NOTE: We heard from the players who attended the Winter Warm-Up, thanks to Ann Warner’s coverage over the weekend. Here’s a different look at the players at the Warm-Up — from Nicole, who had the chance to meet nine Cardinals over the course of the weekend.
This past weekend I made the trip south to St. Louis for Winter Warm-Up for the second year in a row. With last year’s experience to guide me, I knew a little better what to expect going into the event this time. I purchased passes and autograph tickets when the on-sale date arrived and looked forward to having a baseball-related event to help fill the void of the offseason.
Disappointment came before the weekend even arrived when I learned that, for the second year in a row with an autograph ticket in my possession, Yadier Molina would not be appearing. I couldn’t find it in me to be too upset though. I still had nine other players to look forward to meeting.
After arriving in St. Louis, my dad (who is wonderful and indulges me in these events) and I made our way over to the Hyatt to pick up our passes and the multiple autograph tickets we had ordered before heading upstairs.
My only autograph for Saturday was Lance Lynn, who wasn’t appearing until 3 p.m., so I had a chance to take in some of the events on the main stage, including one of the live auctions and Q & A sessions with Rick Horton and Adam Wainwright.
A little before 3, volunteers began lining fans up for Lance Lynn’s autograph session. If you’ve never been to WWU, there is a number printed on each autograph ticket that helps determine when to line up. It starts out with numbers 1-50 and usually increases by 50 every 10-15 minutes. I had a number under 100 for Lynn, so I moved through the line quickly.
My dad joined me in line with my camera to capture some pictures when I reached the table. I had him sign my photo book, told him briefly about seeing him on the streets after the World Series, said thank you and went on my way.
Dad and I went early on Sunday to browse around the large variety of vendor stands on the second floor before my autograph sessions began. When we got upstairs we looked over the silent auctions, which featured mostly autographed baseballs and photos. There were road trips to Houston and Cincinnati available with game tickets and hotel packages, as well as some more off-beat items … like the Daniel Descalso autographed light switch cover that my dad won.
My first autograph ticket was for Descalso at 11 a.m. While we were in line, there was a live auction on the main stage. One item being auctioned was a Chris Carpenter autographed jersey that sold for more than $2,000.
Once I got up to Descalso, it was much the same as with Lynn: a quick hi, signing my book and a thank you. Jon Jay and Jason Motte were my next two autograph tickets at 1 p.m.I had a lower number for Jay, so I lined up for him first. He signed my book next to his bromance partner-in-crime Descalso without needing the prompting I had planned. As soon as I was done in Jay’s line it was right back around to Motte’s line. I had him sign the Game 7 title page of my book, got some pictures and thanked him.
The great thing about the WWU passes is that they allow fans to come and go as needed, so we left for awhile before going back up for Jake Westbrook, my final autograph of the day.
His was another quick line, and he also made it a point to ask how I was doing while he was signing my book. I wish I would have thought of things to say to all of the guys so I could have interacted with them a little more, but I drew blanks when I was trying to come up with something.
The third and final day of WWU was the day I’d been looking forward to since the schedule was released. On tap for my autographs were Kyle Lohse, Allen Craig, Skip Schumaker … and David Freese. I was just a little excited.
Lohse was up first, right at 9 a.m. when the doors first opened. His line was another that went quickly. When I got to him there was a short conversation about the music playing while he was signing my book, and then I was off to the other side of the room to line up for Allen Craig. Dad got his Game 7 ticket signed, and I had him sign the Game 7 page of my book where Motte had previously signed.
About an hour later it was time to line up for Mr. Freese. I had a number in the 200s for him, so I knew it was going to be a long wait. When my number range was finally called, I was able to spend a lot of time observing as I worked my way through the line. Freese was very engaged with everyone who came through his line, chatting with everyone who had anything to say to him and leaning in for pictures with those who asked.
I knew what I wanted to say before I got up there, so when it was finally my turn I had him sign my Game 6 page of my book. While he did that, I told him that my dad and I had been at Edmonds’ Game 6 walk-off in 2004 and his this past fall. I told him because of that, he had a special place in our father/daughter history, to which he replied, “That’s awesome, thank you for telling me that.” He came across every bit as genuine as everyone had previously said.
Skip was my final autograph for the weekend, and his session started while I was still in line for Freese. I immediately got in line for him when I was done and patiently waited for my turn. He was my only repeat from last year, but I was excited to talk to him again. Again, having a higher number allowed me more time to watch him with the other fans in his line.
He was much the same as Freese (and as the previous year) by interacting with everyone who came up to him and taking pictures as well. When I got up there, I told him that his shirt was lucky for me during Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, and he told me that meant I had to keep wearing it. Comparing all of my experiences from the weekend, I probably conversed most with Skip. He’s incredibly easy to talk to, and I don’t doubt that meeting him the previous year helped me feel less jittery about it.
Winter Warm-Up is truly a great event that allows the fans to interact with some of their favorite players while raising money for Cardinals Care. The crowds are massive and can be confining depending on the events of the day, but I find it’s worth it for those few minutes with the guys I am entertained by all season long.
We are all fans of a truly special team who all seemed genuinely happy to be there meeting the people who cheer them on. All of my observations led me to believe they were enjoying the opportunity to continue celebrating the World Series championship and looking forward to the 2012 season with everyone who came through the doors. I saw many of the autograph sessions run longer than planned because the guys wanted to have those interactions with their fans.
With this eventful weekend over and no Spring Training plans in my calendar, I’m already counting down the days until Opening Day when it is once again time to root for our team.
Thanks to Nicole for sharing her story and photos. You can follow Nicole on Twitter, @nlw1013.