FAN: How are fans supposed to be able to get tickets? I have heard that all the games are sold out.
Ray: Tickets are hard to come by but they are available. The Cardinals are ahead of their construction schedule and recently made 45,000 additional tickets available to fans for this season. My understanding is that an additional 4,000 seats above the 45,000 will be made available this week. It is also my understanding that there are now some tickets available for the series this weekend with the Chicago Cubs. This series previously was announced as sold out.
Another option available to you from the St. Louis Cardinals is to join the Prime Seat Ticket Club and purchase tickets from season ticket holders. Last year I believe the fee to join was $30.00 -- plus if I recall correctly there is a small service charge for each ticket sold.
On our website at www.stlcardinals.scout.com, we have ticket brokers such as BuySellTix.com, Coast to Coast Tickets, Tickco, and MTC Tickets.com. These tickets come at a premium price, but there are tickets available for most games through these brokers.
You can also watch for ads for the new Hilton Hotel in downtown St. Louis and the Casino Queen... they have ticket promos going on. I'm sorry I'm not sure of the details.
FAN: Why are there not as many seats available this year as in the past, if the Cardinals are so popular and they are selling out? You would think that they would want more seats available for the fans.
Ray: Of course the ongoing construction presents some problems. The old Busch Stadium had a maximum seating capacity of 50,345 and trust me, I have been to a lot of games where even though it may have been reported that games were sold out, there were still several thousand empty seats, especially in the middle of the season.
The new stadium when completed will have a maximum capacity of 46,681 which is around 3,600 fewer seats than in the old stadium.
Prior to the stadium being completed, the seating capacity for the first half of the season was supposed to be around 40,000. Seats have already been added as a result of construction being ahead of schedule.
I'm sure studies have been completed to determine the supply and demand for tickets and the cost associated with having those seats in the new ballpark and the most cost-effective choices were made.
FAN: What do you like about the new ballpark?
Ray: First, I was one of the first members of the Ballpark Partnership and supported the new stadium early on in the process. While I was a big fan of the old Busch Stadium, there were some infrastructure issues that needed to be addressed and I felt the new stadium would do wonders for the downtown development of St. Louis and contribute significantly to the local economy.
The part I like best about the stadium is that it doesn't look like it's just been built or that it is an intrusion into the downtown area. It really looks like it belongs there and if you didn't know better, you would think it has been there for awhile.
I like the sightlines from most of the seats, the more open spaces in the concourses, and just the overall beauty of it.
FAN: What don't you like about the new stadium?
Ray: I don't like that more space hasn't been dedicated to the history of the franchise. I hope that the St. Louis Cardinals Museum eventually becomes a significant part of either the ballpark or the ballpark village.
You would never know, by walking around the ballpark, that the Cardinals are the most storied franchise in the history of the National League. Where are the championship banners, trophies, or pennants?
One pet peeve I have is that the retired numbers have been reduced to next-to-nothing and placed underneath the scoreboard. I have a problem with that and I have heard, but I haven't seen it with my own eyes, but I understand that they spelled Schoendienst wrong on his number. I figure if I can spell it, certainly the Cardinals should be able to get it right.
Finally, let me warn you that there is a problem with the Bank of America Party Room. I have been there and you cannot see the field from any seat in the room. It's a great party room, but just know if you buy tickets for that room you will have to stand at the window or out on the concourse to see the game.
There are also some reported problems with the sound system, and of course I think we have all heard about the foul poles.
You know when you buy a new house or remodel one that there are always little things that need to be fixed or corrected. You can only begin to imagine how much may have to be done to correct the problems on a $365 million stadium.
I have no doubt that the organization is doing everything possible to address issues and concerns as they are being discovered.
FAN: How good is the bullpen going to be?
Ray: I know the bullpen has struggled early on, but I do believe it will come around as a whole and be very effective for us this season. If I may, I'll just go down the line:
IZZY - Jason is going to continue to drive the most of us nuts. He's not your typical closer that can come and just shut down a team with runners in scoring position. He'll come in most often in the 9th in a save situation and at times he'll make it interesting. That said there is no reason to suspect he won't rack up 35-40 saves again this season.
BRADEN LOOPER - He is supposed to be the setup guy for Jason and a back-up closer. Personally, I would have left Braden in extended spring training and brought him up during the first week of May. He is working very hard coming back off of off season surgery. He should be OK within a couple of weeks. He's getting in a lot of innings which is what he needs. If he is going to be effective, he needs to pitch inside more. He's a work in progress and he's making progress.
BRAD THOMPSON & RANDY FLORES - You can count on both of these guys in any situation and I'm not worried about them.
JOSH HANCOCK - He's a new guy on the team the Cardinals picked up after the Reds released him for being overweight. Don't buy into that. He's healthy and he looks fine to me. He's keeping the ball down and he should do an excellent job for us this season.
ADAM WAINWRIGHT - He's the real deal and his stock is rising fast. He'll work out of the bullpen this season and will be in the rotation to start next season. Look for the Cardinals to use him more and more in key situations as his confidence continues to develop. I have spent some time with Adam; he's got his head on straight and is approaching this season with the right attitude and I'm confident that he has spent his last days in the minors.
RICARDO RINCON - Rincon is one of my few concerns. The Cardinals appear to be trying to stretch him into being more than a lefty specialist that just comes into a game and gets a left-hander out in a key situation. I have my doubts about him being to get right-handed batters out and for his role being anything more than to come in and to get that one or two left-hander batters out.
FAN: What about Rick Ankiel?
Ray: We almost made it through five questions before we got to Rick. (laughter) I will admit I am amazed with the love affair Cardinal fans have for Rick. The Cardinals started Rick out this season on the 40-man roster and he is currently on the DL. He is out of options, so he'll either be placed on the 25-man roster soon or will have to be placed on waivers at which at some point another team could claim him. I'm a little surprised by the success he had last season and will tell you that he was very impressive this spring hitting in the batting cages. He didn't look like a pitcher with the bat. And before you ask me, no he isn't going to pitch again.
FAN: What about left field?
Ray: Good question. The Cardinals don't currently have anyone on the roster that you could really say is a full time left-fielder. You have John Rodriguez who was effective last season as a part-time player, So Taguchi, who can play all three outfield positions, is considered a reserve player. Skip Schumaker, who made the team because of his defense, is struggling at the plate. I think he is something like one for his last 18 at bats. Then there is Larry Bigbie who is currently on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis and he's not expected to return to the team for at least another couple of weeks.
The job is probably Bigbie's when he returns and I would suggest Skip Schumaker will be sent to Triple-A, unless he starts hitting.
John Rodriguez has been nursing a sore shoulder since spring training and that has hurt his chances of earning the job outright. He'll likely return to the bench and be behind Bigbie on the depth chart.
FAN: Is Walt Jocketty planning on doing anything soon about second base and left field? It looks like the Cardinals need to do something.
Ray: You can be sure that Walt Jocketty is considering all possible options in addressing what I'm sure he can see as weaknesses on the Cardinals roster and lineup.
Remember this though... Cardinals fans are very lucky to have a group of players that includes the likes of Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, and David Eckstein. These guys -- especially Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds -- cost big bucks and it's unrealistic to expect a small-market club like the St. Louis Cardinals to have an All Star at every position.
The Cardinals will continue to try to find bargains where they can, like a Tony Womack from a couple of season ago or an Abraham Nunez from last season and it looks like Sidney Ponson from this season.
Let me make this one point. The team, as it's made up right now, is very capable of winning the National League Central Division crown and perhaps a National League championship. The team isn't perfect, but it should get us to the World Series.
FAN: How many of our starters will be back next season?
RAY: Jason Marquis, Mark Mulder, and Sidney Ponson will all be free agents next season. For that matter, I'm sorry, I think Suppan will also be a free agent. I think the Cardinals exercised their option on him for this season. I don't think he is signed past this year. Now that I think of it I'm sure.
So the Cardinals are faced with a big problem with filling out the rotation for next season.
I'd try to get a deal done for Marquis if I could. I doubt that the Cardinals will be able to afford to bring back Mark Mulder for another season. Sidney could return, but his price will go up if he continues to be effective this season, and Suppan has won 16 games over the last two seasons and I would be surprised if the Cardinals could win a bidding war for his services.
FAN: What's your opinion about the Cardinals dropping KMOX and going to that other station?
Ray: Trust me, the Cardinals didn't consult me before they made this move. I was against the change. I recently left a game in St. Louis early and by the time I got to Scott Air Force Base I couldn't pick up the game on my car radio. To me it was a sad day in the history of the franchise when the Cardinals made the switch to KTRS.
I'm concerned about the older loyal fans who perhaps don't have cable TV and depend on radio to get the games, and I'm afraid a lot of them are being left out.
I'm not knocking KTRS and the crew they have there. The people I have met at KTRS are dedicated to doing to best they can to serve the Cardinal baseball fans.
The Cardinals are also working to increase the numbers of affiliates and have added a couple of new stations recently. But it was much easier to just remember KMOX, then to know you can get day games on one station and need to switch to an FM station for a night game.
HOST: Last question please for Mr. Mileur.
FAN: Is Albert Pujols difficult to deal with?
RAY: I really haven't had any interaction with Albert Pujols. He is a dedicated professional who comes to work prepared to work and give you 110% in every game and at every at bat. I have never been around him when I didn't feel like I would be interrupting to ask him questions.
When I was in spring training it was at the same time he was playing in the World Baseball Classic and I didn't have a chance to meet and talk with him before the season started.
There is no reason for me to think that Albert Pujols would be difficult to deal with.
Thank you and GO CARDS!
To schedule Ray Mileur to speak at your next meeting or inquire about his availablity, please call 618-889-0588.