Last weekend, I had the fortune of returning to the Cardinals Care Winter Warmup event. I'd been to every one of these until I moved to Chicago back in 2003. Upon moving back home to St. Louis, I just sort of never got around to making it a priority to get my WWU pass each year.
A lot has changed since the last time I attended this fan favorite event. In an effort to share my experiences, I spent a good portion of my time there tweeting the experience from my perspective (Twitter: #WWU). After taking several years off, I noticed a number of things had changed...here are 5 that come to mind:
1. The hotel itself is bigger.
Each room, however, is smaller. Mo was scheduled for a 1-hour discussion at 11am on Saturday. The room was so small that once noon rolled around, and everything wrapped up, they cleared the room out, filled it again with fans who were turned away the first time & did it all over again. I didn't stick around for the encore, but the 11:00 show was SRO.
Cardinals GM, John Mozeliak
At one point during the Q & A portion, a fan asked him about the liklihood/status/timeframe of avoiding arbitration with (the club's only eligible player) Kyle McClellan. He responded by telling her, "I'd hope that it's done in a couple hours." About an hour & 45 minutes later, it was.
2. Parking was a bit more of a PIA.
Last time I was at the event, it was held at the Millennium hotel, directly across the street from Stadium East parking garage. With entrance options from SB Broadway on the west side, and NB 4th street on the east side, Stadium East was a fantastic option for parking. Park there now, and you're a couple blocks away--not bad, but not as close as before. I should note that I did not take advantage of the hotel's valet parking offer for this year's event.
3. Barry Weinberg either has 7 twin brothers, or is everywhere.
I saw this guy on the escalator on Saturday. Saw him again near the coat room on Sunday afternoon, and again outside the Millennium hotel Sunday night (with Bob Knight & others) following the STL BBWAA dinner. He was like the Aaron Miles of the event--every time you turn around, there he was again!
4. The event is bigger & far more commercialized than I remember it...and I loved it!
The event has largely been taken over by vendor booths, and exhibits (folks who wanna sell you their stuff). Let me be honest: I'm not a big fan of autographs, or buying up sports memorabilia (unless it's an authentic (Joel?) Pinrino autographed ball).
Seriously. "Pinrino". I can't make this stuff up!
Seriously, I don't get into buying cards, seats, balls, pennants...etc, but when I can be (even a small) part of an event that raises nearly $1MM for a local charity, I can't not love that. So, schlep all the Dennys Reyes & Scott Terry jerseys ya can, folks--it's for the kids!
5. Joe Abernathy owes me 40 minutes of my life back.
The Winter Warmup schedule told me that at 10:00am on Sunday, I could expect Joe Abernathy, VP of Stadium Operations, to tell me "What's new at Busch". What I got instead was being on the wrong end of an agonizing 40 minutes of every last possible metric for how green Busch Stadium has become over the past few years. Recycling programs, volunteer programs, how many tons of trash that USED to go to the landfill NOW go to saving the dolphins or whatever...etc.
"As you'll see re-using uneaten hot dog parts saves tens of thousands each season."
The last 15-20 minutes actually unfolded as billed. But it was too little, too late for me--the bitter taste of disappointment had already settled into my mouth. It's difficult to see in the picture, but that's a graph depicting "Energy Reduction", for everyone in the room's viewing pleasure. "Um, Joe? Yeah, if the reduction of energy is decreasing, then doesn't that mean the use of energy is increasing??"
Anyway, I did enjoy the 2011 WWU...just not as much as I'd enjoyed others in the past. Perhaps my expectations had been set too high by previous experiences. Now knowing what to expect going forward, perhaps I'll be better prepared for my 2012 experience.
**This is part one of my review on the Winter Warmup...check back for the rest, coming soon!