Redbirds give Cape a taste of spring

Monday, January 16, 2006
Ethan Bedwell, 9, of Chaffee got an autograph from St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Randy Flores on Sunday as the Cardinal Caravan visited the Osage Community Centre. Joining Flores was, from left, catcher Yadier Molina, infielder Aaron Miles and broadcaster Al Hrabosky. (Fred Lynch)

Molina, Flores, Miles and Hrabosky paid a mid-winter visit to area fans.

With comical Cardinals broadcaster Al Hrabosky as the emcee, area fans received a rather entertaining look at the upcoming baseball season Sunday evening as the Cardinals Caravan made its annual stop at the Osage Community Centre.

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was the main attraction at the question-and-answer event, which also included pitcher Randy Flores and newly acquired infielder Aaron Miles.

Molina, 23, performed a dance with a fan at the request of the audience, jokingly predicted he'd hit 72 home runs in 2006, and when asked by a fan whether it was he or St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa who called the pitches, he grabbed the microphone and said simply with a smile, "I run the show."

Hrabosky, a former Cardinals reliever known as "The Mad Hungarian," kept the standing-room-only crowd amused.

When a youngster asked Hrabosky to "psych up for us," The Mad Hungarian responded jokingly, "Didn't anyone tell you that I hate kids?" before re-enacting his well-known pre-inning ritual from back in his playing days.

Hrabosky added: "If the [new Busch Stadium] isn't ready by the home opener, we've decided to play at SEMO," which sparked a loud ovation from the fans.

In a more low-toned press conference prior to the program, Miles expressed his excitement about playing in St. Louis.

"It's huge," said Miles, who was acquired through a trade with the Colorado Rockies in early December. "The spirit of baseball in St. Louis is thriving. All the excitement about the season is starting, and it's great."

Miles added that he's looking forward to the chance to fill the second-base vacancy created when Mark Grudzielanek signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals.

"I feel I have a great chance," he said. "I've played in the National League for two years now, and I'm starting to get the feel for it. Hopefully it'll work out."

For Miles, it'll be an experience with not only a new location and team, but also a brand new ballpark.

"There's going to be lots of new things," he said. "Hopefully the new stadium will be an advantage for us and a little friendlier than the old Busch Stadium."

Molina said he thinks the team again will be a threat in the NL, despite few offseason acquisitions.

"We're going to be good," he said. "The energy will be there. [Manager] Tony [La Russa] brings energy to the team. It's not going to be much different than last year."

Hrabosky concurred.

"I think on paper we lost more than we acquired," he said, "but we still have the nucleus of [2005 NL MVP Albert] Pujols and several other key players.

"You hope that some of the young guys step up, and a lot of these new players will become better because of the atmosphere here. The environment in St. Louis is synonymous with winning."

Yadier Molina is the lone Molina brother to not sport a World Series ring. His two older brothers, Jose and Bengie, both are catchers for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and both were part of the Angels team that won the 2002 World Series.

Still, Yadier would have it no other way.

"If it was up to me, I'd play here the rest of my life," he said. "St. Louis is the best place to play baseball. You go to the ballpark, and there's always 40,000 to 50,000 people there. It's the only place you'll see that."

Matt Davis, a Cape resident and longtime Cardinals fan, set aside other activities to visit the Osage Centre and get a glimpse at his favorite team.

"I've been waiting for this for two months," he said. "I'm very excited. Opening day is going to be sensational, and this is going to be an excellent year for the Redbirds. I can just feel it."

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