Today is January 19—only 75 days until the pre-season exhibition game at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport. This afternoon the Cardinals Caravan pulled into town to give the faithful fans of the area a glimpse into the coming season. Here are a few things that were brought back to my memory today:
A baseball field, lush and green in July is a thing of beauty; covered by snow it's even prettier.
A little taste of baseball in January is a bittersweet thing. It's great to have the taste, but now I have to wait another 11 weeks for the real thing.
Baseball players are good men when they remember that this is a game and they aren't bigger than the game.
The media moment before the fan event was just that—a moment to ask a few quick questions but I made the most of what time I had. I got to chat for a few minutes with Nick Stavinoha and Brendan Ryan. Chris Perez and Josh Kinney were also there representing the active roster. John Tudor, Danny Cox, and Tommy Lawless were the alumni on the Caravan and Al Hrabosky served as the emcee.
Jon: Nick, welcome back to Davenport! I just have a few quick questions for you. Can you recap a couple of highlights from the 2008 season?
Nick: Well, no doubt, my debut with the Cardinals was special. Everyone just wants to get as many at bats as they can, you always remember that. I don't think anyone ever forgets their first game.
Jon: When was yours?
Nick: It was a Sunday afternoon, June 22, in Boston. I went in as DH and got five.
Jon: What memories do you have of playing here in Davenport?
Nick: It was special since this is where I started my pro career. I was drafted that summer and came here mid-season. It's a great park, not at all like the horror stories that you hear before you get to the minors!
Jon: What have you been working on during the off season to improve your chances of making the team this year?
Nick: The first challenge was the fact that the season is a lot longer in the Majors. I'm used to being at home in September. I really haven't done anything special, though. I'm following my regular workout routine. I can't say there's any one thing I need to improve; I need to improve my overall game and build on the past to keep improving.
Jon: What advice would you offer to guys coming up behind you in the minors?
Nick: You have to take every day one day at a time. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask, "Did I give my best today?" Always be accountable to yourself for being your best every day.
Jon: Thanks, Nick!
Jon: Brendan, (pictured right) you played some games in this stadium, but you were the opponent from Peoria back then. What do you remember about playing here?
Brendan: There was always such animosity between us and the Twins back then that we were always ready to come off the bench and stand up for our team. It was crazy!
Jon: I remember those days! Looking to a better memory, what was your highlight for 2008?
Brendan: 2008? I didn't have a lot of highlights! It was a very humbling season for me. I don't want to sound cliché but EVERY day is great when you play baseball. I guess the highlights would include playing at Fenway—it's a great place to play with all that history and I got a couple of doubles there..
Jon: What advice would you offer to minor league players coming behind you?
Brendan: I don't want any extra competition so I'd tell them to remember that it's just a game, it doesn't mean much, don't really give it your all! Really, though, I'd remind them to never give an inch to anyone. Find your role and fight to perform your role.
Jon: Are you focusing on any improvements during the off season?
Brendan: I'm putting on weight, adding muscle. I'm also spending time away from the game to refresh my mind and attitude. I kind of lost my swing in 2008 and I'm working to get that back. I need to learn where it is and use it again.
In the general session with the fans, there were several great stories from the past that don't need to be repeated here again. Al Hrabosky had a lot to say about the future and how several players are going to be a big part of it. He named Clayton Mortensen, PJ Walters, and of course, Colby Rasmus. He pointed out that it's great to be stacked with talent on the parent club because that gives our minor league players that much more time to develop. Al's last and most important point was directed to the kids in attendance. He admonished them to play every sport that they wanted to play until they find one that they want to pursue. He said, "When you find that sport, play like you want to get a college scholarship, not like you want to be a pro. Go to school, get your education, and THEN go for the pros. Everyone up here today went to college—you should go, too."
It was a great day for baseball memories in the stadium. Now all I have to do is fill the next 75 days…
Subscribe to our annual Total Access Pass(tm) and also receive the 2009 Scout Prospect Guide, the perfect hardcopy, glossy companion our online coverage, including the top prospects from all 30 MLB organizations, fantasy baseball previews and more!
HURRY! This year's deadline to order and get the Guide included in your annual subscription is January 22. So don't wait!
© 2009 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.