My friend Kim was my guest for this year’s blogger event. It was my husband’s turn to attend, but since it was a night game and he gets up at 4:30 AM for work, it wouldn’t have worked out. Kim was very happy to be invited. Hopefully, next year the blogger event will be back to the afternoon schedule and my hubby will be able to attend.
The event was supposed to start at 5 PM, so I decided to get there early and get a front row seat. My son and I arrived at the event right before starting time last year, so we had to sit in the back and I couldn’t see or hear very well. Kim and I got to the administrative offices so early, the packets and the name tags hadn’t been put out yet. I had to go back later and get a packet, plus write out name tags. The packet was a nice folder with the party room menu on one side and handouts listing various events on the other. The packet also contained an envelope with our game tickets.
Since we were there before everyone else, Kim and I had a nice discussion with Ron Watermon, the Cardinals’ Vice President of Communications, about the security problems on Opening Day. He admitted that the gates should have been opened sooner that day.
The other bloggers began to show up and it was nice to catch up with folks I only talk to on Twitter. There was a nice crowd, considering it was a Sunday evening game. Finally, Mr. Watermon came to the podium. He welcomed us all to the blogger event. Mr. Watermon mentioned that Daniel Shoptaw, the head of the UCB, was unable to be at the event because of the death of Daniel’s father-in-law, and that their thoughts and prayers were with Daniel’s family. Mr. Watermon then spoke about the fan video contests and how they engage Cardinals Nation. Mr. Watermon talked about the minister who won the Ultimate Fan contest. Mr. Watermon asked the bloggers to help Red feel the love by posting videos telling Red that we love him.
It was then time for Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak to speak. Rather than stepping up to the podium, Mr. DeWitt and Mr. Mozeliak stayed seated in their chairs, like a “fireside chat,” Mr. DeWitt stated. DeWitt and Mozeliak have strong voices that carry well and we were all seated fairly close, so neither one of them really needed a microphone in order to be heard.
Mr. DeWitt was the first speaker. He talked about the business side of the organization. Mr. DeWitt spoke about some of the modifications that have been made to Ballpark Village, such as the extra video screens that will allow fans to watch both the Blues and the Cards at the same time. Mr. DeWitt said that they were proud of Ballpark Village and that the BPV concept didn’t exist anywhere else in Major League Baseball. There are now giveaway days at BPV during 25 of the Cardinals’ away games. He said that there is an empty retail location that should be filled soon. He spoke briefly about the second phase of Ballpark Village, which may include an office complex, retail and a hotel.
Mr. DeWitt then spoke about improvements at Busch Stadium. The Champions Club (an all-inclusive area) has been expanded. Gate 5 has been renovated for the installation of metal detectors and for a better view for the fans in the rooftop seats at Ballpark Village.
Mr. DeWitt also spoke about the metal detectors that had been installed at the stadium. He said that all the stadiums in Major League Baseball had installed metal detectors. He admitted that the team hadn’t opened the gates early enough on Opening Day, and long lines ensued. Mr. DeWitt said that Opening Day was different than other games, closer to playoff games, and they should have opened the gates earlier than they did, and they learned from their mistake. There are also more cameras in the stadium. Mr. DeWitt also mentioned that stadium security now has a bomb sniffing dog that can follow the trail of someone who might have an explosive device in a moving crowd. To my mind, that was reassuring. I have watched The Sum of All Fears and The Dark Knight Rises a few too many times. I can see that kind of scenario happening at Busch Stadium, especially during a playoff game.
Mo spoke next. The team has gotten off to a very good start. Mo is bullish about what is going on at the minor league level. Mo said that the team is competitive at the major league team level and that there are enough players coming through the pipeline at the minor league level. He talked about the $5 million Academy that the team is opening in the Dominican Republic to train the young prospects. The complex will help attract players. Mo said that the people that have run the drafts the last few years have done a good job. Mo said that there is a hard working group in the minor league level that helps develop the players. Mo is looking at the future and he is very excited.
Then it was time for the Q & A session. A question was asked about Sam Freeman. Mo said that we could have gotten 3 lefties but they wanted someone that was an innings eater and that was the spot for Villanueva. Freeman didn’t have control or command. Freeman couldn’t throw strikes. Freeman was traded instead of being put on waivers so the Cards could get something for him.
Dennis Lawson asked if some of the bloggers could take over the club’s social media accounts for a game. He wondered what it would take to unlock that door. Nervous laughter ensued from the room. Mo asked, “What do you mean?” More laughter. Dennis thought we could take over the Twitter and Instagram accounts, under the watchful eye of a supervising adult, of course.
Mo was asked how much the team used sabermetrics for strategy. Mo said that the Cards are a very data driven team and that they utilize sabermetrics to make decisions. There is a balance between the analytical world and the scouting world. Sabermetrics power the entire team as to the decision making process.
There was a question about a timetable for Jason Heyward’s contract extension. Mo said he knew there would be a Heyward question.There is no timetable to discuss an extension. Deadlines irritate on one side or the other. They want Jason to experience St. Louis and see what the city’s all about. He doesn’t envision a timetable, although he projected mid-season as a time to look at where they’re heading.
The next person said he was at the game on Saturday and he wanted to thank Mr. DeWitt for keeping the Blues information on the screen during the game. He wanted to know how who spearheads efforts between the teams. DeWitt explained who in the Blues’ organization works with the Cards for cross-promotions. There is an overlapped fan base between the teams.
The next question was about when Oscar died – was there a specific type of player that they had in mind to replace him? How long do you mourn? There wasn’t going to be a lot of opportunity out there. There was a couple player options they could pursue. The team had heard good things about Jason Heyward. The timing was good. They do a lot of due diligence on players before they’re signed. Heyward is a positive addition to the club.
Mo was asked what if he was encouraged about the early pitching of Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. Mo said that during spring training, they talked about having a competitive camp and that the media all laughed about it, Mo was shocked to see how well Garcia was pitching. Marco Gonzales was the next guy that threw well in camp. The 5 who ended up in the rotation was interesting because it showed how deep the pitching could be. The only concern is volume, how that is managed as the season goes. Neither Wacha or Martinez has pitched over 100 innings in a season and Mike and Lilliquist are conscious of that.
The last question was that once upon a time, when teams had 4 man rotations, and they pitched 200 innings, you never heard about the sore arms that you hear about now. Are the pitchers so finely tuned today that every little thing can throw them off balance and cause injuries? Mo said that it would take hours to discuss. Injuries are a concern to everybody because of all of the money invested in players. Mo blamed it on all the hours that kids are pitching in Little League, and high school and college ball, and that by the time they get to the majors, they’re worn out. Back in the 40’s 50’s, and 60’s, 250 innings were the norm. The team looks at “stress” innings, like innings with lots of pitches. That’s when injuries happen.
After the Q& A session was over, Mo and Mr. DeWitt left. Larry Johnson, the team chef, spoke to us about all the good food waiting for us in the party rooms. Stomachs could be heard rumbling all over the room, including my own.
Finally, it was time to go to the party rooms. Our party rooms were closer to home plate this year than last year. I tried the chicken and waffle sandwich. There was maple bacon gravy to put on the sandwich. I thought it was going to be overpowering, but it was actually very subtle and added a nice little zing of flavor to the sandwich. Kim tried the spinach and artichoke pizza and said it was delicious.She also liked the cowboy mac n’ cheese, with baked beans in it. I tried the walking taco, which was a large bag of either Doritos or Fritos Scoops (I picked the Fritos) that you zipped open the side of the bag and added shredded lettuce, taco meat, pulled pork, chicken carnitas and/or shredded cheese. I tried the tater tots tacos, which I had last year. I also tried the deep fried Oreo cookie, which came in a shot glass sized cup with whipped cream and chocolate syrup on the bottom for dipping. I thought there could have been some more breading on the Oreo – it was thin and the cookie was soft. Other desserts included an Oreo churro and strawberry shortcake. There was lots of other food, but there was just too much to try it all.
Kim and I sat at a table with Matt Whitener of Cheap Seats Please and Matt’s father, and we all had a delightful conversation with Ron Watermon about some of the other major league baseball stadiums. They mostly talked; I listened, since Busch is the only stadium I’ve ever been too.
And oh yes, there was a game between the Cards and the Reds Sunday evening. It was a thrill to see Matt Carpenter hit a home run out on the outfield berm during his first at bat. It was a classic pitcher’s duel between Adam Wainwright and Mat Latos. Adam only gave up one run Adam jammed the bases during the Reds’ half of the 8th, but he got out of it. Trevor Rosenthal was not available to close, so Jordan Walden came in and got his first save for the Cards. It was a really quick game – it started at 7:05 and ended at 9:09. The talking heads at Baseball Tonight on ESPN probably had to scramble to fill up the extra time they had allotted for the game. We didn’t get a group shot of all the bloggers because the game ended so soon. Sorry, Daniel – I did talk to Dathan about the group shot, but it didn’t work out.
I really enjoy the blogger events and I can’t wait until next year’s event. I hope you have enjoyed reading about this year’s event. Thanks for reading! See you next time!