Sporting the 2013 alternate home jersey, Al Hrabosky welcomed fans with his usual style for this year’s Cardinals Caravan. A new autograph format followed the festivities, and both the current and former players put on a good show. Seth Maness was introduced first as he burst on the scene to earn minor league Pitcher of the Year for 2012. Instead of having fellow Springfield teammate Oscar Tavares join him next, it was a rejuvenated Shelby Miller who drew a nice ovation from the the Joplin crowd.
Al was quick to point out that Tavares, the reigning Player of the Year in the organization, had trouble making the trip from the Dominican Republic. That may have upset some in the audience, but the reference to the best “offensive talent” in the system since that Pujols guy drew a good reaction.
Cal Eldred and Alan Benes both rounded out the alumni showing quite well, even though the last guy truly stole the show. Newly-appointed St. Louis hitting coach John Mabry represented the only offensive player in the group and showed why he has always been a fan favorite. The two best answers of the day came from #47, who will be wearing the Birds on the Bat for the 4th time this season.
When he was asked during the Q&A whether or not to wear batting gloves, Mabry emphatically said, “No. You see that Matt Carpenter guy? Only the cool guys don’t wear batting gloves.”
Definitely in his element, Mark McGwire’s replacement will be able to keep it light during the dog days this summer. The panel was asked if they had any funny stories, and Mabry stepped up to the plate. He recalled being the back-up for Big Mac during the historic 1998 season when TLR came to him right before the start of the game. McGwire couldn’t go with his knee that day, and Mabry was going to fill in unbeknownst to the home crowd.
(Note: if I was more tech savvy, I would attempt to link the audio as it is much better than I can do!)
Once the press box was made aware, the announcement was made over the PA system, “now batting third for the St. Louis Cardinals and playing first base, John Mabry. And the whole stadium at once goes what…boo! I was simultaneously booed by 40,000 people.”
Much like what has been said about the Winter Warm-Up, the feeling was different this time with a much better atmosphere heading into the spring. While there were still a couple Albert questions (Mabry deflected quite well with a Beltran answer), most wanted to look ahead and not dwell on the tough October. The Caravan is for the kids first and foremost, and everyone was in a good mood. Miller handled himself like the old pro next to Maness, and he is one to watch the next two months. No longer is he the team’s number one prospect, but Miller may only share a short time in Memphis with Taveras.
The only question will be who gets called up first.
In addition to the questions and autographs, the Cardinals also unveiled a limited time offer for fans to experience even more games! Visit this site for all the details, but the short version is St. Louis has a Friday Pack, Sunday Pack, or Weekend Pack available until February 8th at a discounted price. And in case you haven’t checked out the promotional schedule this year, every fan will find something they want.
All in all the weather was ready for baseball, and Mabry provided the offensive firepower in yet another great Cardinals’ day.