WE MOVED!

Thanks for visiting Cardinal Diamond Diaries. If you our finding our site for the first time or returning after a break, please check out our NEW location at DiamondDiaries.net

Friday, April 15, 2011

Moving Day

When Erika and I got this crazy idea to start a blog at the beginning of last season, we had no idea what kind of crazy journey we were setting out on. Since then we have been interviewed, been on the radio, joined UCB, were able to meet with many other UCB members during Opening Weekend of this year, and much more. 


We've been through the ups and downs, both with the team and with writing. Our own team here on CDD has gone through a few changes as well. But we're ready to take a new, fresh step:


We're moving.


For those of you that have gotten used to typing in our ridiculously long IP address, sorry, it's changing. For those of you that saved us in your bookmarks, sorry, time to update. For those of you that want something short and sweet to remember us by, check out DiamondDiaries.net! We've put a lot of work into the new site already, despite the fact that we're still going to be tweaking little things here and there with our older posts over the next few days/weeks, but we're also ready to start over.


For those of you that have been here with us since day one and those of you that have found our site just recently, we thank you for your support. We hope to see you over at the new, shiny place soon!


Okay, we're done. From now on, go to DiamondDiaries.net!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Enter Eduardo...

Berkman
The Cardinals stomped all over the Diamondbacks yesterday in a 15-5 blow-out that included a Grand Slam from Lovable Lance (Berkman) and a 3-run blast by Skip "SkipperDoodle" Schumaker.  Last night was game 6 of a 10-game West coast road trip (late night games make for sleepy mornings) and the trouncing came as a welcome relief to tired Cardinal fans.  Truth be told, sleep won the fight in the 6th inning for me; but with a hefty15-5 Cardinal lead, I easily drifted off to happy dreams.  

This morning I fired up the DVR to watch the rest of the game unfold.  After 6 innings of heavy hitting, a scoreless 3 innings piqued my curiosity.  Sure enough, there was a diamond hidden in those zeros...

Augenstein
Enter baby bird, Eduardo Sanchez!  This rookie, called up from Memphis when injuries during Tuesday's game sent Cardinal relief pitchers Bryan Augenstein and Brian Tallet to the disabled list, had a night to remember in his Major League debut!

Sanchez Debut
Sanchez took the mound at the start of the 8th and stayed through the 9th to shut it down.  Facing a mere 7 batters to get the job done, Sanchez struck out 5 with ease. Total pitches: 18,13 for strikes. Confidence, delivery and strength from a 155 pound, 5'11" rookie in his big league debut - that was MUST SEE baseball!!  

Welcome to the club, Eduardo Sanchez!  We'll be looking forward to seeing you again soon!

The Cardinals head to LA to face the Dodgers tonight, in the first of a 4-game series. Here's to the theory that hitting is contagious and the Cardinal confidence continues to build... ;)

Go Cards!!

  

Monday, April 11, 2011

An Epiphany Of Sorts

So early in tonight's game, as I stared in disbelief at Albert Pujols hitting into his seventh double play of the season, I had an epiphany, courtesy of friend of the site Bob Netherton (@throatwarbler). He threw out this thought...
To put this in perspective, Jack Clark hit into 179 double plays in his 18 year career. 6 of those were partial years. Albert 209 in 10. In 2 1/2 years in St. Louis, Clark only hit into 19 double plays. That shows you what the running game can do.
Hmm... the running game. Of course, seeing a hit and run executed by Kyle McClellan and Yadier Molina of all people makes me chuckle even more, but also makes me think. Obviously, the Cardinals are not a strong running team. Not. At. All. Why should they be? Enough of the players have pop in their bats (Pujols, Holliday, Rasmus, Berkman) and are capable of putting one over the wall, so why put runners on the move and risk easy double plays or chances to double guys off?

Umm, because the entire team is hitting into way too many double plays?

Why not try it Tony? Guys are getting on base in front of Pujols. Let them run. Let them dance on the basepaths. Get the pitchers distracted, because distraction = mistakes and mistakes = long, beautiful home runs leaving the park.

Just a thought. Don't mind me... ;)

Signs of Life

Nine games in the early 2011 season have left our Cardinals floundering.  Some fans have already thrown in the towel in disgust, heading off in search of less painful entertainment options.  But yesterday, others who donned their “true fan” label as a badge of courage were rewarded to what we can only hope will be more typical (winning) Cardinal baseball.

The record is not pretty at 3 wins and 6 losses, but the Cards have had some strikes against them.  The most obvious has been lack of run support coupled with costly fielding errors.  Leading the league in double plays (not the defensive kind) hasn’t helped much either.  And then there’s Albert…. With a string of unAlbertlike games and a batting average of  .143,  is it any wonder that Cardinal fans are wondering if we all fell down the rabbit hole?

There are, however, signs of life.  Slugger Matt Holliday returned yesterday, 9 days after his emergency appendectomy, showing he was back and ready for action.  David Freese belted his first homerun and collected his first 3 rbi of the season, helping the Cardinals score their inaugural “6 serious runs.”  Kyle Lohse, showing strength and command, went 8 full innings with no walks, 5 strikeouts and only 5 hits.  He threw 96 pitches, 65 for strikes.  Couple that with previous stellar early outings by Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter (whose records are unfortunately tarnished by lack of run support) and a strong showing from Kyle McClellan - and we have reason to hope this is just an unlucky/slow start.

Two of my favorite bloggers have taken the high road from all the grumblings and cussing about the comedy of errors we have witnessed lately from our hobbling redbirds.  If you need to be nudged away from the ledge, I highly recommend stopping by their sites for a positive reality check.

Bob at On the Outside Corner posts “There Must Be A Pony In There Somewhere”

And Mark at Retrosimba reminds us of the many, many years that our “Cards Turned Bad Starts Into Great Seasons.” 

Sure, one good game does not a rally make.  But the Cardinals are not dead and buried.  So chin up, Cardinal Nation.  There are signs of life!  ;)

The boys continue their western road trip tonight against the Diamondbacks with Kyle McClellan on the mound at 8:40 CT.  You never know what baseball magic you may see.  So tune in with us and watch the rally continue!

Go Cards!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

More Fun at Busch Stadium

I finally had some time to sit down and write about the first-class Cardinal Bloggers Event hosted last weekend by the St. Louis Cardinals.  The experience was so much fun that I had to split it up into two posts! Yesterday I touched on our meeting with John Mozeliak and the thrill of walking into the administrative offices as well as the wonderful time we had mingling with other Cardinal bloggers/writers in Cardinal Hospitality.  Today I want to share some other stories that made the event even more memorable for me.

Visiting the Busch stadium press-box during a game has topped my list of curious places behind the scenes of Cardinal baseball. (Okay, visiting the clubhouse right after the game would be numero uno.  A gal can dream, can’t she?!)  In my mind, I’ve had a picture of what the press-box scene might look like.    So the chance to discover if the scribes bicker out loud (instead of just across twitter) or if there are piles of pizza boxes or taco trash in the corner was a whole bucket of exciting!  

One of my favorite highlights from Sunday’s Blogger Event at Busch was an impromptu tour of the press-box!  As luck would have it, I caught up with Matthew “Pip” Philip, editor and principal writer for Fungoes.com, when he stopped by the party suite for some food.  When I asked where he was off to next, Pip replied that he was heading back to the press box, and I (of course) jumped at the chance to ask him for a tour (not at all shy when it comes to opportunities like that!)  Pip was awesome and happy to oblige.  So I grabbed Hubby and we wandered back through the stadium with Pip, past the guard at the door to the press box.  (Guarded to keep potentially overexcited fans like me from interrupting a broadcast by cheering “AttaBoy Hunky!!!” too loud from the booth?... I’m just guessing.)

Anyway… Hubby and I quietly behaved ourselves in the press-box corridor while Pip took care of some MLB.com datacasting.  He was training a woman on the process for entering data for MLB Game Day/ MLB At Bat.  (I’d always wondered how that happened…. now I know!) 


One of the funny things about the press box was the seating chart posted on the wall as you enter the corridor.  It reminded me of elementary school.  “Everyone find your chair!”

Hubby and I wandered up to the 2nd level of chairs (with permission, of course) and sat to watch some of the game from that glorious birds-eye view.  Among the dozen or so men in the seats below us I recognized Bernie Miklasz (sorting his itunes library), Derrick Goold, Rick Hummel and BJ Rains with his dad, Rob Rains, one row behind.   They were all quietly watching the games or casually typing on their computers.  What I assumed would be a glorified man cave was actually pristinely clean and orderly.  No piles of stadium food littered the desks or corners.  And honestly the box felt like a library, very quiet with only occasional hushed talking as crowd noise drifted in through an open window.  Another curiosity was seeing Matthew Leach (MLB.com reporter) sitting alone in a darker room full of desk cubbies across the hall from the elevated press-box seats.  I had the chance to ask him about this later in the afternoon…

Pip returned to give us a fabulous quick tour of the press-box (honestly, there’s not all that much to tour, but he did it up right!) He even let me snag a few of the game notes and information pages provided for the press who use that area. Score one for random baseball souvenirs!  ;)  Whether he knew it or not, Pip made a dream come true.  It was wonderful and the staff in the press box were warm and welcoming.   

We managed to find our way back to the UCB suites to enjoy more of Jaime Garcia’s unbelievable complete game shutout (wow!) with the other bloggers.  Towards the end of the game, Matthew Leach made an appearance in the suites and hung out to meet everyone and talk about the Cardinals. 


 When the game ended and the employees politely tried to move our chattering UCB group on our way, Matthew Leach kindly hung out with several of us in the concourse.  I grabbed my chance to ask him pretty much any and every question I’d wanted to ask him over the past few years… about his job and the Cardinals.  He was great about it and I learned a lot.

For instance…. 

·        The reason he was alone in a dark room in the press box?  Leach wasn’t reporting on the Cardinals game that day and was instead working on a different article for MLB.com….while watching a tennis match.)
·        He explained his process of taking notes during a game in order to quickly put the details together into an entertaining and informative game recap.
·        Matthew has been working in baseball for 10 years now, and yes, it does get tiring, especially when traveling.
·        He has authored one book (I didn’t know this) titled “The Game of My Life, St. Louis Cardinals,” but it is out of print and costs anywhere from $86 to $297 online now.  So, it must be a REALLY good book!  ;)
·        He gets a lot of questions for his Mailbag, but current/timely questions are sometimes hard to come by. So when he sends out a request for questions, he really does need them!  

I also “peppered” Mr. Leach (Dustin McClure’s words, not mine) with questions about some of my favorite Baby Birds such as Daniel Descalso including how long Matthew expects him to stick with the big club.  I verified that no, Matthew Leach is not a Cardinal fan and asked how he can spend so much time covering the Cardinals with such excitement and interest, yet not be a fan. Then I finally couldn’t help myself and brought up the topic of one of my favorites, former Cardinal shortstop Brendan Ryan.  Matthew agreed that it was hard to understand how Brendan would be surprised that his former teammates were frustrated by his antics when it was quite obvious to many around the clubhouse.  I wish I’d had a tape recorder so that I could remember everything we discussed, but it was the most fun to talk to someone with that much experience and such a close connection to our team.   Matthew Leach was great to meet and kindly stayed for all of our questions and discussions, joking about how hard he is to reach otherwise.  (He is,in fact, extremely easy to reach and is quick to respond on Twitter as well as answer reader questions in his MLB/Cardinals blog, Obviously, You’re Not a Golfer.) 

Christine, Chris, Justin, Dustin, Dathan and me
After the doors were shut and the stadium was quieting down, a small group of us leftover UCBers made the hike out of the stadium, past the players’ parking lot… where we paused to try and identify some vehicles in true fan fashion.  We continued on to Paddy O’s where we soaked up some postgame excitement along with our refreshments.  Being from Oklahoma, I rarely get to celebrate a win, in St. Louis, surrounded by a crowd of Cardinal fans.  It was wonderfully fun and the perfect ending to a fabulous gathering.

Thanks again to the St. Louis Cardinals for hosting the event; Molly and Kathy for their hard work in setting it all up and their hospitality; Melody Yount, Derek Throneburg and especially John Mozeliak for giving the UCB a memorable event at Busch Stadium.  Thanks also to the staff in the suites who made us all comfortable and provided us with great food, drinks and service.  And my special thanks to the two Matthews, Philip and Leach, for adding so much to my experience. 

It was especially wonderful to meet everyone that I associate with my Cardinals, from twitter and blogs to the guys behind the MLB tools I use daily. 

The Cardinals begin the first of their 10 games on the road today as they face the San Francisco Giants.  Game time is early today at 3:35pm. 

Go Cards!!  =)  

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cardinal Hospitality

Last Sunday I was pretty hyped to be in a party suite at Busch Stadium, watching the game with 25-30 other Cardinal bloggers/writers as guests of the St. Louis Cardinals!  My adventure started back in March when an email invitation to the 2011 Blogger Event arrived in my inbox, R.S.V.P. required.  Needless to say, that decision was a no-brainer. 

On Sunday morning a group of us congregated outside of Busch Stadium, excited to soon be entering the stadium through the doors of the Cardinals Administrative Offices, located at 700 Clark Street.  We were greeted by Molly Radcliffe and Kathy Langenfield who gave us welcome packets full of information about ticket packages, special promotions, a “Tweet Me In St. Louis” t-shirt and our own copies of the beautiful 2011 Cardinals Media guide. Next we were escorted to a large conference room where Melody Yount (manager of media relations and new media) spoke briefly and then introduced John Mozeliak, the Cardinals General Manager.

Mr. Mozeliak gave us a quick state-of-the-team review and talked about the offseason moves and roster changes, then patiently took questions from the group for almost 30 minutes.  I must admit it was highly entertaining listening to a group of us “less experienced” new media types ask questions of the GM.  Everyone was well-behaved and respectful, but the nervous energy was palpable.  Mozeliak answered all questions.  None of it was “breaking news,” mostly statements we had heard before from him or the team.  But to give Mo some credit, he did inject some humor which lightened the mood.  For example, those in attendance now have a new frame of reference regarding our shortstop’s batting average (as it relates to the weight of Mo’s daughter).  Also, Mozeliak gave us a status report on Matt Holliday’s recovery from his appendectomy, using the word “bloated,” after which I promptly tuned out in order to clear that less-than-flattering visual from my head.  (Get well soon, Matt!) 

Mo made his exit in order to attend to pressing Cardinals business, (why else wouldn’t he hang with us for lunch?) and Derek Throneburg filled us in on the new dynamic ticket pricing.  Honestly, after listening to Mr. Throneburg and perusing the glossy info sheets in our goodie bag, I am impressed by the effort of the Cardinals to provide tickets and packages at great bargains.  No more excuses….  You gotta get to a ballgame at Busch! 

After all that official stuff (many thanks to Mr. Mozeliak for taking the time for the UCB Q&A!), we headed to the suites where the Cardinals provided a buffet of yummy food and drinks.  (Ask Angela about those brownies…) Jim Hayes of FoxSports Midwest stopped by to chat, but Fredbird stole the show when he flew in and posed for pictures. 

Sunday’s Cardinals game was a must-see with Jaime Garcia throwing a complete game shut-out against the Padres, earning the Cardinals their first win of the season.  And even though I didn’t actually watch much of the game – my own fault: I was having too much fun chatting with other bloggers/writers that I had never actually met in person before – I will always remember that game experience.

By far, the best part of the event (for me) was the chance to finally meet all the great people of the UCB (United Cardinal Bloggers.)  Take it from me, even if you absolutely love how they write, they are even better in person!

Daniel Shoptaw (UCB founder and voice of C70 At The Bat) helped me come up with a list of the fine UCB folk who were present on Sunday.  Somehow I didn't manage to meet them all, so I'll be looking forward to next time!  Check out links to their great sites at the UCB Website

Part of the UCB crew in attendance on Sunday
Photo courtsey of Daniel Shoptaw
Matt and Josh--Joe Sports Fan
Nick, Josh, Dennis--Pitchers Hit Eighth
Angela (and me)--Cardinal Diamond Diaries
Christine--Aaron Miles' Fastball
Chris--Bird Brained
Daniel--C70 At The Bat
Bob--On The Outside Corner
Dustin--Welcome to Baseball Heaven
Kevin--Cards 'N Stuff
John--STL: Fear The Red
Aaron--Cards Diaspora
Bill--I70 Baseball
Matt--Baseball Digest
Eugene--85% Sports
Steve--Gas House Graphs
Mike and Joe--Cards Droppings
Joe--The McBrayer-Baseball Blog
Tom and Ryan--Cardinals GM
Dathan--Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Goodnight
Justin--Intangiball/InsideSTL
Pip--Fungoes

But wait… there’s more!  (Way too much for one post.)

Tomorrow I’ll fill you in on how I ended up in the Busch Stadium press-box and what happened when Matthew Leach got stuck answering some of my questions. Plus, some of us wandered over to Paddy-O’s after the game….  

No Cardinal baseball today, but the Memphis Redbirds take on the OKC Redhawks in Memphis tonight for Opening Day in the minor leagues!

Go Redbirds!!  =)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Berkman Bandwagon

Mark your calendars:  the date was April 4th.  Lance Berkman made it into my inner circle of Cardinal love. 

Lance Berkman had a clean slate with me.  I knew he was a former Houston Astro, but that was about it.  (The “new baseball fan” status still gives me an excuse for my unfamiliarity with everything not Cardinal-related.)  The Cardinals picked him up in the off-season and the first things I hear about him are 1) Big Puma 2) Fat Elvis and 3) bad knees….. not exactly a glowing report to hang your cap on, Lance.  ;)

Being a fan of our up-and-coming babybirds and pulling for those young guys to get their due chance with the big club, I am not a huge fan of Tony LaRussa’s propensity to favor new-to-me veteran additions to the roster.  Sure, those veterans have experience…. but I don’t remember any of it (new baseball fan excuse.)  So those guys have to give me a reason to love them.  They have to show me some heart, hustle like their job depends on it or at least have a personality that makes me forget that they’re blocking the babybird pipeline to the Majors.
 
Last night, Lance Berkman had all three.  I was shocked to see him tear around the bases in a hit and run, ending up at 3rd!  Bad knees?  They sure looked to be working well to me.  Then the Fox Sports camera (and microphone) caught Berkman as he headed to the dugout, smiling ear to ear, stop at the steps to shout a heads-up to Skip Schumaker, warning that the pitcher was throwing inside.  Big points to FSMW for showing that exchange.  Personality and teamwork on display makes me happy.

Add to that the (boring) stats from last night that Berkman drew two walks in his first two at bats and hit a rbi single to help spark hope in the almost-rally of the 8th inning and Lance has earned himself a spot in my heart.  Fellow United Cardinals Blogger Christine Coleman was quicker to the Berkman bandwagon than I was.  She pointed out to me at the game on Sunday how quirkily entertaining it is to watch Lance nervously walk in little circles in the outfield after every pitch.  (Quirky works for me…. See: Brendan Ryan.)   

So, while I was warned that I would love Berkman this season because he had a “great personality,” I stubbornly held out for proof… and spunk.  Welcome to the club, Lance Berkman.  You’ve earned a new fan.  (Mr. Theriot, I am still waiting.)

The Cardinals did end up with another loss last night.  They are now 1-3 in 2011. (Note: the Cardinal win came on Sunday while the United Cardinal Bloggers were in attendance at the game – not that that matters, but I think it might?)  David Freese wasn’t feeling the love yesterday.  He went 0-4 and has a batting average of .154 which is still better than Pujols’ batting average (now at .125.)  Aren’t early season statistics fun?  They don’t mean much, but yet we all want to make something out of them.  Brendan Ryan is batting .083 for the Mariners right now if you were curious  ;)

And of course I have to mention Hunky Holliday: On March 31st, Matt had a power explosion with 3 hits, a homerun and 2 RBIs.  The very next day Holliday was in the hospital for an emergency appendectomy.  Then, 3 days later reports come out (yesterday) that Matt asked to be kept off the 15 day disabled list because he believes he would be able to return before then.  Superman?  Possibly.  Stud?  Definitely!  ;)

late edit:  link to FSMW video with Hunky talking about his surgery and recovery:  click HERE.

The Cardinals take on the Pirates again tonight at 7:15 CT with Kyle McClellan on the mound.  I feel a win.  Go Cards!!  ;)

P.S.  Hey Angela, I am working on that post about all the fun from the United Cardinal Bloggers (UCB) event at Busch on Sunday---with pictures… promise! ;) 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

LIVE From Busch Stadium!

When you get an email from St. Louis Cardinals offering you free tickets, food, drink, and a chance to mingle and meet other writers and bloggers, you would have to be absolutely insane to pass it up, right?

We are here!
We thought so too.

Erika and I are currently hanging out in the Ozzie Smith suite at Busch Stadium with some of our favorite people, despite the fact that we just met many of them today or last night. I think there are still stars in our eyes from getting to meet so many people and do the things we have been able to do so far, and it is currently only the end of the second inning!

We were ushered in through a nice area with conference rooms and an area to meet and talk with various members of the Cardinals front office, including John Mozeliak. Mo chatted for a bit about various topics, then took a few questions from all of us, which we greatly appreciated. While I am sure that he skirted around some questions and did not give answers to the satisfaction of some members in attendance, I feel like we got a decent amount of information.

Chattin' it up with Mo
When asked about Pujols, we did get the company line of, "We tried really hard to get a deal done, but negotiations have been shut down as of right now, and we do not anticipate to bring them back up until the end of the season. At that point we feel confident that we can still get a deal in place, but we have to do what is in the best interests of the club." What did you expect?

When asked about the status of Wainwright's contract, in light of him being on the disabled list and not able to fulfill the stipulations of his contract extension, Mo said that the team had not as of yet had extensive discussions with the Waino camp, but that he has certainly earned the right to all that and more. Good answer! (Yes, I am wearing my Waino shirt. What did you expect?)

An interesting question to me was one about if he as a general manger ever looked back at guys that he had traded away, a form of "buyer's remorse" as it was. He said he did not, as it wouldn't really do him any good anyway (and then joked, "Isn't that what the media is for?").

When asked if he had any plans to get more involved with social media, namely all of us, Mo just kinda of went, "Well... no." At least he's honest! He said it is definitely a conversation he can have in the future, but he had not as of yet.

We were here!
I know there were other questions and answers, lots of information he passed out, but those are the clear ones for me. After Mo took off we learned about the new dynamic pricing program, which changes the prices of tickets based on the demand for each individual game. We also talked about about the 1120 program, which gets you a pair of vouches for $11.20 that will then get you into the game that night. The trick of it is that based on the game that day and the availability of tickets, your seats could be anywhere from field boxes to standing room only. It was at this point that I realized (again... still... some more) that I need to move to St. Louis so I can take advantage of programs like that!

A few other random pics, since it's now the fourth and I actually want to, you know, watch some of the game...

We met Fredbird!

Jim "the Cat" Hayes with Daniel Shoptaw from C70

Our view. No complaints!
There will be more later, but it might not be until tonight. Enjoy the game! GO CARDS!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Training, Episode 2

Daniel Descalso!! 
With only hours left until Opening Day at Busch Stadium and a full season of Cardinals baseball ahead of us, here’s the final part of my Spring Training report with highlights of my time in Jupiter watching our boys.  

Some tidbits of Spring Training Magic.  Enjoy!



Luck of the Late Arrivals
Kyle McClellan
After driving the 4 hours from Tampa, we arrived at Roger Dean Stadium less than 2 hours before game time on Friday.  We hit the team store briefly, then headed to the backfields as the small crowds were dispersing.  Figuring we’d missed the fun, we weren’t expecting much.  But we caught some pitchers taking batting practice, having fun competing for total distance, etc.  Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Kyle McClellan were taking turns in the cage and after they were finished, all three signed autographs for the fans that were still hanging around. 

In camp for approximately 30 minutes and getting autographs from three starting pitchers?  Why yes, I do believe in fairy tales!  ;)


Pujols Smacks TWO!!
Albert Pujols is ……. Well, he’s Albert Pujols.  What more can you say?  The Spring Training crowd that Saturday went wild when Albert led off the 4th inning with a solo blast to left center field.  Next inning, Pujols decided to do it again, with another homerun.  We felt honored to be watching.  Nothing magic about this one…. Just Pure Pujols.  ;)


Morning Frivolities on the Back Fields
On Sunday morning, Lance Berkman was good-naturedly terrorizing Skip Schumaker in the batting cages.  Yadi, Ryan Theriot, Skip and Berkman were taking turns in the cage.  The sun was hot and the crowd was sparse when Berkman decided to have some fun.  He started smacking the cage with his bat when pitches came in to Schumaker.  This progressed to full-fledge cage rattling to distract him.  Pretty soon Yadi and Theriot were joining in and all four were laughing.  It was one of those behind-the-scenes moments that makes me smile.  Nice to see Cardinal clubhouse chemistry alive and well.  ;)

“Look!  It’s Carp!!”
That's what I said to Hubby on Sunday, pointing up the sidewalk.  He mumbles something like “How can you see with that guy in the way?” 

Turns out that guy was Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals’ Ace and starting pitcher for Opening Day.  He was heading out for a run in shorts and a t-shirt.  Nobody else was around. It was eerie and exciting all at the same time.  Carp wasn’t stopping to chat though, and I didn’t bother him to ask for an autograph.  Memories of the Carp temper and flashbacks to the icy glares he shot Brendan Ryan that time last season kept me from invading his personal space.  I did grab my camera though.  Carp in shorts??  I had an obligation to document that leg art.  ;)


Blessed Are the Happy Autograph Givers
In my opinion, the best part of Spring Training is the accessibility to the players.  (For autographs as well as great photo opportunities) The environment is welcoming and the smaller venue affords a better chance to interact with these players we watch from a distance during the regular baseball season.  I adore observing Cardinals interacting with fans, especially with kids.  Some of the guys are admittedly better about it than others,  but those brief moments when a favorite ballplayer stops to take a picture or sign an autograph often will be more poignant memories for fans than the action on the field that day.

Skip Schumaker making kids happy
We certainly didn’t camp out for hours or pester players for autographs.  Several players voluntarily made themselves available to sign for fans after practice and before or after games. I know some players are jaded by the fact that autographs may end up on Ebay instead of as treasured spring training mementos.  However the players who take the time and spread some joy with a pen on a baseball make long-lasting, positive impressions on fans.  Those moments are priceless, no matter how old you are.

Well, those are a few of my highlights from Spring Training.  Game One of the 2011 Cardinals season is tomorrow!!!  We here at Cardinal Diamond Diaries look forward to sharing the season with you all!

GO CARDS!!

Spring Training, Episode 1

Spring Training means different things to different people.  To me, a trip to Florida in late March when the weather is warm and Opening Day is juuussssst around the corner makes perfect sense.  Mornings spent soaking up the sights and sounds of baseball drills on the backfields of Roger Dean stadium are not too chilly.  Starters are going longer into games and the lineups are full of actual, live 2011 Cardinals!!  It’s as close to “real” season baseball as possible… while still in the cozy setting of the Cardinals Spring Training facility, surrounded by palm trees, sea breezes and sunshine.

Brief Recap: 
Previous Spring Training trips (’09 and ’10) were hard on Hubby.

In 2009, new fan syndrome was in full effect.  I’d be up at the crack of dawn, not wanting to miss a single glimpse of a guy in a Cardinal uniform.  I was on Yadi Watch constantly. We hadn’t heard about the opportunity of watching morning practice drills.  I took a total of 178 photos (many of them were blurry because I was shaking from the excitement of it all.)  I noticed a guy named David Freese (#66) and took pictures of Chris Duncan and Rick Ankiel.  We saw two games and fell in love with the Spring Training atmosphere.

In 2010, new fan syndrome was still rampant.  PLUS I was armed with useful information from a baseball fan’s best tool: twitter. For example, this time I knew about Roger Dean stadium’s back fields, morning workouts & autograph opportunities, and the existence of Pyros Grill.  I was on Matt Holliday watch.  I took over 700 photos (some were still blurry because Brendan Ryan was spinning too fast for my camera or because I was drooling -just a little- over David Freese.)  I took pictures with Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse.  We saw 4 games – 2 home and 2 away.  I toured a baseball museum (because Aaron Hooks offered me free tickets if I’d review it for Cards Diaspora… #win!)  Highlight?? David Freese signed my shirt!!!  I was addicted to Spring Training.  Baseball overdose at it’s most extreme. 

(Hubby was more than relieved to finally get me out of Florida!)

So, on our third trip to Spring Training, this year we did something different. Maybe because I’ve matured in my fandom, maybe because Hubby medicated me…who knows?  But somehow we achieved a more well-rounded Florida vacation.  Don’t get me wrong.  It revolved around baseball!  But we did venture away from Roger Dean.  We enjoyed restaurants and sight-seeing that didn’t involve player-stalking. (Granted, I knew I had to behave myself if Hubby would ever agree to a Spring Training trip #4!)



Last week we even went to see some *gasp* non-Cardinals games.  In fact, while Hubby was meeting friends for a day of fishing (he saw dolphins!!), I ventured off all by myself to watch the Phillies play the Braves.  That experience was a perfect Spring Training warm-up.  I was a berm bum, taking in a game whose players/teams I was less familiar with.  Honestly, I bought that ticket hoping to see Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee pitch for the Phillies and fully expecting to be cheering on former Cardinal Joe Mather in a Braves uniform.  Alas, none of my hopefuls were in the game.  So, I spent a lot of time watching just baseball. I didn’t care who won or lost. And you know what?  I loved every second of it.  The view from the grass was different, enlightening – the game looks different and catches that seem so simple when watching from the infield are suddenly a heckuva lot more impressive when the fielder manages to intercept a rocket while chasing across the outfield grass.  It was baseball.  Good baseball. Man, you gotta love Spring Training!

ST Game 1
Yay!! – 78 degrees, light winds and sunshine.
-         Ryan Madson, in all his Madson glory, LIVE!
-         Beach party on the OF berm

                        Boo   - No Joe, Halladay or Lee, but I got over it. ;)
                                   


That same night we went to watch the Yankees take on the Astros at the Yankees Spring Training complex.  We were late to the game and the gate guardian wouldn’t let me bring in some of my camera gear. So we were even later after lugging it back to the parking lot again.  No Mariano Rivera appearance. (So far I was shooting 0-fer on my Spring Training hopefuls.)  However it was a night game and the stadium was full of New York fans.  Suffice it to say, that was a FAR different experience than Roger Dean Stadium full of Cardinal fans at 1:05pm games. ;)  Again, I savored every second. 

ST Game 2
Yay!! –    Joba and Dave Robertson pitching relief.
-         Jeter. Jeter. Jeter.
-         Brett Wallace (former Redbird) playing 1st, but hitless
-         Kettle corn for dinner!
-         Chuckling about “Mr. Know-It-All” sitting behind us who was always handing out words of (incorrect) wisdom to his kids

                        Boo   -  Gate trolls and repeat trips to the parking lot.

With that, my Spring Training warm-up was complete and we had a 4-hour drive to Jupiter, Florida (near West Palm Beach) for Cardinals camp the next morning.  Needless to say… it was hard to fall asleep that night.

Next post:   my stories from Jupiter and my time at Cardinals’ Spring Training:  running into Chris Carpenter out of uniform, on the sidewalk by the stadium; the batting practice frivolity of Lance Berkman; autographs, meeting players, and my favorite Spring Training game moments. 

Fitting it all in a blog before Opening Day (tomorrow) was poor planning… but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Like I said, we all do Spring Training a little differently.  I spend a lot of time taking pictures instead of keeping a scorecard.  I love watching ballplayers sign autographs and how they interact with fans.  Spring Training provides a unique opportunity to live and breathe the beginnings of baseball season…. until the big show begins. 

Happy Opening Day Eve!!  =)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Starting to Mean Something

Those of you that know me a bit know that I get really excited about the beginning of the baseball season. First day of Spring Training? Check (I wore red). First spring game? I found ways to watch that silly little Gameday box from my desk at work (and I wore red). First televised game? I again snuck peaks at the game (despite being unable to listen to most of it) from work (and wore more red). 


Each and every first made me smile, caused me to comment, and gave me reason to talk about baseball a little more than usual. But when the game ended and the final score was posted, I shut it down. I didn't fuss that too many men were left on base or get irritated at why Tony used this reliever instead of that one. Because it didn't matter. Spring records mean nothing (although I imagine being incredibly bad or blowing everyone out would turn heads). I have no idea what the standings look like for the Grapefruit League, nor will I be looking them up anytime soon.


It's not that I don't care. I'm trying to guess my way through those last few roster spots just like everyone else. I have been looking at various names/faces/statistics, but every time I start to get wrapped up in it I remember: Never fall in love too early in spring. Two weeks ago I was pulling for Lance Lynn for the rotation, Daniel Descalso to be the last bench player, was genuinely concerned about Lance Berkman, and still found little reason to trust Kyle Lohse. Since then I changed my mind... on all of those. But let's look at one at a time...


Pitchers: I am a huge Kyle McClellan fan. Really. I want him to succeed in whatever role he finally lands in. However, it seems that every year he gets put into the rotation mix during Spring Training, I pull for someone else. Why is that? It's because I constantly fall into the belief that while fifth starters can be found through any number of ways (and the Cardinals have a history of... interesting... fifth starter names over the past few years), strong and reliable workhorse bullpen arms are a little tougher to come by. I don't doubt Boggs and Motte. I love those goobers and the flaming fastballs they shoot out of their arms like cannons. I do at the same time love that McClellan can use an assortment of pitches and be the kind of setup man that TLR loves to have and use. 


I was pulling for Lance Lynn to have the kind of spring that Jaime Garcia did last year. After watching him today, I'm still unconvinced that he absolutely couldn't do it. His outing was okay, 4 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs and 4 strikeouts is nothing to be super critical of, but not eye opening either. McClellan has done nothing but mow 'em down. I want it to be McClellan. I suppose I'm pulling for Fernando Salas to get that last spot in the pen, but as Derrick Goold noted this afternoon, the team hasn't decided yet. I'm not sold, but I feel better about this all now than I did a couple of weeks ago, that's for sure. 


The other pitcher discussion has to be the combination of Jake Westbrook, Garcia, and Lohse. Quick, if you would have picked one of those three to have a strong spring, which would it have been? I would seriously laugh if you had said Lohse. NO ONE saw it coming. Will it last into the regular season? I certainly hope so. I don't expect him, Westbrook or Garcia to take the place of Adam Wainwright (*sniff*... I'm okay, it's dust or something), but feeling like we could rely on him to be more like the pitcher we saw in 2008 would be fantastic! Is it time to get concerned about Westbrook feeling like he hasn't really been able to get his pitches under control or Garcia not feeling worried about his not great start or not working counts well? I suppose that time is getting close. The games are starting to mean something (even if the final scores still do not).


Outfield: Color me not really worried about the outfield. Holliday and Rasmus are obviously just fine, and I think Berkman will be too. He probably cannot and really should not be playing every game like he thinks he can, but I feel confident enough in Jay and Craig being the other two outfielders that it should work out nicely. Should Berkman go down, it would not be the end of the world. I just hope he doesn't. That's all.


AP Photo
Infield: The four starters are clear - Pujols, Skip, Theriot, and Freese. No questions there. The two bench spots are the trick. Most assume that Tyler Greene will take one of them, but then it comes down to Daniel Descalso or Matt Carpenter. At the beginning of spring I would have said Descalso, no question. I fell in love too early, then felt Carpenter sweep Cardinal Nation collectively off our feet. He's not on the 40 man roster, but man, he could be. The fans like him. The front office likes him. Tony likes him (and his work ethic... so... he's the anti-Brendan?). 


But.


Dang. There had to be a 'but.' 


Carpenter plays third. In reality, he only plays third. We have a third baseman by the name of David Freese. Freese has obviously had his share of boo-boos and injury mishaps, and the team is taking care of those and shielding him from doing too much too soon, but really, do you want two players on your team that only play third base? Greene can play second and short, but Descalso can play second, short, and third. Versatility will get you everywhere on a Tony team, just ask Aaron Miles. 


Is there a right or wrong answer as to who to take north? I'm not sure there is. The point will most likely be moot anyway whenever Nick Punto (Yeah, I forgot about him too) comes off the disabled list. Both players have played well. Carpenter has gotten more print, but both have averages over .300, both have played solid defense. If you want to argue logistics, then fine - Descalso has experience at the big league level, although very limited (11 games and 37 plate appearances), while Carpenter hasn't played a game above AA. That is definitely a factor. 


Don't sell either short. However, just because the games are starting to mean something doesn't mean it's been long enough to fall for either player. 


That's why they play the games. :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Even if it was only one game...I finally made it back to Spring Training!!

Finally back after 5 long years!

It has been 5 years (almost to the week) since I last attended a Spring Training game at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. March 2006 was also the first time I ever went to Spring Training. We also know what happened in October 2006....so if I am any kind of luck, 2011 could potentially be a Red October. :) Of course I am just being a little superstitious and silly, but it is always fun to think about.

For the last Spring Break of my college career (hopefully!), I visited a friend in Miami, Florida. I told her that I would do anything else during the week as long as we could go to a Spring Training game in Jupiter. Knowing how obsessed I am with baseball and the Cardinals, she agreed, even though she barely knows anything about baseball. I promised her that I would teach her as much as I could and we would have a great time.

Yadier Molina - you can't tell here, but I
swear his eyes were closed! 
In my usual over-zealous fashion, we got there before the gates even opened and I spent a good 20-30 minutes in the official team store buying quite a few goodies. Don't worry, I did bring back my little sister an official Spring Training t-shirt. I knew she would have been disappointed if I didn't. Once the gates opened and we got in, I made my way down to the first row on the 1st base side of the stands. I parked myself right in front of the bullpen pitchers mound and waited for players to begin to enter the field.

After about an hour of waiting, finally John Gast, LHP, was the first to enter the field. I think about 3 people bothered even showing interest in him before a little boy in the berm asked for his autograph. He turned around and gladly gave it to him. After a while several more players began to enter the field, with Yadier Molina being one of the first as usual. As I watched him warm up, catching soft-tossed balls from bullpen catcher Murphy, I swear he actually did close his eyes when taking those warmup tosses. (remember the commercial from 2009 when he was blindfolded catching baseballs??). More and more players entered the field, and I got that same excited feeling I do every new season...I was shaking I was so excited. I think this is probably the coolest part of spring training. Instead of the players entering the field from the dugout, where very few fans are able to see them up close, they enter from the outfield where the berm is, so many fans are able to see the players up close and personal and get autographs and chat with their favorite players.

Me & Daniel Descalso
I was lucky enough to meet Daniel Descalso & Mark Hamilton while they were signing autographs near the Cardinals' bullpen on the first base side. If you have read Daniel's MLB blog (http://danieldescalso.mlblogs.com/), you know that he has given us a really great inside look on what a day of spring training is like. When I saw him coming around the corner signing autographs, I was excited that I would hopefully get to meet him...and I did. Everyone else just seemed to be asking for autographs, so I asked for a picture as well. My list of pictures with Cardinal players is getting checked off quickly. :) A little while later, Mark Hamilton was doing the same thing, and I got a photo with him as well.

Me & Mark Hamilton
We continued to watch Jaime Garcia warm up before we got booted out of the seats we were using. We headed to our seats in the second level and got to watch an awesome baseball game against the Boston Red Sox. I was actually really glad I got to see this game because I don't think I have ever seen the Red Sox live and in person. There were a lot of Red Sox fans sitting around us, but thankfully the guy next to me was a Cardinal fan, and I got to impress him with my knowledge. I remember him saying to me, “yeah, you need to work for this team, you know so much!” I hope this comes true someday. We all know it would be a dream come true for me!

Me & CJ Beatty - sorry it's not the best,
iphone picture... :)
Prior to the game, I had contacted one of my favorite Cardinal twitter-ers, @CJBeatty44, to see if I could meet him. Fortunately, he was supposed to be attending the game before his workouts started the next day! He so politely obliged and we decided to get in contact with each other on March 8th at the game. After several emails back and forth, we realized that we were actually sitting one section away from each other! So, before he had to leave (those dang American League teams cause games to be sooooo long!), we met up. Ok, people, if you enjoy CJ on twitter, you would love to meet him in person! Such a nice, humble guy. I must admit, when I read on his stats that he was 5'10”, I wasn't sure what to expect (honestly, I thought I might be a little taller than him because I too am 5'10”), but we were the same height. Good for you CJ, I hate it when players fudge their height on their stats page. Haha. Unfortunately we couldn't spend much time chatting, his girlfriend only had a few more hours to spend with him before his season started, and of course I wanted to watch the rest of the game. However, I can say from what I have read on his website (www.cjbeatty.com) he is a sincerely genuine person, and any Cardinal fans that get a chance to meet him would be very lucky. I am happy to say that we are now friends and I am looking forward to watching his journey as a member of the Palm Beach Cardinal and hopefully on up through the organization and as a St. Louis Cardinal one day. CJ, thanks so much for meeting me! I wish you the best of luck in 2011 and in the future!

Me & my friend Kristin at Roger Dean Stadium
Cardinal fans, I am soooo excited for baseball season! I know we have already had some setbacks and some scares heading into the 2011 season, but I still have faith...I think that there will be several young-veterans and other younger guys (baby birds maybe) who will be able to step up and take advantage of an opportunity. Next time you hear from me will probably be right after Opening Day! I will be there with bells on and I can't wait to cheer this team to victory in 2011. All things that have happened thus far, I am excited and I am ready to see what this team does this year. I am not extremely superstitious, but remember, I was last at Spring Training in 2006, and we know what happened then...lets hope for the same in 2011! GO REDBIRDS!! 



PS...all of these are my pictures, if you wish to see more, I can post em on twitter!

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