked about the strategy of the minor league system as to infielders as opposed to pitchers. Mozeliak said that 3 or 4 years down the road, there’s no one that jumps out at shortstop, so the organization would have to draft or look to the international market to complement that. From a strategic standpoint, the organization needs to look at what they’re good at and what they’re weak at and in the draft and/or international market, they’re going to be looking at players up the middle to address that.
A question was asked about criteria in selecting players. Mozeliak said they like guys who hit the ball hard and often. A question was asked whether there was a comparison between Oscar Tavares and Vladimir Guerrero. They’re both Dominican, free swingers, and takes rips. Oscar is a little more disciplined than Vladimir was. At age 20, Mozeliak compares Oscar to Pujols and J.D. Drew. Mozeliak said there are lots of reasons to be excited about Oscar as a player. A blogger from Joplin asked about whether he should run over to Springfield to see Carlos Martinez. Mozeliak said he had better get over to Springfield quick because Carlos may be in St. Louis soon.
The next question was Mozeliak had ever picked Stan Musial’s brain about his experience as a general manager. Mozeliak said no, but his mentor was Bing Devine. His interactions with Stan was in a social setting and Mozeliak wasn’t the GM at that time. The next question was about the draft and the process involved. Mozeliak stated that they would address needs and that draft picks can’t be traded up or down. They want to draft players that can make it to the big leagues. The Cards have 2 picks in the first round of the draft. They would like to address needs, but Mozeliak doesn’t see a lot of shortstops in this draft.
A question was asked about how often Mozeliak and Mike Matheny get together and talk about the players in the minor league system. Mozeliak said that Matheny takes a great deal of interest in what goes on in the minor league system and they talk daily. They maintain a depth chart on a daily basis. Mo stated that Michael Wacha could pitch at the major league level today, but since he’s only a year removed from college where he pitched only once every 7 days, and he needed to get used to a 5 man rotation.
The next question was about Trevor Rosenthal and the process used to decide to move him to the bullpen. Mozeliak said that it was a seamless process. He spoke about how pitching velocity has increased in the last 4 or 5 years. The pitchers are getting the ball quicker out of their hands. Trevor gets in trouble when he leaves fastballs out over the plate instead of pitching more chase pitches. Trevor is still making the adjustment to the major leagues.
The final question was from Dennis (Pitchers Hit Eighth), who wanted to use Mozeliak’s office to trade Ty Wiggington. Mozeliak said that you can’t develop a bat off the bench in the minor leagues and that Ty does have a value to the team. Mozeliak would like him to hit better than what he currently is, but it’s tough to train a guy to just come off of the bench and they were hoping that Ty would fill that role. If a year from now, he’s still hitting .150, they’ll reassess.
Stephanie Spargur, the director of retail for Sportsservice, was then introduced. She presented a display of items that can be purchased in the Team Store at Busch Stadium.
There are various items that can only be purchased at the Team Store, and they have a special label on them. Neon colors are popular this year, so there are items available for purchase in these colors. See the selection below. There are also pet items available for purchase.
There are also some items for purchase that can be personalized, which would make great wedding, anniversary or Christmas presents.
This photo is a selection of items for lady Cardinals fans, perfect for Mother’s Day.
There was time for a couple more questions for DeWitt. A question was asked about if Stan Musial family’s had contributed items to the new Hall of Fame and whether there was competition from the Baseball Hall of Fame for items for the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame. DeWitt said that Stan had contributed a substantial amount of his memorabilia to the Cardinals organization back in the late 1960’s-early 1970’s. DeWitt said that they do cooperate with Cooperstown a little bit, and they mainly come around when something big happens, like a World Series win and asks for a jersey, a bat, etc. Will, DeWitt’s son, had a question and asked if there will be any events outside the season at Ballpark Village. DeWitt told his son that if he had been listening earlier instead of of playing on his phone, he would have heard that they’re planning a lot of events, about 150 a year on average. DeWitt was then asked about the situation about the Memphis minor league affiliate. DeWitt replied that the Cardinals had a good relationship with Memphis and that they weren’t leaving. DeWitt mentioned that the ownership situation in Memphis is complicated – there’s a non-profit organization involved, and there’s some bondholders involved.
A discussion was held about the color of the hats the Cards wear on the road. DeWitt explained that the team wears the blue hat when they play against teams that have red as one of their colors and they wear the red hat when the other team doesn’t wear red. A question was asked about the dynamic pricing for seats. Group sales ticket blocks are held back from dynamic pricing. DeWitt talked about the relationship they have with StubHub for season ticket holders who would like to sell the tickets they won’t use. The club works with the ticket brokers when they buy tickets from them.
There was a question about the First Pitch program. DeWitt said that the team loves the program because the tickets allocated to the opposing team that aren’t used can be sold. These tickets can’t be put back in the general inventory because they are returned at the last minute.
Mr. Waterman then mentioned the special Stan Musial lapel pins that the Cardinals family are wearing this season. They look like the Stan Musial patch that the players are wearing on their uniforms this season. Mr. Waterman said that there were Stan Musial pins available for all of us because they consider us all a part of the Cardinals family. We were all very touched by this statement, and there might have been a few tears shed.
Next, we heard from Alex Eusebio, the luxury suite chef. He gave us the menu for today’s party room, which included pulled pork, beef brisket, G&W Sausage bratwurst and hot dogs, 4 handed nachos, potato salad, and a pasta station, which featured DeWitt’s favorite pasta, penne prosciuto chicken with a tomato cream sauce. There was a Mediterranean tapas station for the vegans among us (Baseball fans vegans? Really?). Mr. Waterman finished up the presentation and told us that they appreciated what we do.
I really appreciate how the Cardinals organization treats the bloggers. I’m not sure what kind of relationships other major league teams have with their bloggers, but I’m certain it can’t be as good as the Cardinals have with us. It was great to be able to talk to an owner and the general manager and have them be so open and forthcoming with us.
We got over to the party rooms just in time for the game to start. There were lots of good conversations and lots of great food. Unfortunately, the game itself wasn’t so great – the Cards lost to the Pirates, 9-0. Maybe the Cards will bring us a winner next time. Here’s a photo of all the bloggers in attendance:
Can you find me? LOL! The Cardinals had professional photographers at the event and you can see photos from the conference at this link: Photos. (You may want to copy the link and open it in Internet Explorer; I couldn’t get it to open in Firefox.)
Thanks for reading! See you next time!