St. Louis Cardinals visit QU
By Jay Hammel
The Saint Louis Cardinals are one of the most popular teams in Major League Baseball (MLB).
The Cardinals averaged 42,967 fans per game in 2019, which was the second highest in the MLB.
2,664 more than the entire population of Quincy, which is just two-hours away from St. Louis.
The Cardinals have an annual Caravan which offers fans who don’t reside in the St. Louis area to get a chance to meet and greet members of an MLB team not too far from home.
Current players, alumni, and broadcasters are a part of the Cardinals Caravan visiting six states from January 17th through the 20th.
The Cardinals have six different traveling caravans, one of which capped off their trip with a visit to Pepsi Arena on January 20.
Members of the caravan that made the visit to Quincy included: Broadcaster Chris Hrabe, current players Harrison Bader, Alex Reyes, Jake Woodford, and Kodi Whitley, and Alumni Jason Motte and Bengie Molina were members of the group that came to Quincy.
This caravan started in Mattoon, Illinois, on Sunday Jan. 19 at noon, and then continued its way to visit the state capital, Springfield, on Sunday evening.
On Monday, the group made a stop in Decatur before arriving on the Campus of Quincy University.
The evening program took place during the Men’s and Women’s basketball game verses GLVC rival Truman State.
First, a media session happened and then autographs were granted to the first 400 fans in the Health and Fitness Center’s main foyer (near concession stands).
Also, caravan members were honored at half court during halftime of the women’s basketball game.
The caravan allows players to step aside and meet fans from unique cities, which isn’t possible during their intense summer schedule of a 162-game regular season.
The wide array of caravan members allowed for different generations to appreciate Cardinal baseball.
Former St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Motte, is a household name for Cardinal fanatics. Motte threw the final pitch of the 2011 World Series in route to win the franchise’s 11th world title.
“It was really cool. It was awesome man,” Motte said. “It’s something everyone dreams of and works towards at the very beginning of the season. From a baseball standpoint, it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”
Interest also came from Cardinals starting center fielder and former 3rd round draft pick (2015), Harrison Bader.
Bader hit .205 last season (.43 below MLB average), and was shuffled up and down from the Cardinals roster due to his struggles at the plate.
However, Bader seems ready to secure the starting position for the upcoming 2020 season.
Bader’s visit to Quincy comes just days after he confidently claimed his starting role during a Cardinals media session, first reported by ESPN.
Bader affirmed that statement Monday night because of his past experience.
“I’ve played centerfield for the last two years. You know, it’s the same deal. I’m just going to go out and play hard,” Bader said.
While Bader may have had the most appeal, others were very excited about young pitching prospect Alex Reyes.
Reyes has been advertised as the number one pitching prospect for the Cardinals since he entered professional baseball, and is regarded as one of the league’s most promising arms. The 25-year old can exceed velocities of over 100 mph.
“I can’t wait for Reyes to get on the mound. We’ve been waiting since 2012 when he was drafted to impact the Cardinals,” Will Conerly, avid Cardinal fan, said.
Reyes made his debut with the Cardinals in 2016, but has only thrown 53 innings because multiple season-ending injuries. Fans anticipate Reyes’ to be a part of the Cardinals pitching staff in 2020.
“Rehab is going well. I have had a normal offseason,” Reyes said. “I don’t know what to expect moving forward into spring training but I am going to do my best to earn that starting role.”
Reyes intends to fulfill his large expectations, and offered insight to athletes who desire to achieve a high level.
“Be an athlete. Play multiple sports. I didn’t become strictly a pitcher until after high school.”