UCB Weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year. I get to visit with old friends and new friends who are also fellow bloggers, watch the Cardinals play and have some great food. It can’t get too much better than that.
The UCB dinner was held Saturday night at Joe Buck’s restaurant in downtown St. Louis, which was a new venue for this event. I unfortunately was unable to attend, but I understand the Fox Sports Midwest Girls made an appearance. Hopefully, I’ll be able to attend this shindig next year.
Sunday was the annual Q&A session/Cardinals baseball game. My son Phillip was my guest this year. He is finally discovering at the ripe old age of 17 (almost 18, as he reminds me daily) how great Cardinals baseball is. I wanted to take his photo to put on this post, but he hates having his photo taken, even though I told him how handsome he looked in the promotional giveaway, which was the batting practice cap. I even tried asking him to let me take his photo so his sister who lives in Connecticut could see him, but that idea went nowhere. I can see now it’s going to be a struggle getting his senior picture taken this year.
I worked the room, walking around and talking with bloggers that I’d met in years past, and making new friends as well. The meeting started promptly at 12 noon. Ron Watermon, the director of public relations for the Cardinals, was the MC. He welcomed us and introduced his staff to us. Mr. Watermon also let us know that there were tickets to the Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum in the envelope with our tickets and encouraged us to visit the museum. Mr. Watermon told us that the team is going to debut a digital version of the media guide and that we bloggers would have the first opportunity to view and give our feedback on it. The world has migrated to digital and the Cardinals are excited about the first digital version of the media guide.
The first speaker was John Mozeliak, the senior vice president/general manager of the Cardinals. Mo said that we are always a fun group and he gets to read about what we write about. Mo said that this is one of those years that you leave yourself open to a little scrutiny and a little bit of questioning. He said that the season hasn’t gone as planned, but frankly, never does the season go as planned. Mo said that he was still pretty excited about what where the team is. Mo said that the Cards have a lot of exciting things going on in the minor leagues. He said that from a performance standard, there are people stepping up and exceeding their expectations. Those players going to be knocking on the major league door in the near future, which is great news. Mo said that it has been a frustrating year at times because when you think about how this team was put together, the thought was that it was going to be an offensive club and there just hasn’t been a situation where the we’ve broken through and found that right combination. Mos said that the Skipper was trying another lineup that day. Mo emphasized that the teams was not going to give up the future to win now and he asked us to please be a little more patient with the team. He said that he’d be back to answer questions.
The next speaker was Peggy Ryan, who is the vice president of food service and merchandising for both Busch Stadium and Cardinals Nation. Ms. Ryan spoke about how Busch Stadium is open only 6 months out of the year, but Cardinals Nation is open all year long. 4 components of Cardinals Nation – the restaurant, the buffet, the museum, and the rooftop deck. She spoke at length about all these components. She invited us to consider Cardinal Nation and Busch for corporate events.
The next speaker was Bill DeWitt III, the vice president of the Cardinals. He said tht Ballpark Village is unique in all of baseball. Ballpark Village was part of the master plan in designing the ballpark. The field was left open to provide for BPV. Mr. DeWitt said they were looking forward to Phases II, III, and IV of BPV, although they were still getting their sea legs on the operations of Phase I. Mr. DeWitt spoke about the purchase of the Memphis club, and mentioned that the Cardinals owned the Memphis club, the Springfield, MO club and the high A Palm Beach club. He said that no other club owned their top 3 farm league clubs. He said that the purchases weren’t planned, but it was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. Mr. DeWitt said that attendance should be over 3 million for the season. The Cardinals are a bottom market team that acts like a large market team. His job as president is to not take that great fan support for granted.
After Mr. DeWitt was finished, it was time for questions and answers. The first question was about whether tobacco products should be banned in the clubhouse. Mo said that tobacco is banned at the minor league level. At the professional league level, the club no longer provides tobacco products, but they can’t stop anyone from bringing it in.
The next question was about the revenues and profits of Ballpark Village and whether they have exceeded the team’s projections, and whether profits from BPV used for baseball operations. Mr. DeWitt said that BPV has done well against expectation in some areas, but some areas are being fine-tuned. The mission of BPV was to provide a 365 day operation. There is a $2 million marketing budget for non-game days activities such as concerts.
The next question was about Darryl Kile’s death 12 years ago on Sunday. TLR had to handle the team after DK’s death. Could Matheny handle it if something like that happened today? Mo says that Matheny was a leader on the team when DK died. Mike is a tremendous leader of men and someone who understands people, and Mo said should something like that happen again that Mike is the person he would want in that position.
The next question was asked about all the pitchers drafted in this year’s draft and whether that was in response to all the pitchers that have had to have been called up, or was it because the talent was available. Mo discussed the draft strategy.
The next question was about the trade deadline coming up and whether if someone that could help offensively was available, would you trade out of the minor league surplus or would that be against what you’ve done. Mo said that there may be opportunities that may make sense. If it’s a fair deal, they’d do it, but they don’t want to trade away the future.
The next question was about player development. What are the characteristics that allow the team to develop minor league players so well that they succeed at the major league level? Mo said there is a more dramatic curriculum for each player on and off the field to help prepare them for the big leagues.
Mo said he was waiting for hard questions, since he reads all our tweets. Nervous laughter ensued. Someone asked about Oscar Tavaras. Mo said that Adams’ injury was a great chance to bring Oscar up to see what he could do, but he didn’t play well enough. Mike was left with the decision about playing time for Oscar. “If he’s here, he’s gotta play,” Mo said. Mike was concerned. If Oscar wasn’t going to play 5 times a week here, he should go back to Memphis.
The next question was about Scott Rolen. If the situation was during Mo’s tenure, would he have made the trade? It was during Mo’s tenure. He didn’t want to trade Scott, he liked Scott, but Scott needed to get traded for obvious reasons. Scott said he wants out. So Mo made a deal. He then called Scott and his agent. Good news, you’re traded. Bad news – it’s to Toronto. Dead pause. His agent said he’d call back. Everyone laughed. Scott had a $4 million signing bonus after 10 years, which was deferred. Scott demanded it be accelerated. Internal dynamics is sometimes not always what they appear. The Cards try to be as transparent as they can be but sometimes you can’t. Scott and Mo are still friends.
The last question was about Mark Ellis. How do you view a guy like Mark Ellis in the 2nd half, when he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to prove himself? Mo said he didn’t think Ellis really got going, and now that Kolton is on the DL, Ellis has a chance to prove himself. Mo said that this is a hard league to learn at or to get back to what you once were.
Norman Taylor, the chef from SportsService, then went to the podium and told us about all the scrumptious food that would be waiting for us in the party suites. There would be food from the concession stands, the party suites and Cardinals Nation for us to try. There is new food being developed for Ballpark Village all the time. Fried Oreos were mentioned, but they were unfortunately unavailable. Sad sighs were heard all over the room.
Since there were lots of bloggers and guests, we had 2 adjoining party rooms to hang out in for the game. The food available in Suite 208 from the stadium concessions/suites was poached pear salad, fruit platter, hot dogs, B&W bratwurst, pulled pork, BBQ beef brisket, Home Run nacho bar, Giaoa’s Hot Salami subs, and chocolate chip cookies and brownies. The Action Station table had Ultimate Stadium Tots, which were tater tots with your choice of pulled pork, chicken, or taco meat with mozzarella cheese and/or sour cream. I had the pulled pork, and the tater tots and they were delicious. The food available in Suite 209 was from Cardinals Nation and there was Asian chicken salad, deviled eggs, pretzel bites with beer cheese, Home Team pork steaks, chicken Mondega, Home Run Mac & Cheese with pulled pork and fried cheesecake bites (the substitute for the fried Oreos). The Action Table was cheese tortellini. I tried the pork steak, the pretzel bites and fried cheesecake. And of course, there were beverages, beer and soda.
The party suites are nicely air conditioned, and there are TV’s to watch the game on if you don’t want to go outdoors. Thankfully, there was an outlet for me to plug my cell phone in to charge it. The outdoor seats have padded seats, which are very comfortable. I parked myself near the door so whenever someone went in or out of the room, I got a nice blast of air conditioned air. There are TV’s above the outdoor seats in each party suite. This was nice, because from where we were sitting, we couldn’t see the scoreboard very well.
The Cardinals won 5-3, which was good, since the Cards lost on Blogger Day last year. We had a nice turnout, as evidenced by the photo below (taken by my son Phillip):
I apologize if Phil cut anyone’s body off. It’s hard when you have so many people to photograph. I had a great time and I can’t wait until next year! Thanks for reading! See you next time!