Even at 8:30 AM, I could see a pair of Cardinals fans camped out by the gate so they can be among the first to race to berm area down the right field line – prime autograph-seeking territory.
9:00 AM: All the minor leaguers remaining in camp attend a morning meeting where Albert Pujols and Rick Horton spoke. "All" include 14 fewer players than when I arrived. See the separate story about this entitled 14 More Cards Minor Leaguers Released.
9:30 AM: Strength and Conditioning Coach Pete Prinzi leads the bullpen contenders through morning sprints. Jason Isringhausen usually finishes ahead of the pack. Coming back, on the left, Adam Wainwright tried in vain to overtake Braden Looper.
10:00 AM: Even major leaguers get regular reminders on how to execute fundamentals. This was a baserunning drill. I also took photos of the Memphis and Springfield players stretching, but to shrink them down to fit here made it impossible to identify individual players. Sorry!
10:05 AM: This is a quiz. Which player stands out and why? Yes, that is pitcher Rick Ankiel in the white sneakers. Apparently, he won't be seeing any game action soon.
10:10 AM: Minor league infield prospect Donovan Solano gets some individualized hitting instruction.
10:15 AM: Equipment Manager Rip Rowan and his team of attendants have the game uniforms in the Clubhouse all ready to go.
10:20 AM: With everyone still on the practice fields, the vast selection of equipment in the Physical Training area is quiet.
10:25 AM: The Manager's office is also empty, as Tony La Russa was away for the day due to the death of Head Trainer Barry Weinberg's mother. I doubt his office at the new Busch will be as spartan as his spring training digs, but La Russa did say the other day that he is going to have fewer items on his office walls to cut down on the clutter.
10:30 AM: Absent-mindedly, I walked over to Chris Carpenter, who was sitting alone on a golf cart outside the clubhouse watching Jason Marquis throw for Dave Duncan. I say absent-mindedly because Carp is the starting pitcher this day and some guys do not want to be disturbed. Fortunately, Carp was as quietly cordial as ever. We were discussing mound conditions on the road when a loud noise shattered the calm. One of the Cardinals owners, David Pratt, and his wife landed their private helicopter between the practice fields, about 100 yards away. Nothing like a flashy entrance. The down-to-earth Carp's reply to my statement about that being the way to travel: "Are you sure about that?"
12:55 PM: Even after taking regular batting practice, Scott Rolen apparently wanted more. As the day's line-ups were being announced, behind the centerfield fence in the batting cages, Rolen was putting in more time hitting with Hal McRae providing advice. A lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes.
1:00 PM: No photo for this one, because I knew better. I stopped to say "hello" to Special Spring Training Instructor Bob Gibson, who was chatting with former Equipment Manager Buddy Bates, ironically telling a tale about a testy autograph seeker. In the middle of this, prospect Reid Gorecki sheepishly walked up with a Sharpie and a marker, along with a dollar bill. The usually brash Gorecki apparently knew about Gibson's view of signing, so he used the green to break the ice. After Gibson signed, Reid asked as he walked away, "Are you sure you don't want that dollar?" We all had a good laugh.
1:05 PM: My final image for today is of the fans on the berm, with Alan Benes signing in the foreground and the day's starters stretching in the background. Time to watch the game!
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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