2018 United Cardinals Bloggers event report

UCB_11The annual 2018 United Cardinals Bloggers weekend was April 21-22, 2018. On Saturday evening, some of the bloggers and their guests went to Zia’s on the Hill. For non-St. Louisans, the Hill is where you will find some of the best Italian food in the St. Louis area. The Hill is also the neighborhood where the late Joe Garagiola and Joe Torre grew up and learned how to play baseball. My son and I had gone to the game on Saturday afternoon, so I was not able to go to the dinner. I understand that there was some pretty good swag available at the dinner from Fox Sports Midwest, including game tickets. I’m sorry I missed it – I do like some good swag.

Saturday’s game was a great game, even though Matheny put Lyons in in relief and he almost gave the game away. But as usual, Yadi saved the day – he hit a home run. Dexter Fowler also hit a home run – it was his bobblehead day, after all, which was why we were at the game. On our way home on the Metrolink, however, we had to exit the train at the 5th and Missouri station and get on a shuttle bus due to a train that caught on fire at the Emerson Park station. Channel 4 News was broadcasting at the 5th & Missouri station, and my local readers may have seen us on the 10 o’clock news. That shuttle bus took us through some places I never want to see again. I was exhausted by the time I got home.

On Sunday, the weather was cloudy, although there was only a slight chance of rain in the forecast. My husband and I rode the Metrolink over to St. Louis. I was hoping that there would not be a repeat of the Metrolink debacle of the day before.

I had picked up my tickets for Sunday’s game at the will call window on Friday afternoon after work. We arrived at Busch Stadium right at the time the gates opened. There were long lines of people at Gates 4 and 5, so we proceeded to Gate 6 (on the Broadway side of the stadium), which was closer to the party rooms anyway. The lines were much shorter there – we were in the stadium in about 10 minutes’ time. The lines always seem to be shorter at Gate 6, so you might want to enter the stadium there for future games, unless your seats are closer to home plate or on the third base side.

Our tickets were for room 216. I dropped hubby off there and made a quick trip to the ladies’ room before the festivities began. When I returned, I got a soda and noticed that people had already started eating the food (which smelled so yummy), so I made myself a plate. Here is the menu of the food in the party room, which includes where in the stadium you can find each item:

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I am assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that the Gf listed is for gluten free.

The Coca-Cola pulled pork street tacos were especially tasty. The barbecue beef brisket was excellent. I also enjoyed a bratwurst with sauerkraut. And of course, I had to have some nachos.

My hubby liked the bacon wrapped hot dog. Here are some photos of the food:

Budweiser and Bud Light is served in the party rooms, and if you’re not a fan of the local
product, just go outside of the party rooms and there is a bar where you can get Goose Island and Shock Top beers or a mixed drink. Coca-Cola products and water are also available in the party rooms.

There are some new items available for purchase in the Team Store, and here is a display of the items:

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I spoke with the Team Store representative about the new Dooney & Bourke purses that were on display. I said that I would really love to have a D&B Cardinals purse, but they were not in my budget. She replied that they weren’t in her budget either.

I went back over to Room 216. Ron Watermon, the Vice President of Communications for the Cardinals, entered the party room and greeted me. Daniel Shoptaw, the head honcho of the United Cardinals Bloggers (a/k/a “the Blogfather”), came over and we all started chatting. Ron was growing a beard, so the guys chatted about beard grooming and growing. Since I don’t have any skin in the beard game, I waited patiently until the beard conversation was over. We chatted about John Mozeliak’s promotion to Vice President and Daniel and I discussed with Ron why Mo would still want to talk to us bloggers. I said that it appeared to me that Mo always enjoyed talking to us and taking our questions. We also discussed the fine line between the amateur bloggers (like most of the UCB members) and the ones (like Joe Schwarz) who are writing for paid outlets like the Athletic STL and where they fall in terms of getting media credentials, etc.

It was getting close to 12:00 PM, so Ron excused himself to go over and get the microphones set up for the Q&. Mo himself then walked into the room. Mo was dressed very conservatively – he didn’t wear a bow tie and he didn’t wear funky patterned socks, like he’s done at past blogger events. He must think that now that he’s the president of the Cardinals that he needs to dress more conservatively.

Mo mentioned that the Cards’ front office always takes our input seriously, which impressed me.  Our blog posts are an informal report card.  He thinks this year will be competitive. Mo was excited about the depth that the team has been able to create.

The first question was about Wainwright.  We had just received the press release that morning that Waino was hitting the 10 day disabled list due to elbow discomfort and that Brebbia was being called up.  Mo said he would probably miss 2 starts.

The next question was Dennis pretending to be Dathan.  He asked about Mo’s feelings about shortening the season from 162 games to 154 games.  Mo said he felt the season continues to get longer, with spring training in February and the games starting one week sooner this season, and also the playoffs that go into early November.  Mo said that all of that takes a toll on the body. He thought that a shorter season might be considered, but he thought that some people might be against it because of the records.  He doesn’t anticipate any change in the near future.

The next question was about Carson Kelly.  Mo said that the best thing for Carson was what they did, to send him to Memphis so he could play every day.  When Carson was in the big leagues last year, he took a step backwards.  He needed to get back his hitting back to the major league level. With Carson at AAA and Knizer at AA and how well they’re doing, the Cards have some options.  Mo didn’t elucidate as to what options, however.

The next question for Mo was what with all the changes in the coaching staff, etc., what was the thing that impressed him so far this season and what needed improvement.  He was happy with the coaching staff changes.  They are making a big difference.

The next question was about new pitching coach Mike Maddux and his emphasis on sabermetrics.  He said the coaches were comfortable with analytics.  Managing is one part art, one part science.  There are some things that we don’t have access to and Mike Matheny gets beat up as a result. Mo talked about Mike keeping Lyons in during Saturday’s game.  Statistically he did the right thing, but Lyons didn’t get any of the hitters out. At some level, a player has to execute.  Managing is a lot harder than people think.

Bill DeWitt, III finally entered the room. He is usually sitting next to Mo during the Q&A. I
thought maybe there was something that demanded his attention and that’s why he wasn’t there.

The next question was about the pace of play initiative.  Mo says that there is tension between MLB and the Players’ Association.  The players get it; they don’t want to play 3 1/2 hour games.  Everyone needs to do what’s right for the game. The people who complain about the length of the game are the ones who leave after the 7th inning.  Mo, BDW, Jr. and BDW, III are advocates of trying to find a pace of play that draws a younger generation to the game.  He mentioned that our group is younger and that was impressive.

The next question was about how Mo’s job was different now that he was president of the Cardinals as compared to GM; what has changed?  His past job was 12 years of making baseball ops decisions.  The biggest challenge was delegating.  His new job is working to see how they want the club to be in 2020 and beyond.

Tara then asked about Jordan Hicks.  Was it a risk giving Hicks so much responsibility in high leverage situations.  Mo felt he could talk for an hour about Jordan Hicks, but he didn’t think we wanted to hear it.  Hicks  had a very unique path to the major leagues.  Mo said he relied on Yadi’s and Mike’s opinions on Hicks.  Mo says that we are concerned about strikeout rate is not where it should be.  Mo says that Hicks has a lower strikeout rate and walk rate than Aroldis Chapman.  Hicks is going to have to create the swing and miss opportunities for himself.  Mo said that he didn’t know what Hicks was going to be yet, a starter or a reliever.  He acknowledged that some of us thought he was cheap, which was funny.

The next question was about the comparison between Aroldis Chapman and Hicks and hitting triple digits normally.  Could it be a offensive approach?  Mo didn’t really know the answer. Should the Cards have changed their approach?  Hitting against Chapman helped Mo see that Martinez was going to be special.

The next question was about all the catching prospects in the minor leagues and whether any thought had been given to having any of them switch positions.  Most catchers have value as a catcher.  It is an unique skill.  Where they are offensively figures into the decision.  Mo thinks that they should stay catchers and hopefully the offensive side will catch up.  Catcher to first base isn’t a lot of work.

The next question was about comparing Chapman and Hicks again.  Mo says they try to set up a curriculum as to what a pitcher does.  Mo says they have the right pitching staff in place to set up a curriculum.  Mo announced that the Cards would be building a pitching lab in the Jupiter facility and that by this time next year, he hoped to have bricks and mortar up.  Mo said that it’s best to this internally.

The last question for Mo was about Adam Wainwright.  Given his propensity to injuries, would it be good to move him to the bullpen and move Jack Flaherty up?  Mo says no one has the perfect answer for this question.  Is being a bullpen pitcher easier on your body?  All that getting up and down and warming up takes a toll on your elbow.  Waino sees himself as a starter.  What would  his job be in a bullpen?  With Holland, the Cards will have a strong bullpen.  The name of Alex Reyes was whispered.  Mo doesn’t have to answer until May 1 but Mo thinks that Reyes will come back as a starter.  It could be based on need.  Mo says that Reyes looks strong and the velocity is there.  They put him on the 60 day DL so as not to rush him.

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Mo passed the baton – oops, the microphone – to Bill DeWitt, III.  Bill apologized for his tardiness. He explained that there was a fender bender on Highway 64 and that’s why he was late getting to the stadium. There was a bandage on his left middle  knuckle and I thought that perhaps his vehicle had been involved in the accident. I asked him on his way out of the party room about the bandage and he said that he had a gardening accident the week before and he had a couple of stitches.

Bill discussed the business side of the team.  He talked about the 1764 Craft Beer area on the first level behind home plate. He discussed the Budweiser Terrace.  It was built to attract millennials. Bill said they spent $10 million over the last year for improvements to Busch Stadium.

He talked about the Phase II and II additions to Ballpark Village. which includes a new hotel (Live! by Loews), an office tower and an apartment complex.  He mentioned that you could see a sample apartment in the old Jamba Juice location in Ballpark Village.  The office complex will be competed in summer 2019.  The additions will be done by 2020.

The first question was about the early season schedule.  The Cards have been luckier than some of the other teams in terms of cancellations.  He mentioned that the season started early to have more off days and now they’re going have to be used as makeup days.

The next question was about the Budweiser Terrace and how things were going.  Bill mentioned the $5 Busch beers and said he was happy we were in the party room instead of being up there.  He said the club was pleased with the response to the Budweiser Terrace and that he hoped it would get better in the future.

The next question was about St. Louis in general. Bill is encouraged by all the projects going on in St. Louis.  He was especially encouraged by the new Arch grounds addition and what it means for tourism.

The  next question was about pace of play and and whether or not the Cards would be getting a bullpen cart.  Bill said he had a couple of car companies reach out to him about that. He said he supported all the pace of play initiatives.  Bill stated that a lot of games were going about 3 hours and some of it had to do with batters in the batter’s box doing adjustments.  In no other sport are players allowed that much time to gather themselves and get ready.

The next question was about instant replays and why they take so long. He thinks replays are good, but they should be used for major problems and not for minor issues like did the player get  hit by a pitch, etc.  It’s the cost of getting it right.  The game has changed in the last 20 years.  The rules haven’t changed, but there are more pitching changes and other things. Rule changes that get us back to the way things used to be – a faster pace of game and more strategy..  Bill stated he wasn’t a fan of defensive shifts.

The next question was about club expenses and what the club was planning on spending money on this year.  Bill said the ballpark took up a lot of the budget.  He briefly mentioned the pitching lab that Mo talked about earlier and investing in virtual reality for player development. Bill stated that the Jupiter complex would be updated in the next few years and it would be a joint venture with the Marlins.

There were some other questions for Bill, but this blog post is already long enough.  If you’re really interested in what was asked, let me know and I’ll post a Part 2.

After Bill’s discussion, it was time to stand and listen to “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” sung by two very capable grade school choirs.

The last portion of the discussion was from the head chef at Busch Stadium. He discussed the new dishes being served at Busch Stadium and where they could be found. He talked about the house chips that are made in house and their seasoning. There are new sausage flavors available at the Budweiser Terrace, the new standing-room- only section at Busch Stadium. The next time I go to the ballgame, I’m going to have to go and check out the Budweiser Terrace. The $5.00 Busch beers served only at the Terrace are awfully tempting.

Ron closed the session and thanked everyone for coming. I went over and started taking photos of the food displays before I forgot to (which are posted above). The chef came over. I told him that I was taking photos of the food displays for this blog post. The chef realized that he had forgotten to mention the expansion of the Schnucks sandwich selection at the Grab ‘n Go stores. I told him not to worry and that I knew that our hungry bloggers would find the sandwiches.

And the game? It was great. The Cards beat the Reds again. Kolten Wong hit his first home run of the season and Paul DeJong hit his second home run of the weekend. Yadi hit another double.  And Miles Mikolas was magnificent. He did not issue a single walk. I wish the Cards could play the Reds every game.

During the game, I made a point of chatting with some my fellow bloggers. We may chat on Twitter, but I only see them in person once a year, so it’s good to say hello. We have so many new, young faces in the UCB and I tried to say hi and introduce myself to them.

Kyle Reis and Tara Wellman of Birds on the Black were doing a Periscope during the game, so of course, I had to hop in and say hi to everyone watching, especially to master graphics artist @CardinalsGIF. (If you don’t follow GIF on Twitter, you should.) There was a discussion as to what GIF’s real name was, as well as whether we should pronounce GIF with a “J” or with a hard G like the word “gift.” I realized later that I missed a joke – I should have said that “Jif” sounded the peanut butter. There were other interesting Cardinals things discussed as well and if you’d like to see the Periscope, go to Birds on the Black’s Twitter feed and you can find it there, or go to the Birds on the Black website (the link is in the first line of this paragraph).

During the 7th inning stretch, a group photo was taken of all the bloggers (and a blogger-to-be) that were there. Can you find me?

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Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. I had a great time and I always look
forward to the blogger event every year. It’s good to be among folks who love the Cardinals as much as I do. I’d like to thank the Cardinals for their wonderful hospitality and for all of the press releases and other items they forward to us throughout the year to help make our blogging easier. I don’t think any other Major League team has the close relationship that the UCB has with the Cardinals. They truly value us and our opinions; otherwise, they wouldn’t be throwing us this shindig every year.

Thanks as always for reading! See you next time!

Diane

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