It's January, It's cold yet at a local Hotel upwards of 200-300 people pack a hotel convention space/ballroom. Not for a seminar on how to invest in real estate or the latest stop smoking event. No, people are gathering to see and listen to professional baseball players. These aren't just any baseball players they are members of the St. Louis Cardinals. I remember my first convention that my father took me to in 1977. It featured Lou Brock, Ted Simmons and new guys Gary Templeton and Tony Scott. Mike Shannon and Jack Buck. The one line I remember was people asked Brock, Templeton and Scott who was faster and while Brock and Scott answered somewhat diplomatically When it came to Templeton he said "I don't know what those two are talking about I have number 1 on my back."
Fans in St Louis have the Winter Warm Up. For those of us in places like Champaign, IL., Jonesboro, AR., Dyersberg, TN, Evansville, IN. This is the only chance to get up close to the guys they watch on TV. Young kids look up at the dais and see these players smiling, laughing and most of all answering questions. Of course then there is Fredbird. (I think he may generate more excitement than the players at times) running around creating all kinds of mischief. Then the ultimate, the kids line up and move down the autograph line.
Wide eyed kids stand and watch as players sign the items they bring, Baseballs, photos, Autograph books, jerseys and such. Adults get autographs also and tell Al Hrabosky or Ricky Horton or who ever the alumni guests are that they enjoyed watching them play. they get pictures with their favorite players. Then there are the giveaways, Tickets, Jerseys, mugs, bobble heads. It may only last an hour or 2 but the time doesn't matter.
It is the feeling that for that little time period nothing else matters. Bad Weather, a bad at work the day before, whatever trouble one might have for that hour or two it does not matter. The only thing that matters is, that you are hanging out with Pro players and broadcasters and that you are among 200 or so friends (that you do not know). You look out and see Cardinal gear everywhere. You see kids smiling, clutching their new treasures. You see parents and grandparents looking at those children with broad smiles themselves at the enjoyment in those child's faces.
Over the years I have collected many autographs. Ken Rietz, Ken Dayley, Matt Adams, Danny Cox, Trevor Rosenthal, Tom Lawless. But the most fun I have had is watching my daughter and grand daughter meet big league players and walk out on top of the world.
For a Cardinal fan I don't know of any better way to spend a day.
Thank you to the St. Louis Cardinals the players for giving back to fans who may not be able to make it to ST. Louis for a game. Thank you for taking the time to sign your name to any number of items. To tell stories or answering the tough questions like. What is your favorite play? Who did you idolize when you were growing up? You answer with a smile, you crack a joke. What you really do is make fans happy to root for one of the best teams in baseball.
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