Event Spurs Interest In Upcoming Season

Fans given an opportunity to interact with a trio of renowned sports figures at Baseball Bonanza.

Whether customers were looking for one-of-a-kind St. Louis Cardinals merchandise or hoping to pick up the hottest tip on online fantasy baseball, Pro Image in the University Mall was the place to be.

The inaugural Baseball Bonanza event on Saturday at the sportswear store allowed participants to interact with a trio of renowned sports figures in an effort to spur interest in the upcoming Major League Baseball season, with opening day being April 1.

Pro Image manager Terry Glassman said the purpose was not to attract a crowd to sell merchandise. Instead, he wanted customers to see that his store offered a hands-on approach and to instill excitement in local fans.

"Some events won't make me sell a thing," Glassman said. "We wanted customers to see we offered more with this expo."

The event featured appearances from Brendan Roberts, the senior editor from the Sporting News, Ray Mileur, a spring training reporter for Fox Sports Network, and Gabe Drueke, the artist and stone carver for the Cardinals' new Busch Stadium.

Tom Moore, a 43-year-old Marion resident, said he enjoyed talking baseball with three people who had a unique perspective of his favorite team. As his seven-year-old son Zackary energetically bounced between Mileur and the carved Cardinals' logos, Moore said the Bonanza offered a unique opportunity he could not get elsewhere.

"These guys actually care," Moore said. "They're so friendly and knowledgeable. They don't just gloss over stuff."

Roberts didn't skip over anything when he gave about a dozen people an in-depth seminar about fantasy baseball, the ever-growing trend for dedicated sports fans. Roberts, who is also the resident fantasy expert at The Sporting News, took about 90 minutes to answer questions about everything fantasy.
Roberts said through seminars and conversations with onlookers, he is able to soak up new information. Carbondale, which he said was "bigger than I thought," wasn't any different.

"From New York to Boston, there's all different perspectives and different takes toward baseball," Roberts said. "You learn a lot from people."

Drueke showcased original carvings of the St. Louis Cardinals' logo. He said he carves them from stone, and some of his 13 original pieces took up to 110 hours. Drueke, sold and autographed molds of his original artwork. He said he was the only stone carver for the new stadium and the whole process has been somewhat surreal.

"I don't think it will sink in until opening day," Drueke said.

Mileur and Roberts greeted passers-by while Drueke signed his bulky stone pieces for those who purchased them. Roberts said he found a heightened interest in the people he talked to, who were especially excited about the upcoming season.

"They're proud of their southern Illinois area heritage," Roberts said.


Article reprinted courtesy of the Daily Egyptian, WWW.DAILYEGYPTIAN.COM, Southern Illinois University.

Reporter Jordan Wilson can be reached at jordan_wilson@dailyegyptian.com


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