UCB Weekend: Sunday

And then it was Sunday. The official blogger’s day at the ballpark. Around 11:15 we began our walk towards Busch Stadium. After deciding to take the shortcut around the other side of the stadium, we learned that you can’t walk all the way around the outside. So we got to go the other way.

We entered at the administration offices and went up the elevator. We rode up on the elevator with Matt Whitener, unbeknownst to us at the time. We arrived and it was a room full of people that I knew from their pictures on their Twitter pages, Facebook pages, or blogs.

The first person to recognize me was Bob Netherton (yet another reason why he’s one of my favorite Cardinal Bloggers). I went over and signed in with Lindsey Weber, the Cardinals’ Public Relations Specialist. We got our tickets to the party suite and were buzzed through the door into the office area where we found ourselves in an area with plenty of other bloggers.

I got a chance to meet the big guns, Bill Ivie of all kinds of baseball sites and Daniel Shoptaw of C70 at the Bat. I ended up sitting next to Christine Coleman of Aaron Miles’ Fastball.

The venue for our Q&A with Mozeliak and DeWitt.

Shortly after noon, in came Ron Watermon, the Cardinals’ Director of Public Relations, Bill DeWitt III, the Cardinals’ President, John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ General Manager, and Jessica Barnes, Busch Stadium’s Executive Chef. DeWitt and Mozeliak each started off with a statement about the team and things they commonly get asked before jumping into a Q&A session.

Ron Watermon, Bill DeWitt III, John Mozeliak, and Jessica Barnes

They shared some really important and interesting things. One of my favorite was Bill DeWitt talking about revenue and what impact attendance has on their ability to continue to spend on payroll. “We always try to stay right around the top-10,” said DeWitt. “You know we’re a small market team in terms of media revenues and eyeballs in the marketplace, or cable subscribers in the marketplace, that’s really the determining factor. But we can act like a top-30 club because of the great attendance that we have and that’s really what sets us apart and is unique in the industry. To be that far down in cable ranking and this far up in actual revenues is due to our great attendance.”

We also learned that Mozeliak really sweated over the decision to offer Octavio Dotel arbitration for the 2012 season. “The interesting part of (the Colby Rasmus trade) was Dotel. He ended up being called a Type A and at first I was nervous to have to offer him arbitration and I got this mystery call from Major League Baseball that they were just going to give us the pick, and I said, ‘Sweet!”

He also discussed how the arbitration system has changed for true free agents. You need to now make a qualifying offer, which this year is somewhere between $13 million and $13.5 million dollars. That will drastically change the landscape of free agency and arbitration. For the big free agents, like Kyle Lohse is expected to be, it could mean that he gets an offer to remain in St. Louis for another year or risk the pay day.

Bill DeWitt also said he wouldn’t have accepted $50 million to move the Cardinals’ to the American League next year. DeWitt said that he and his father “despise” the designated hitter. We were all pretty unanimous in our decision that that was a good answer.

Mozeliak also identified that he feels the team’s weakest position long-term is at shortstop. Pete Kozma, despite the last couple weeks in the big leagues, has not shown himself worthy of a big league assignment. Ryan Jackson may or may not be ready, which is why he’s probably sitting on the bench. He likes a diverse roster composition, much like you’d shoot for in a stock portfolio.

He was also honest about the assessment of them entering this year with older players with young guys not quite yet ready to contribute in the major leagues. “Going into this year we knew we were walking a very fine line on the age factor when we re-invested in Berkman, we knew Carp was getting to a point where it was getting close, and then signing Beltran, so those three guys on the roster are sort of on the backside of their careers. Furcal is another one of those guys. So after you say all that, we knew there was some risks there, but we knew we had internal answers coming up.”

After DeWitt and Mozeliak finished with the Q&A, Jessica Barnes was there, not to talk about baseball, but a baseball fan’s other favorite thing: ballpark food! Having not been to a major league ballpark in 5 years, things have obviously advanced far beyond what I expect. I’m an easy to please guy at a ballpark. Give me a burger, hot dog, and some cotton candy and I’m a happy camper. But the Cards have all kinds of really advanced foods that a dedicated post will be coming up later on, so I won’t bore you.

This was a cool bench in their administrative offices. Made out of a couple bases and a bunch of Mark McGwire bats.

We were directed then to our party suites, of which we had two, out by the right field four pole. Thanks to the Cardinals, the food was complimentary. They wanted us to try all kinds of things. At one point my Dad and I were kicking back in the padded seats out front of the suite and he looks down at his food and goes, “This is about $20 of ballpark food.” Seeing as it was free, my plan was to eat enough to skip dinner. It worked.

We had great service too. Our bartender and I discussed why Joe Kelly wears glasses while pitching, but not while hitting. We also suggested that perhaps that’s why he trips over the bases. Turns out that it’s a boring answer. It’s simply so he can see the signs.

While in the box I got a chance to meet and talk with a trio of UCB Radio hosts Tara Wellman, Dathan Brooks, and my UCB Radio Hour co-host Kevin Reynolds. All were awesome people that I wished I could have spent more time with.

This was the pitch Aoki took deep.

The Cardinals looked poised to win it with Jason Motte on the mound to close it out before Norichika Aoki put it in the bleachers to tie up the game in the top of the 9th. It was an odd occurence because the ball cleared the fence below us where we couldn’t see and Aoki acted like he was unsure what happened as he was between first and second.

It wasn’t over though. An Allen Craig single in the bottom of the 10th scored Matt Carpenter who dove, glued together hand an all, towards home plate and got the go-ahead run.

Fredbird celebrates a Cardinals’ win!

They beat Craig up for hitting the game winning single. That’ll teach him to win baseball games!

With that, we began to wrap things up and said our goodbyes. Kevin said I needed to bring the whole family with me next year. He also said I need to get my wife into the whole Cardinals’ blogging thing. I think she’s taken up with blogging about recipes and other delicious what-not at our personal blog.

Dad and I made one last trip to the stadium shop as I looked for a new Cardinals’ jacket to replace the one that got a hole in it when I crashed on my scooter last fall. Ultimately, I couldn’t find the one I wanted and we moved along. Out the door and back to our hotel room, basking in the glow of a Cardinals’ win.

It was an awesome trip and I want to thank the Cardinals’ organization for taking the time to invite us to the game, give us some face time with the decision makers, and then allow us to stuff our faces and enjoy a game on their dime as well. Maybe some day I’ll live in St. Louis and be able to go every year! I now know some people who work there, and I’m already stealing office supplies, so it’s like I already do.

Until next time St. Louis. May it not be 7 more years.