Cardinal Caravan promises a dose of optimism

Friday, January 14, 2005

The annual visit will take place Sunday at the Osage Community Centre.

Those who attended last year's Cardinal Caravan at Cape Girardeau's Osage Community Centre were treated to an optimistic outlook from veteran pitchers Steve Kline and Woody Williams. Their perspective turned out to be accurate, as the Cardinals won 105 games and claimed the National League pennant.

This year's Cardinal Caravan will feature players who played a combined 34 games with the team in 2004, but optimism again should be present.

Cardinals newcomer David Eckstein, who won a World Series ring with the Anaheim Angels in 2002, is scheduled to be joined by infielder Bo Hart and pitchers Carmen Cali and Mike Lincoln for Sunday's program at Osage Community Centre. Former Cardinals player Ken Reitz also is scheduled to appear.

Doors open at 4 p.m. and the program begins at 5. Players will discuss the upcoming season, fans will have the opportunity to ask questions of the players, and children can bring items to be autographed. Tickets, which are $3, remain available and may be purchased at the Osage Community Centre, the A.C. Brase Arena and the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce. Also, door prizes such as autographed items will be awarded and additional tickets may be purchased for those drawings at the event.

Penny Williams of the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department said the facility can accomodate about 800 people. The event, co-sponsored by the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce and River Eagle Distributing, benefits the Parks and Recreation Development Foundation. This marks the third year the Parks and Recreation Department has been involved with the traditional event.

"We always have a great turnout," Williams said. "Even in bad weather, we've always had at least 500 people. It's exciting for our community to welcome members of the Cardinals to talk about the upcoming season. There are people that come from St. Francois County and from down into the Bootheel. We're proud to have the event."

Lincoln, Hart and Cali are part of a Cardinal Caravan tour that will be appearing in Memphis on Saturday and in Dyersburg, Tenn., earlier on Sunday.

Eckstein also will be appearing this weekend at the Cardinals Winter Warm-up in downtown St. Louis.

"Everyone seems to be excited about David Eckstein coming," Williams said.

Eckstein was a catalyst for Anaheim's 2002 team that went from AL wild card to world champions. He hit .293 that season with career bests of eight home runs and 63 runs batted in. He stole 21 bases that season after swiping 29 as a rookie in 2001. Eckstein, who will turn 30 on Thursday, hit .276 with 16 steals in 142 games last season. He is penciled in as the replacement for Edgar Renteria and a potential leadoff hitter for the Cardinals.

Lincoln, a 29-year-old right-handed pitcher, posted a 3-2 record and 5.19 ERA in 17 1/3 innings covering 13 games last year. He led the relief staff in innings pitched when he was placed on the disabled list with pain in his right elbow on May7 and did not pitch the remainder of the year.

Cali, a 26-year-old lefty, had an 8.59 ERA in 7 1/3 innings covering 10 games for the Cardinals after being called up in September.

Hart, 28, hit just .154 in 11 games last year. The second baseman hit .277 in 77 games as a rookie in 2003.

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