For the 20th consecutive year, the back diamonds of Jupiter, Florida’s Roger Dean Stadium (RDS) complex, known as The George Kissell Quad, should be a mandatory destination for any St. Louis Cardinals fan heading to spring training. There and on the surrounding fields, located at the upper right of the above aerial view, well over one hundred minor leaguers will be preparing for 2017 competition.
For the seventh consecutive year, the Cardinals will be running the early camp for selected minor league players, Spring Training Early Program, or STEP. That group will arrive around Friday, February 24, 10 days ahead of the others.
Following the completion of the STEP Camp, those roughly 30 early arrivals will be joined by the full complement of minor leaguers expected to compete for one of the four full-season clubs. Pitchers and catchers will report on Monday, March 6, with their first workout the next day. Position players will join them on Wednesday, March 8 and will take the fields on the 9th.
Other minor leaguers will join this group later. The Major League club annually has a cadre of non-roster invitees to big-league camp. With the Cardinals again sporting a major league roster that is pretty much set, almost all of the NRIs will likely not make St. Louis out of spring training.
The Jupiter complex offers great opportunities to get up close and personal with prospects. Most March mornings, players will be working out in preparation for 1:00 P.M. games that begin on Thursday, March 16 and run through Friday, March 31.
The players will work out together for a week before their first semi-official camp games on March 17. Their first external games will be the next day against their neighbors to the north, the New York Mets. Sunday, March 19 marks the first meetings with their Jupiter co-habitants, the Miami Marlins. New this year are the additions of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, sharing a new complex in West Palm Beach.
Camp will break in stages. The Memphis and Springfield clubs will play their final Florida games on Wednesday, March 29, with the Redbirds hosting St. Louis the next night. Springfield’s home exhibition against St. Louis follows on Friday evening.
The Palm Beach and Peoria clubs will continue to play on Thursday and Friday, March 30 and 31 against the Marlins, to conclude their spring work. All four full-season affiliates will participate in Minor League Opening Day, almost one week later, on Thursday, April 6.
As usual, the farmhands of the Cardinals and Marlins face off most frequently, five times. The good news is that those “road” trips are only to the Marlins’ side of the RDS minor league fields. If past years are any indication, the Cardinals will also field a second Peoria team against the Marlins, with five games scheduled those days – assuming both sides have ample pitching in need of work.
In recent years, the Mets had been the only other MLB organization remaining nearby, in Port St. Lucie, 33 miles from Jupiter. However, with the opening of the new West Palm facility, the Mets take a lesser role in the Cardinals’ 2017 schedule, with three days’ worth of contests.
St. Louis will also play Washington three times this spring and Houston two more, to go with three camp days.
As was customary with the Mets recent years, all of the Mets, Astros and Nationals dates are split – as the Cards’ Triple-A (Memphis) and Double-A (Springfield) teams play in one location while the Single-A squads (Palm Beach and Peoria) compete on the other organization’s fields. That means only half of each system’s players have to take the requisite bus ride to the other’s fields on those dates.
Even with the welcome arrival of the Nationals and Astros, the total number of teams in the area remains an odd number. That means the Cardinals will have a camp day roughly every fifth day. That is generally when the other four teams in the area oppose each other. Typically on those camp days, the Cardinals’ Triple-A and Double-A squads will face off as will their Single-A clubs.
In addition, as is the case many years, the Cardinals have an extra game. On Monday, March 20, the club either called Peoria 2 or extended spring training will face South Florida Winter League. The SFWL attracts unaffiliated players looking for a professional contract.
The best news for fans from all of this is that not a single day will pass during spring camp – even camp days - in which baseball is not scheduled to be played on the back diamonds of Roger Dean – weather permitting, of course. The biggest inconvenience is small. Two times, observers will have to walk to the Marlins’ fields instead of the Cardinals’.
With the respective home plates on the RDS back quad, named in honor of the departed great George Kissell, arranged in close proximity to each other like in a softball complex, fans can easily move among the various games by taking just a handful of steps.
While games typically start at 1 p.m. each day as noted above, impending weather can lead to last-minute changes. For example, if afternoon rain appears likely, morning workouts may be truncated with games moved up to 10 a.m. It is always best to check at the Cardinals lobby on University Blvd. when you arrive for status.
You never know who you’ll see while there, and best of all, attendance is free! So, if you’re interested in the Cardinals minor leaguers, make sure you catch the action this spring in Florida. You’ll be glad you did!
2017 Cardinals minor league spring training game schedule
(All Cardinals home games start on or about 1:00 p.m. Eastern)
|Th||16 Mar||Camp Day||Camp Day||Camp Day||Camp Day|
|Fr||17 Mar||@ Mets||@ Mets||vs Mets||vs Mets|
|Sa||18 Mar||vs Mets||vs Mets||@ Mets||@ Mets|
|Su||19 Mar||vs Marlins||vs Marlins||vs Marlins||vs Marlins|
|Mo||20 Mar||@ Astros||@ Astros||vs Astros||vs Astros||SFWL|
|Tu||21 Mar||Camp Day||Camp Day||Camp Day||Camp Day|
|We||22 Mar||vs. Nats||vs. Nats||@ Nats||@ Nats|
|Th||23 Mar||vs Astros||vs Astros||@ Astros||@ Astros|
|Fr||24 Mar||@ Marlins||@ Marlins||@ Marlins||@ Marlins|
|Sa||25 Mar||vs Marlins||vs Marlins||vs Marlins||vs Marlins|
|Su||26 Mar||Camp Day||Camp Day||Camp Day||Camp Day|
|Mo||27 Mar||@ Nats||@ Nats||vs. Nats||vs. Nats|
|Tu||28 Mar||@ Mets||@ Mets||vs Mets||vs Mets|
|We||29 Mar||vs. Nats /Break camp
||vs. Nats||@ Nats||@ Nats|
|Th||30 Mar||vs. StL||Break camp||vs Marlins||vs Marlins|
|Fr||31 Mar||vs. StL||@ Marlins||@ Marlins|
|Sa||01 Apr||Break camp||Break camp|
|Th||06 Apr||Reg season||Reg season||Reg season||Reg season|
Other related resources
Link to the Roster Matrix, listing all players in the Cardinals system by position and level as they ended the 2016 season, as well as every player transaction, all year long. All spring camp assignments will be noted on the matrix as well.
Link to Cardinals major league spring training broadcast schedule, including evolving television and radio coverage details. Big-league games start Saturday, February 25.
Check back later for the Cardinals’ non-roster invitee list as well as the list of those players invited to STEP Camp.
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