At noon on Sunday, January 14, the Cardinals Caravan was scheduled to start at John O'Donnell Stadium in Davenport. Those scheduled to appear were announcer John Rooney, former Cards Al Hrabosky and Danny Cox, current players Aaron Miles, Brad Thompson, Anthony Reyes, and future stars Blake Hawksworth and Colby Rasmus.
So much for schedules. Due to the ice storm that blanketed the Midwest, Hawksworth, Miles and Cox were no-shows. Also because of the ice, the bus didn't arrive at the stadium until about 12:30. (There was supposed to be a press conference at 11:15 before the public event. That obviously didn't happen either. Oh, well.)
As soon as the bus arrived, the players were ushered into a side room where we were given about ten minutes for some quick questions while Rooney and Hrabosky warmed up the crowd. Here are some of my questions and some that I got from the public Q&A time.
JP: In your mind, what are your chances that you'll get a major league start this year?
Brad Thompson: It's all about Spring Training. I have to go in and prove myself, just like any other year. I hope to be a starter, but we'll have to see what happens in the next couple months.
JP: What changes have you made to your training regimen in the off season?
BT: I increased the volume. Starters need to be able to throw more pitches so I'm working on those extra innings.
JP: Are you working on a new pitch this year?
BT: Nope, I'm concentrating on improving what I have.
JP: After your first outing against the Mets in the playoffs, what did it do for your confidence to get another chance against Detroit?
BT: Well, obviously the game with the Mets was no fun. I'd hate to end my season that way. It was HUGE to get another shot. It was a very exciting chance to go in, get two outs and finish on a much better outing.
JP: When you played in Peoria you played against us here at JOD, right?
BT: Yeah, I was just looking at how nice it is now. This is incredible. It's nice to be back at a Midwest League stadium and to see that it's really improved.
JP: Anthony, Tony LaRussa recently said that you'll have to earn your spot in the rotation for 2007. What are your feelings on that?
Anthony Reyes: Nothing is ever set in stone. We all know that we have to go out and fight for our job. I'm going to do my best.
JP: Which of your pitches is the biggest surprise to batters?
AR: My change up keeps them guessing. It's a good pitch.
JP: Do you have a different attitude toward the game now that you have a World Series championship?
AR: I just do what's expected of me. I still play ball.
JP: How did you feel when LaRussa gave you the ball for game one in the Series? Were you nervous before the game?
AR: Every day is just a regular day. I play a lot of video games to keep my mind off the game. You just never know what will come until you cross that line. I was nervous for the first couple of pitches, then I settled in. It was a VERY special day for me. I was honored.
Fan in the crowd: When you were up for your first MLB game, it was in Milwaukee. How did it feel?
AR: I really don't remember it. I was in a cloud. After the game I went to the hotel and watched it on TV.
Fan: Anthony, why do you iron your hat?
AR: I don't actually iron it, I just don't curl it. I get it straight from the box. I have poor eyesight, so it helps to keep the bill flat so I can see signals better.
Fan: Were you disappointed when Tony took you out in game one?
AR: When the boss says you're done, you're done. That's his call.
JP: Welcome back to Davenport, Colby. The Cards have said that part of your advancement will include gaining weight. Where are you on that?
Colby Rasmus: I left here at about 175, I'm at 195 now.
JP: Is that the result of mom's cooking this winter?
CR: Well, yes, but a lot of protein shakes and workouts, too.
JP: You're a five-tool player. Which tool are you working on most this off season?
CR: Hitting. You saw me pull a lot of hits last summer. I'm trying to send them to the other side of the field this year.
JP: I know it comes down to spring training, but give me your gut feeling. Will you start 2007 in Palm Beach or Springfield?
CR: Gut feeling? Springfield.
JP: After your promotion mid-summer last year, what was the biggest difference between baseball here and in Florida?
CR: The pitching there is better; and the ball doesn't carry as well there. You see a lot more different pitches and you have to read them. But the fans here are better!
JP: Al, after recent surgery on his foot, will Edmonds be 100% in time for spring training?
Al Hrabosky: Not for spring training, no. But that's because Jimmy has learned the art of scheduling surgery so that he WON'T be ready for all of spring training. He doesn't want to be! But Jim doesn't need 6 weeks to be ready. He will be ready for opening day. His foot will be fine, his shoulder will slow him down for a few more weeks, but he'll be fine.
JP: What about Mulder's rehab?
AH: I don't know. They have perfected Tommy John surgery to the point that guys come out of it with better elbows than before they got hurt. It's different with shoulders. The shoulder is always a big question mark. He'll be fine, though. He wants to come back and prove that Cards fans haven't ever seen the real Mark Mulder. I think he was hurt before he ever pitched here and we haven't seen what he's truly able to do. I'm hoping for the best in the second half.
Fan: What do you think about Kenny Rogers getting caught with pine tar on his hand?
AH: Who's Kenny Rogers? HA! Just remember that it's not cheating until you get caught. I don't buy the excuse that he gave, but I do know that at this level, players will do what they think they need to do to excel.
Fan: What do you think about McGwire getting shut out of the Hall of Fame?
AH: Well, I don't have a vote. I do know that I've personally never seen anyone do steroids so I don't know that anyone is guilty. When McGwire was playing, there were no rules against steroids. Again, at that level of play, guys will do whatever they can to excel. Bob Gibson said that if there was a pill to take to improve his game, he'd be very tempted to take it. One thing that I want to make clear to the kids here today is that kids don't need steroids. They can take anywhere from 10 to 50 years off your life and you shouldn't use them.
Fan: Will Chris Duncan ever be an adequate outfielder?
AH: He won't be a golden glove, but he's more than adequate.
Fan: Has there ever been a team announcer who closed a season with a World Series winning team, changed teams and leagues and announced the winning game of the World Series with his new team?
John Rooney: Nope, not that we've been able to find. I have to say though, that the highlight of the Series for me was in game one when Pujols hit that home run. I grew up listening to Cards baseball on the radio with my dad and grandpa. All I could think of then was what it would mean to my dad if he could see that. I want to emphasize that I love this game because I enjoy the players. It's about them, not about me. And I'm excited about working with Mike Shannon. He is FUN! And he will make the Hall of Fame for broadcasters.
Fan: What happened to Jason Marquis? Will the Cards have trouble hitting against him?
JR: He was stubborn. He wanted to throw all 5 or 6 of his pitches. He should have stuck to his sinker. (AH: He's a Cub now, so WHO CARES?!?)
We're now less than 12 weeks from opening pitch. Can it get here any faster?
Jon P. is the new Quad Cities correspondent for stlcardinals.scout.com. Look for his reports all season long.