Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: David Freese

Spring Training Warm-Ups


lindsey twitter photo
Baseball fever is making a comeback now that the boys are kicking it in Florida for Spring Training, and this week my dear friend (and Cardinals fan), Lindsey, asked (again) when Diamond Diaries would be back in action.  Without much arm-twisting at all, she agreed to write a guest post for us as sort of our own 2013 season kick-off.  And as you will soon see, smart,sassy and lovable Lindsey, an early victim of baseball fever this year, is ready to chat it up, Cardinals style.  P.S. If you aren’t already, you can follow Lindsey on twitter: @LoveAlwaysGives

 So, Welcome Back!!  And welcome, Lindsey!  =)    ~Erika

>Counting Baseball BlessingsWe’ve started out another Spring Training with the stomach-knotting stressor named, The Unsigned Contract Extension. This time, for Adam Wainwright. Waino is one of those players I could never lose faith in. I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous for the guy when we all found out about his Tommy John surgery. I still remember that moment when my heart fell into my stomach wondering, Could this be it for Waino? But then I snapped back to reality and realized who I was talking about. Waino is bueno, after all. I can see where the problem lies, he’s a pitcher just coming off of elbow surgery with a year left in his contract. Could that be more nerve wracking? He needs to be set to impress. Although a contract has yet to be signed, I’m ready to see some Wainwright action out on the mound this year. Let’s not forget, Mo…It’s ain’t right til it’s Wainwright!

lance-lynn-regular- (2)

photo from robrains.com

And hey, has anyone seen Lance Lynn around h—OH MY! Talk about a transformation! Catching my first full spring training game yesterday, I momentarily thought Garcia was pitching until I saw those four red letters: L-Y-N-N. My jaw immediately dropped. I think we all knew of the 40 pound weight loss Lance underwent throughout his offseason dieting and work out program when an interview came out stating his rather, uhm, confident outlook on where he stood in being a part of the starting rotation for the 2013 season. Reading and hearing about that type of weight loss is a lot different than seeing it out on the mound. Although he’s lacking the backside of Jaime Garcia, I do believe I’ll be seeing more Lance Lynn related #chickcomments popping up on my twitter feed this year. Here’s to hoping this season can start just as strongly as the last. Put those new muscles to work, Lynn!

Oh hey, David! I see you’ve been taking advantage of that Florida sunshine…and that strong man workout paid off for ya…

Ahem. Getting back to what I was saying…

photo from stltoday.com

photo from stltoday.com

I can’t even imagine the conversation between Yadier and Bengie Molina when they found out the good news that Bengie would be appointed Assistant Hitting Coach for the Cardinals this year. No, really, I can’t. I don’t speak Spanish. Nevertheless, I know I was pretty excited to hear we would have the Molina Brothers team effort this year, even if only one of them will make it onto the field. We don’t need no stinking Mark McGwire! Mabry and Molina have got it covered. As long as Bengie isn’t a running coach, I’ve got the faith! In all seriousness, I think all of Cardinal Nation knows the bond between the Molina family is something incredible and with the addition of his brother, I have no doubt that Yadi will be in even more high spirits to go out on the field every day and make his familia proud.

Speaking of families, it’s been quite the offseason for our hairiest member, Mr. Jason Motte. Unlike his teammates, this doesn’t have to do with his physique, work out regimen or contract status. Jason became a father. That’s right, our heat-throwing, ungroomed bear of a closer now changes diapers in his off time. And he couldn’t be happier about it! I predict little Miss Margret Morgan Motte (say that three times fast) is going to be a daddy’s girl in years to come, because he just can’t seem to get enough of his little girl.

Photo by Michael Donahue

Photo by Michael Donahue

Not only is fatherhood the only step forward in Jason’s life, but his charity work is in full swing as well. Throughout last season Jason and his wife, Caitlin, began collecting sports memorabilia to hold an auction called Strike Out Cancer, benefitting the Wings Cancer Foundation. The $37,000 they raised at their first benefit will go to expanding the organization into lower income communities. That is quite a big impact to make with their first endeavor, and there is surely more to come from these two.

Now, in true Erika fashion, it would be wrong not to mention that former Cardinal shortstop, Brendan Ryan knocked one out of the park in his first at-bat for the Seattle Mariners this spring training. You’ve still got it, Boog! Keep ‘em comin!

There is just something remarkable about seeing baseball on my tv again. Although there is still snow in my back yard, and the sunshine has yet to be found, I just can’t help but have something to look forward to on every game day. And it’s baseball. I can only believe that the transformations the guys have gone through this offseason will show onto the field in the 2013 season. We’ve got new birds and new bats, so we are set to make this one a season to remember!

A Bromance We Can Get Behind

In past years it was easy to accuse the Cardinals of being almost… bland. Elder statesmen of the team like Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter brought drive, passion, and supreme athletic ability to a strong team.

What they didn’t bring? Fun!

It sounds stupid, but the more you think about it, the more you realize that this clubhouse was not one that seemed like a barrel full of laughs. Older teams like the 2006 World Series winners brought winning, although there wasn’t much in the way of personality there. Outside of the Jim Edmonds nightly game ball and Scott Rolen’s drama with manager Tony LaRussa, I can’t say I recall much else that involved the players in the clubhouse.

Over the last couple of years, the combination of Yadier Molina and Pujols created a bromance that Matt Sebek of Joe Sports Fan captured with this:

However, having these two being so close hasn’t translated to a whole clubhouse. Stories surfaced about how Albert’s entourage would do things like go to NBA games and barely notice the peons of the team that also went to the game and wanted to meet Kobe (oh crap, I’m talking about Brendan Ryan again… did you hear he’s engaged?). It wasn’t team things – it was entourage things. Maybe there was something to the whole Colby Rasmus thinking the team was rough on him thing. If it was a fractured clubhouse……..

Wait, was I about to stick up for Colby’s whining? Moving on…

Now that Albert has split for the sunny beaches of California, a new bromance has emerged.

You know who I’m talking about: Matt Holliday and David Freese. They’re everywhere, from a Skype interview on Intentional Talk to their latest endeavor with the Cardinals as the ambassadors for the new “Homers for Health” initiative where fans are encouraged to donate money in quarter increments to help out a local children’s hospital in St. Louis. Their work together has shown up on Twitter, although not in the way you would think…

Offseason squash workouts became Twitter fodder for most of us bored-tired-of-football-when-does-spring-training-start-again?! baseball fans, seeing pictures like this and watching all of the interaction between the Cardinal players on Twitter has brought about a new feel with this team.

They laugh. They joke. They include more than Freese – it’s Lance Berkman’s candid interviews and Jon Jay’s Nike collection and Jason Motte’s beard eating small children.

Wait, that’s wrong too.

What I’m saying is that this is a new era for the Cardinals. One that we can definitely get behind.

Is it Opening Day yet?

The Boys Are Back! Almost.

Little league practice schedules and reports from Jupiter’s Spring Training games: signs that the world is finally waking up from a long winter, and baseball’s back! …..almost.

Spring Training whets the appetite and refreshes the senses.  Lineups, pitching reports, actual games on green grass with familiar faces (and some unfamiliar mugs) donning the birds on the bat… it’s all so surreal, especially with the backdrop of Florida palm trees.

While that’s all very well and tropically good (and I’m still crossing my fingers for the possibility of a quick pilgrimage to Florida), I find myself longing for the real deal:  the true start of the 2012 season.   The 2011 World Series Champions have a lot to prove.  New manager and No Albert Pujols may top the list, but whether ESPN is interested or not, Cardinal Nation has a lot of curiosities about how this team will perform.

My Top 10 Highlights/Curiosities for the upcoming 2012 season:

10. Pregame interviews on Fox Sports Midwest:  this is where the players get a chance to prove they have personality.  Sink or swim, boys!

9. Who’s on 2nd?  Descalso? Greene? Schumaker??  The anticipation’s killing me.  Wishlist:  quick glove, soft hands, excellent range, add in a little offense… Honestly, I’m just glad it isn’t Theriot.

8. Eduardo Sanchez’ filthy slider.  I fell in love with that pitch only to have it ripped away too early in the season last year.  Please, oh please, let’s have a healthy Sanchez and many, many gorgeous dirty pitches out of the bullpen this year.

7.  Mike Matheny management style.  What attitude will this team have under Matheny’s reins? Will it be more youthful? Will the playbook be more predictable? One thing’s for certain, getting my non-baseball girlfriends to watch a game will be easier with Matheny front and center in dugout shots.  (Cute manager?  Heckya!)

6. Jason Motte, “The Closer”.  Bearded, fidgety, always throwing himself off the mound with the force of that fastball.  He makes me smile.  Bring on the crazy-Motte!  I miss watching him yell at his glove.

5. Lovable Lance at 1st – those are mighty big shoes to fill!  Can Berkman be more than “adequate”?  For his sake (and ours), I hope we never hear “Albert would’ve…” or “if Albert had been there…”  Honestly, Berkman surpassed any and all expectations last year, so here’s hoping he can make us forget all about you-know-who.

4. Chris Carpenter attitude.  Yes, he scares me.  Yes, he has a mouth on him.  But man, oh man, a game with Carp on the mound is like a baseball drug.  He’s our bad boy, intense. fierce.  And afterwards, please throw in a good dose of that sexy, deep, gurgly Carp-voice in post game interviews?  Thank you.

3. Adam Wainwright back on the bump.  Remind me again…How did we ever win the World Series without Wainwright??   Soooo glad he’s back.  Soooo thrilled he’s healthy.  The question now is can we expect him to pick up where he left off??  Pencil him into those pregame TV interviews ASAP.  And also into those dugout shots.  Ok?  Ok. Good!  ;)

2. David Freese smiles.  Is there anything lovelier?  Especially those ginormous joyful grins of a walk-off win.  Such a humble, talented, gorgeous MVP… and he tweets?!!  (love!) Stay healthy, Dave, stay healthy!

…and for my #1 pick, I gotta say that I am most looking forward to seeing the return of my favorite familiar baseball sight: Matt Holliday digging in at the plate, Matt Holliday leg kicks, Matt Holliday launching ‘em into the stands, Matt Holliday digging for home,  Matt Holliday… well, you get the point.

The boys are back!  Almost.  =)

The Top 5 Iconic Moments in Cardinal History

Sometimes the fearless leader of the UCB Daniel Shoptaw puts us on the spot with the monthly projects. January’s project is the top five moments in Cardinal history.

Five? I only get five? I don’t know how Bob Netherton managed to narrow it down, but after reading his I was spurned towards figuring out mine (So… thanks Bob!).

If you are digging back to the very beginning of the Cardinals, the pre-1900′s would be a starting point, but those moments were not really ‘iconic.’ Let’s see… where to start…

5. Bob Gibson’s 1968 season

Have you ever known a player to completely change the way the game was played singlehandedly? No, you think. That doesn’t happen. One player cannot change an entire sport. Oh yes it can…

Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
32 STL NL 22 9 .710 1.12 34 34 0 28 13 0 304.2 198 49 38 11 62 6 268 7 0 4 1161 258 0.853 5.8 0.3 1.8 7.9 4.32 AS,CYA-1,MVP-1,GG
17 Seasons 251 174 .591 2.91 528 482 21 255 56 6 3884.1 3279 1420 1258 257 1336 118 3117 102 13 108 16068 128 1.188 7.6 0.6 3.1 7.2 2.33
162 Game Avg. 17 12 .591 2.91 36 32 1 17 4 0 262 221 96 85 17 90 8 210 7 1 7 1082 128 1.188 7.6 0.6 3.1 7.2 2.33
Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB Awards
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/24/2012.

Yes, you are reading that correctly. Bob Gibson’s 1968 season was other-worldly. A 1.12 ERA, 13 complete game shutouts, giving up 38 earned runs over 304 innings… who does this?

No one, not since Bob Gibson. You see, 1968 became somewhat of a “year of the pitcher” in Major League Baseball. Run-scoring was down, and since most fans come to see at least a little bit of action at a baseball game, the powers that be determined that this was a terrible thing. The result? The actual pitchers’ mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 inches. It was a literal leveling of the playing field, and all Gibson got to show for his season was an All-Star selection, Gold Glove, Cy Young, MVP award, and a National League pennant.

Oh, that’s all.

4. October 27, 2011 – “They just won’t go away.”

Despite the recentness of this moment, it is crazy to think that game 6 of this past year’s World Series might not make this list. On the whole I feel like I am a pretty lucky baseball fan. I’ve seen my team play in 3 World Series (winning twice) and countless playoff games in my 25 years on this earth. On the flip side, my grandpa turned 80 years old last year and is still waiting for his beloved Cubs to win it all.

The 2011 postseason had its share of thrills, spills and chills, but the Cardinals found themselves against the wall, finding themselves down to their final strike not once, but twice, and they still came out on top. David Freese became a household name with his game-tying triple, then followed it up with his walk-off winner. Joe Buck gave us all goosebumps with his call of the home run, channeling his dad with a “We will see you tomorrow night!”

The team wouldn’t quit. They pushed through and came out on top. Also, to further my point that I am a very lucky baseball fan? October 27 is my birthday. ;)

3. The teams that would not die. 

The 2011 team was not the only one that was left for dead. 1964 was a wild pennant run in and of itself (and if you want a more detailed look, check out Bob Netherton’s posts on the subject). Ten games back? Nine games back? No matter, somehow these two Cardinal teams rose from the ashes and claimed a place in history.

Now, did it take a hard fall from the teams that were ahead of them in order for the birds on the bat to make it to the playoffs? You betcha. The 1964 Phillies are still remembered for that epic collapse. Will the 2011 Braves be remembered in the same way? Probably not, in all honesty. People don’t talk about the 1964 World Series the same way they will talk about the 2011 version. One thing is certain: no one will forget the Cardinals and their fight to the end!

2. Big Mac breaks the record

1998 was a magical summer for 11 year old me. I was living and dying with every long ball hit by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. I watched more Cubs baseball on WGN than any sane baseball fan should ever have to endure.

Yeah yeah, steriods. I know. But I didn’t back then. I’m not the only one that didn’t see behind the curtain either. Many of those that did, just didn’t care. For the first time since the strike of 1994 crippled many baseball fans from their love of the game, baseball had life. Games at Kauffman Stadium and the Astrodome were being sold out, and those teams had no business having that many fans in the stands. Nightly news would be cut off to update the score and the fact that Mac/Sammy had just blasted another one (and I didn’t live in the St. Louis/Chicago area to get full coverage).

But September 8, 1998 is a night that I will never forget. I screamed, I jumped around the living room, and I almost cut off my poor sisters’ circulation from hugging them so tightly. Watching that ball skirt over the wall, watching Mac almost miss first base, seeing the Maris family and Sammy running in from the outfield and all the people screaming and cheering… I was a part of that! We were all part of that. Despite what we know now… back then we were all just baseball fans again.

1.  “Go Crazy Folks”

Ozzie with one out. Took a ball just outside. Cardinals have left ten men on and they left a lotta men on early. A runner at third nobody out in the first and didn’t score, second and third in the second and didn’t score. Smith corks one into into right down the line… it may go… go crazy folks! Go crazy! It’s a home run, and the Cardinals have won the game, by the score of 3-2 on a home run by the Wizard! Go crazy!

Seeing the words just doesn’t do that call justice. It never will. The 1985 NLCS game 5 home run by Ozzie Smith was great in and of itself. He wasn’t a home run hitter, especially not from the left side. The home run was incredible, but it was not the iconic moment.

It was the call. It was Jack Buck. There will never be another.

~*~*~*~*~*~

There you go – the top 5 moments in Cardinals history from my eyes. What say you? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments…

Is it baseball season yet?

WWU Recap: David Freese

Picking the subject of my first Winter Warm-Up Recap was easy. Hometown hero and World Series MVP, David Freese was a media darling.  Here’s what he had to say during the short 10 minutes he spent with us in the media room at Winter Warm-Up:

We’ll start with my favorite quotes, the humorous and sweet side of Mr. Freese:  (audio link included so you can listen for yourself)

About his squash record with Matt Holliday, who told the media he was ahead of Freese 4-2…

” Is he (Holliday) publicly announcing our record?  Wow, he must be nervous because I beat him last time so he’s trying to get that record out there.  Yeah, he’s taken me down a few times, but I’m coming back.  I’m getting him!”

About being a role model:

“I think I’ve been considered a role model since you get into pro ball.  Even in high school and college, there’s kids in this area, being a hometown guy, that are going to look up to you just because.  I’ve been in this city for a while and that is something that you can’t take for granted and you have to hold onto.  Each day I realize that there is more pressure involved in that.  But that’s cool.   I think it’s great.  I think the kids are the best part about this.  As hectic as it is, as crazy as everything gets, every time you see the excitement of a kid, it makes me realize it’s all worth it.”

–When asked if he still feels like himself after all the World Series fame:

…” yeah, I KNOW I’m me.  I think that’s the easy part.  I think about that all the time.  Stuff (has) hit me quick, that’s for sure, but I’ve said it before, if you get the right people around you, it’s that much easier to stay you.”

—About getting mobbed by everybody wherever he goes:

“It’s hectic, but it’s flattering. It’s humbling just going in places and seeing fans.  I still can’t understand why people thank me all the time, but it’s a cool feeling.

—Characterizing this offseason:

It’s been “preparation for 2012 with holding onto the excitement of 2011.  But when I get down to camp, it’s all about 2012.”

—-About expectations of him from this point on:

“I think expectations maybe from the fan base have risen, but not in my mind or I don’t think in the Cardinals’ mind. I think all they’re worried about is me just being healthy…

I think if I’m healthy, hopefully that’s enough. I can do my part. Losing Albert, we gotta kind of turn it up a little bit.  Beltran coming in is HUGE and  I think we are jacked up that he’s going to be putting on our uniform, and I’m just going to be me.  That’s what this is all about, just be me and do my part.

—Speaking about being considered the hero for Game 6,

Freese said hero is a “tough word.”  “It’s cool.  I think everyday I soak it in a little more and really understand what we accomplished as a team.  I’m pumped I did my part and glad we’re getting that ring.”

—About this team’s chances to compete again in 2012:

“Losing Albert’s tough, obviously, but  25 guys win a championship, and not one.  We are all going to miss Albert and we all wish him the best…. We’re going to have a good team and I think everyone knows that.  We’ve got hopefully  20 more wins coming from Waino too.  So it’s exciting.  I think it’s going to be different having Mike as our manager.  It’s going to be different not having Albert… not having Tony, but it’s definitely going to be exciting.”

—About changes in the way he expects to be used with Matheny as the manager now:

“There were times when Tony would give me rest in games and also it helped that Descalso’s a gold-glove caliber third baseman so it was a win/win.  You could throw D’s in there and keep him fresh.  I think 2012 is definitely going to be different in the sense that is going to be like hey Dave, just go in there and play and do what you can do because each day, each year I get more healthy.  There is still room for improvement, but that’s the exciting part.

“The weirdest thing is I’ve been really good friends with Mike (Matheny) for two years.  To say you have a friend become your manager, usually it’s the other way around.  That’s special.  That’s great.  Everybody in here knows the type of guy Mike is.  I think it clouds his knowledge of the game and that is an absolute compliment.  I  wouldn’t want any other guy taking this team and running it in 2012 than Mike Matheny.”

—About new teammate, Carlos Beltran’s addition to the team:

“(It) fills a void.  You can’t fill Albert’s shoes, but Carlos Belran is an elite talent and when he’s healthy, you know, he’s scary for sure…  He’s a middle of the order guy.  He’s going to do his part and help us out a lot.”

—About how he expects to be able to perform in 2012: 

“I’d like to say I could handle 162 (games).  I’m not going to throw a number out there, I hope I get this or I hope I get that, but the way I feel now… I’m not nervous.  That’s a good thing.  That’s a feeling I don’t have and I’ve had that feeling for a long time with my legs and stuff.  A year ago today there was definitely a nerve-wracking feeling going into camp.  So to pull that off my shoulders is a great feeling.”

“When healthy, I think I get the job done (as a defensive player).  Over the past couple of years I go out in the field and sometimes it’s tough just day in and day out getting after it, but I think this year it’s going to be a lot easier because you’re not worried about your feet, you’re not worried about your legs, you’re just being me.  I think about ’08 in Memphis ….I remember just running out there and just loving playing defense because I wasn’t worried about my feet.  This year it’s going to be like that, so I’m excited.”

“As far as rehabbing my feet, I’ve done less (this offseason).  There’s less to worry about.  It’s relaxing.  The nervous feeling of “am I ready?” isn’t there anymore and I’ve been waiting for that.”

——

Freese is excited and ready for Spring Training, ready to get out there and play baseball.

We’re ready too, Dave.  We’re ready too.

:)

Winter Warm Up, Day 3

Where do I begin?

Composing this while sitting on the floor of the St. Louis airport, I am still spinning from the wonderful experience of covering Winter Warm-Up.  After getting a small taste of the behind-the-scenes media experience, I have a newfound respect for journalists and beat writers who live it, day in and day out.

When I opened my newspaper this morning to the Cardinal coverage, I savored and dissected the columns with even more enthusiasm than usual.  Besides the obvious difference of actually holding a real copy of the Post Dispatch in my hands today (a bit hard to find in Oklahoma and one of my favorite little things about visiting St. Louis), I was fascinated to see how the writers would pick and choose their details from the very same player interviews I had experienced the day before and then weave those facts into the stories we read online and in the paper.  They make it look so easy…

After 3 days of jam-packed activity, I am truly worn out. The thought of keeping up that pace through an entire baseball season combined with deadlines, hectic travel schedules, game notes, pre- and post-game interviews plus the real-life pressure of it being your JOB to rapidly condense it all into timely, informative and entertaining samplers for the hungry baseball masses… and I’m quite content sticking to this blogging thing where we do it for the love of the game.

Don’t get me wrong however… this was the weekend adventure of a lifetime and I savored every moment of it.  The honor of the invitation and the unbelievable access were something I will treasure forever.

Looking back on this amazing whirlwind adventure, I am overwhelmed with gratitude at the opportunity to pass along the sights, player interview tidbits and my experiences at this tremendous event to Cardinal fans through our blog and Twitter.  The people of the Cardinals Media Relations team (Brian Bartow, Melody Yount, Chris Tunno, Ron Watermon and especially Terry Rodgers) and the Cardinals Care volunteers were welcoming and helpful.  Their hospitality helped ease many of the fears of being out of my element as part of the  “new media” contingency included in this year’s Winter WarmUp coverage.  It was great fun visiting with a variety of media folk throughout the weekend, all very kind and accommodating.

The Cardinal organization deserves a big, BIG thank you for opening the doors to us involved in blogging and social media.  The responsibility was huge, and I was really proud and (honestly) quite blown away by the volume and quality of material coming from my fellow media credential-newbies.  Kevin (posting for C70 at the Bat) was jumping in with both feet, asking players insightful questions that elicited amazing and heartfelt answers. Ann (for Aaron Miles Fastball) was a speed demon at taking notes at those player interviews and getting those words online quicker than… well, quicker than Aaron Miles’ Fastball.  Nick (Pitchers Hit Eighth) cranked out summary stories on several hot topics.  And Chris Reed (writing for i70baseball.com) ramped up the technology and created his WWU Video Blog.  Check them out, if you haven’t already.

My 2nd love (behind family and baseball… so it’s more like my 3rd love, I guess?) is capturing and sharing photographs.  So I attempted to gather as many images as possible and pass them along on twitter throughout the day, as well as here on Diamond Diaries. While pursuing this goal, I learned that #1: Winter Warm-Up is a HUGE venue.  #2: Comfy shoes can only do so much.  #3: Despite my best efforts, even after hustling back and forth all day between player interviews and autograph tables, there were still many other WWU moments that I missed.  #4 Who really needs lunch (or dinner) when there are Cardinals to photograph and write about? #5:  Ditto for the “sleeping” thing.  And #6 Cardinal fans continue to be some of the friendliest people I have ever met.

Winter Warm-Up offers a little bit for everyone.  There were lectures, forums, silent auctions, presentations and oh yeah… a World Series trophy! While I only managed to catch a quick glimpse of the variety of vendors and souvenir offerings, Kevin (C70 at the Bat) convinced me the selection was amazing and the prices were spectacular after I saw the treasures he’ll be taking home.  It’s no wonder Cardinal fans keep coming back year after year.

With all proceeds from the 16th annual Winter Warm-Up going to the Cardinals Care foundation (the charity benefiting children in the community) fans can enjoy their weekend in baseball heaven, spend lots of money and know it’s for a worthy cause.  Win/win!

 Yes, the Hyatt was PACKED with people, but the crowd movement was expertly orchestrated.  The amazingly adept crew of patient and friendly volunteers directed traffic phenomenally. It was a QUALITY event with the QUANTITY of experiences to match!

 

This year’s Winter Warm-Up provided hours of voice recordings and hundreds of photo files.  It should be enough to keep us entertained for at least a month or so.  And from the looks of the Spring Training Countdown, that should just about do it!

Once again, I am excited to share with you my collection of photos from the final day of Winter Warm-Up.

Today’s featured Cardinals include:

  • Kyle Lohse
  • Tony La Russa
  • Kyle McClellan
  • Allen Craig
  • Manager Mike Matheny
  • Carlos Beltran
  • Skip Schumaker
  • and World Series MVP (with the best smile in baseball) David Freese

And another Thank You to the Cardinals with a special shout-out to Peggy (our wonderful hostess/guide/source in the media area), Patty, Kathleen, Judy and Doris and all the other fabulous Cardinals Care volunteers who made the weekend easier for us all.  It was a joy to share the weekend with you!

Although the weekend was truly a dream come true, I am happy to be back home with my family and a slower pace, packing lunch boxes, chauffeuring the kiddos, homework, housework and my real world job.  Keep an eye out for more posts and pictures about my adventures.  I’m looking forward to digging through my digital keepsakes and sharing the rest of the experience with you… right after I meet the laundry deadline and interview the pets.

Thanks for reading!

Diamond Diaries’ 2011 Stories of the Year

The United Cardinal Bloggers take part in many different activities throughout the course of the year. Many of these projects can be found on our site (search ‘ucb’ in the search tab at the top to find more). The last project of the year comes on the next to the last day of the year, and it is a time for reflection. What were the big stories of 2011? This is our list – what’s yours?

1. First and foremost has to be the #11in11 World Series win! This was a team that was left for dead, then came back and fought their way through a thrilling October run. You would be crazy not to appreciate what going out on top meant to Tony LaRussa, and now that he whose name Erika has forgotten is gone off to the West Coast like Tony did, the 2012 team is going to have a much different feel to it. But that doesn’t sour this win at all for us! The wild ride to the postseason, the extended series’ wins in the wildest of ways, the dramatic home runs and the dominant pitching performances. Yes, this was a postseason we will never forget!

2. Oh David Freese. Your glass ankles made me unsure that you would ever reach the potential Erika and I hoped you would. Your hot start to the season was derailed by your hit-by-a-pitch broken wrist on May 1. The .356 batting average cooled, but your solid play did not. Going in to the postseason we did not factor you in as a major player, but your wrote your name in the recordbooks over and over, thrilling us with clutch hits and home runs that no one expected. Your NLCS and WS MVP trophies must be getting dirty from having to lug them around on the talk show circuit. We would gladly offer to shine them up for you! :)

3. Erika’s favorite, Matt Holliday, had a strange year. What’s stunning is that despite having played in 34 fewer games than 2010, his counting numbers were still relatively in line with his career averages. Appendicitis in the first week of the season? One week out, no big deal. A moth flies in his ear and becomes lodged mid-game? Whatever, pull it out and stick it in a jar. Sore muscles, hurt fingers, Holliday was this year’s Freese in terms of strange injuries. Despite it all, he had a strong enough season to garner an All-Star selection and was even selected in the home run derby competition (I know, that feels like an incredibly long time ago!).

4. At the beginning of the year, Bill Ivie had a Diamond Diaries night on the UCB Radio Hour. Since it was the beginning of the season we were asked to make various predictions on how the season would go for various players and the team as a whole. While I was still licking my wounds about Adam Wainwright’s season-ending Tommy John surgery and Erika was wondering what would become of David Freese’s glass ankles, Bill threw us a curve and asked what we thought about the Lance Berkman signing. I was trying very hard to be optimistic. It was a shot in the dark signing, hoping that he could reclaim some of his former All-Star glory, while still knowing that even if he didn’t show much, it wasn’t a break-the-bank signing either.

Did anyone see an All-Star selection and a 7th place finish in the MVP award voting? Anyone?

Lies. You didn’t. We didn’t. We tried to predict counting stats – .280 batting, 20-25 home runs, 75ish RBI were the numbers I tossed out – wording our predictions with “If he could get here, that would be awesome!” He went above and beyond all of our expectations, while also adding that ever coveted “clubhouse presence” that was missing for the past few years. Just for kicks, he also picked up two NL Player of the Week awards. Take that!

5. Why not round out our top 5 with a little bit of silly? Every playoff run needs a theme, and this one appeared to be all about the squirrel and Torty Craig and Happy Flight. It gave fans something silly to smile about, fake Twitter accounts to interact with, merchandise flew off the shelves, and despite all the silliness the Cardinals still found a way to win.

Also, we didn’t have to deal with that ridiculous “Beast Mode” theme. So there’s that.

Make sure to check out the United Cardinal Bloggers site to catch all of this year’s top 5 countdowns.

Happy New Year Cardinal fans!

Euphoria

World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Roll that around for a bit in your mind. See how it feels on the tip of your tongue.

Who-da-thunk.

I haven’t been around lately. Since the last time you saw me here, I have moved across state lines, started a new job, coached my way through a volleyball season, and lived and died with the Cards. I cheered for them, I cried for them, I laughed with them. I just wasn’t here.

That’s okay, the Cardinals almost weren’t here either.

I live in Missouri now. My coworkers and I daily chatter about baseball. I’ve watched games with family and friends that I haven’t been able to watch games with in years. For the first time since the 2004 World Series, I watched a playoff game while living in the state of Missouri (Okay, I was at game 3 of the 2009 NLDS. That shouldn’t count. It was pathetic).

I almost quit this team. I actually had a thought one day about what I would do with all my free time in October. That day was in August. I couldn’t fathom what else could happen to this team – random injuries, snatching losses from the jaws of victory, drama with the manager and a team that I felt was listless.

I couldn’t quit this team. Most of you couldn’t either. Suddenly I felt a shift. Games started falling the other way. Call it regression to the mean or getting breaks to fall your way or whatever you want to call it, this team looked different. They almost had… wait for it… swagger. Not in the Phillies’ pitching staff of doooooooom. Not in the Brewers’ “Beast Mode.” Not in the Rangers antler clash. The just had this childlike, sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar determination that they were just going to do this. It was going to happen.

They did it. Allen Craig randomly appeared here and there to hit home runs like they were no big deal. David Freese found a way to have every big hit. Chris Carpenter pitched with a bulldog mentality on short rest. Jason Motte closed the door. Tony LaRussa smiled.

Cardinal fans rejoiced. I sit here, a full 14 hours since the game ended, still feeling speechless as to how to describe this game.

But these pictures say it better than I ever could. Enjoy it Cardinal fans – especially those of you that couldn’t quit.

Game 6 Winner

Game 7 Winner

Daydream Believer

Pinch me.

It’s the postseason and my St. Louis Cardinals have conquered the unconquerable, done the unthinkable.

This team, who was 10 ½ games out of first place in the NL Central during the last week in August put on the turbo-boosters and raced into October, beating the odds-favorite pitching monsters of the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series and then moving on to snuff the mighty Brewers in the National League Championship Series.

Pinch me.

This is the team who lost their “Ace” Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery during Spring Training, whose veteran closer fought a prolonged and painful struggle to “get it right” through a good part of the season before finally hanging up his cleats, whose bullpen woes and injury bugs peaked early and haunted faithful fans.  This is the team who failed to reach a contract extension agreement with their legendary (pending free agent) first baseman before the start of the season, leaving a cloud of doubt over the future of the club. This is the team whose manager battled SHINGLES for what seemed like an eternity.  This was the team nobody expected to be here.

And yet, here we are.

The Cardinals are heading back to the World Series, five years after another of their unexpected (and victorious) runs through the postseason.

The Texas Rangers are the bulldogs waiting for us in the final showdown.  The Cardinals are (again) the underdogs, facing a powerhouse lineup that should strike fear in the hearts of any opposing pitching staff.

Except this team is the 2011 Cardinals, something unexpected, something… special.  This is the team with the power trio of Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday.  This is the team with Golden (glove) Boy, Yadier Molina anchoring the battery.  This is the team of David Freese, whose superhero powers apparently magnify in the postseason.  This is the team of churlish veteran Ace Chris Carpenter, the wise-beyond-his-years lefty, Jaime Garcia, and the resurgence of Kyle Lohse. This is the team with an MVP bullpen (Fernando Salas, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Lance Lynn…), a work in progress throughout the entire season, rich in talent and tuned to perfection under the mad genius of Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan.

This team exemplifies the saying:  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The midseason trade for shortstop Rafael Furcal added a potent combo of game-changing glove and switch-hitting hot bat.  The Colby Rasmus trade, initially flunking all seemingly rational baseball criteria, now shines with the luster of La Russa brilliance (isn’t hindsight incredible?) as pitchers Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski have all contributed handily to the magic of these rally Cardinals with Jon Jay in centerfield, making Rasmus’ absence (dare I say?) forgettable.

As I sit here composing this ode to what looks more and more like a team of destiny, I am finding it difficult to know where to stop.  So many players up and down the bench, the bullpen and the rotation have contributed to get this hot surging team to the magical summit: Allen “Do It For Torty” Craig, Nick Punto, Adron Chambers, Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso, Ryan Theriot… the list goes on and on.  When you stop to think, it is beyond belief:  the timely talent really does run that deep, this team has surpassed every expectation.  But don’t tell them that.  They have momentum and their eyes on the ultimate prize.  They are aiming for the top.

This is not a team of superstars, this is a TEAM.  The light-hearted frivolities: Puma suits, rookie hazing costumes, the “shredder”, tortoises, rally squirrels, “Happy Flights” and sprinkles have combined with an underlying burst of what can only be described as a perfect storm of “Do It or Go Home” mentality.

Game 1 of the World Series starts tomorrow…. and it starts at Busch Stadium.

Pinch me.

Go Cards!  ;)

Hello Nick Punto!

Mastermind Tony La Russa reclaimed the reins yesterday after his 6 game hiatus for medical reasons, and promptly baffled the masses with another gem in his ever-entertaining lineup switcharoos.  Looking back on it (hindsight, and all…) the experiment was a success.  Defensive positional tweaking resulted in an impressive infield upgrade.  Solid gloves and a pair of successful double plays behind the stellar performance of starting pitcher Jake Westbrook earned the Cardinals a W against Cliff Lee and the Phillies, easing the painful memories of last weekend’s embarrassing sweep by the Reds.

Yes, the media jumped all over the sight of Albert Pujols patrolling third base for the first time since 2002.  Highlights (if you missed them) from mlb.com:  http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=14866351

However, the lesser-known Cardinal covering second base earned himself a few more brownie points last night.  Nick Punto, the off-season pick-up touted as our new utility guy has worked overtime while Cardinal infielders Skip Schumaker (2nd base) and David Freese (3rd base) are nursing prolonged injuries. Last night Punto’s defense dazzled, which got me wondering…

image by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images from Zimbio

Who is Nick Punto?

  • 33 years old
  • Switch-hitter
  • Drafted in 1998 by the Phillies
  • 2001-2003  Phillies (didn’t play much)
  • 2004-2010 Twins
  • January 2011, free agent, signed 1 year, $750,000 deal with Cardinals

While skimming the internet for back stories and tidbits on Nick Punto, it became obvious I was rereading the same commentaries over and over again.  Punto has a great glove, but…..

For example, Aaron Gleeman (MinnPost.com) wrote:

“As a diminutive, punchless infielder with a great glove and far more frenetic energy than actual talent, Punto represents everything Gardenhire looks for (and tends to significantly overrate) in a non-star. No other manager would’ve given Punto an average of 434 plate appearances per season for a six-year span in which he hit .248/.323/.325 and had a sub-.650 OPS four times. Since his Twins debut in 2005, no MLB player has more plate appearances with a lower OPS.”

Great glove, can’t hit, “frenetic energy”?  Now, why does that sound vaguely familiar to me?

Suffice it to say, the season is still early and we have a lot of baseball yet to appreciate.  However, Nick Punto has earned a mention here at Diamond Diaries.  Sure, the guy may only be batting .266 (note: Pujols is currently batting .259), but with the frustrating recent parade of errors and ailing fundamentals plaguing the Cardinals’ 2011 defense, we are all looking for a hero with a glove. So, throw in some timely extra base hits -a few doubles plus two triples – and Nick gets me smiling. Dirty uniform, quick hands, head first slides… Can you say scrappy??

Hello, Nick Punto!  So nice to meet ya!

For your viewing pleasure: some Punto highlights from mlb.com.

Punto’s 2-run double (and sweet slide)

http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=14835551

Punto starts a double play (lovely!)

http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=14289541

Our red-hot lefty, Jaime Garcia, takes the mound tonight at 7:15, facing Roy Oswalt and the Phillies in the final game of this short 2-game series.

Go Cards!!  ;)

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