After parting from Dan in the Fox booth, we realized that it was closing in on 6:30, which meant the majority of the Cardinals' Social Media Night was over.
Last October, we (and when I say we, it actually was Nick and Mike then as well) had team president Bill DeWitt III on a special edition of the UCB Radio Hour. Having seen what other teams had done with their bloggers, I made it a point to ask him whether there would be some sort of "bloggers' night" in the future. He said to send along some info to the club and they'd see what they can do.
Numerous e-mails back and forth with various people in the organization later, still nothing was finalized to my knowledge. So when this date was finalized with FSMW, I dropped a note to my Cardinal contacts, letting them know I'd be in town if they wanted to discuss things in person.
Turns out, there had been some planning behind the scenes and a Social Media Night was planned for the exact same day that we were going to be there. It wasn't targeted just to bloggers, but to anyone that followed the Cardinals on Facebook and Twitter. (Really, to anyone who wanted to buy the tickets, actually.) I've written on this before, so I don't want to elaborate, just set the stage.
Anyway, not only were there some interesting speakers that we wanted to hear, but a good number of the members of the United Cardinal Bloggers were supposed to be there as well. As most of us had never met, there was a lot of anticipation for a first-ever "chapter meeting" of the UCB.
Coming in late, we had missed Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak as well as most of the other speakers. We got there just in time to hear Matthew Leach, who writes about the Cardinals on MLB.com, was wrapping up his portion of the talks. (And yes, I know that most of you are aware of whom Matthew is, but I'm bringing in a broader audience with this series!)
Standing in the back, I wasn't able to get any quality pictures. This is the aforementioned Bill DeWitt III making some closing remarks and starting to hand out the door prizes.
Molly Radcliffe, one of the Cardinal staffers who had been the one giving out the free tickets to a number of the bloggers, met us at the entryway of the event, giving us name tags and our wristbands, which had a number on them for the door prizes. I believe I got the last one, which was 108, so that lets you know how many people attended this thing. For a first time effort, it was really wonderful.
There were a lot of nice prizes given out, including some autographed baseballs. (Nick actually wound up with a Kyle McClellan one.) The biggest prize, though, was a seatback from the old Busch Stadium signed by a number of the Cardinal Hall of Famers. I'm not sure who won that, but if it was one of the girls that took free tickets from me, you can ship that to me anytime.
After the event broke up, there was a lot of milling around and socializing. I was able to talk to Leach and Derrick Goold, who writes for the Post-Dispatch. Both have been extremely kind to the UCB in the past, appearing on our show and answering questions, so it was good to finally be able to shake their hand.
I was also able to talk to Melody Yount and Terry Rodgers, who were part of the Cardinals staff in charge of putting together the Social Media Night. We had "met", if you will, over e-mail in the past few months, so it was good to see them as well and to talk about this event and things to come. The plans definitely are to have some sort of event again next year, at least one, but those things are still obviously on the drawing board right now. I look forward to them coming to fruition, because it really was a great time.
As I mentioned, though, getting to see all of these bloggers that I've read and talked to was very high on my list. As we mingled together, shaking hands and introducing ourselves, someone finally got us in position for a picture. While it's not my shot, Bill has already put it up over at i70baseball, so I hope he doesn't mind me using it for illustration here as well:
Here we go, names and blogs:
Front row: Pip, Fungoes
Second row: Joe, The McBrayer-Baseball Blog; Nick, Pitchers Hit Eighth; Justin, Intangiball; me; Bill, i70baseball; Tom, CardinalsGM
Back row: Chris, Bird-Brained; Mike, Stan Musial's Stance; Matt, Baseball Digest; Justin, Rising Redbirds; Steve, Play A Hard Nine
After we talked for a bit, it was getting close to game time. The three of us caught Geoff and he led us over to where they were filming the pre-game show, which was just a few feet away.
Even though we hurried over there, we just missed everything, as I saw Pat Parris walking out of the area where they'd been filming. Pat recognized us and stopped to chat with us and Geoff for just a bit. While he did that, I suddenly heard a voice in my ear and turned to see a tall guy in a suit with his hand outstretched.
"How are you? I'm Cal Eldred."
If you've watched the Cardinals, you may remember when Eldred, who had come up with the Brewers as a hot prospect, finished his career as a middle relief guy in St. Louis. Eldred was a solid contributor for the 2003-2005 teams and after his retirement, he has transitioned to the broadcast team, often doing the pre-game show with Pat or Jim.
I was so surprised to see him and for him to approach me that I think I just said something weakly like, "Hey, Cal!" and shook his hand before he moved over to introduce himself to the rest of the group. He and Pat talked with us for a while before moving on, apparently to the press box.
When they left, Geoff offered up the opinion that, soon, he though Cal would be a quality ESPN broadcaster, if he had ambitions to do that. I've always found Cal to be the best of the three players (himself, Rick Horton, and Jack Clark, who, it was announced today, won't be back the rest of this season, leaving next season as a question mark) that FSMW uses on a regular basis. It'll be interesting to see if he does get more exposure, both in the St. Louis market and nationally.
After Pat and Cal had left, I snapped a picture of the set, which again turned out a little darker than I'd like:
I then jokingly said to Geoff, "Now turn your head so we can get behind the desk."
He shrugged and said, "Go ahead."
We didn't wait around to see if he was joking. (He wasn't, but you don't wait to find out on things like that!) What surprised me, after watching all of these pregame shows on TV, was that the desk was not on the ground, but on a trailer. A wobbly one at that, as I had to catch myself after stepping up there.
Geoff was kind enough to get a picture of all three of us being would-be anchors:
After spending some time there, Geoff asked if there was anything else, "not off-limits" that we wanted to see. When we had been at the Social Media gathering, Pip, who not only blogs but does the GameDay inputs for MLB.com, told us to come see him up in the press box. Geoff agreed to take us on up there.
We took the escalator up to the upper concourse, and as we were walking over to the press box area, I couldn't help but to be captivated by the view from up there.
Walking into the press box was an amazing sight as well. I'm not sure what I expected, perhaps some cramped quarters with scribes sitting basically on top of each other. Instead, it was a nicely decorated and fairly large area, complete with framed papers of highlights in Cardinal history and pictures of famous Cardinals, both on and off the field. There was a walkway behind the two rows of chairs and there were a couple of rooms to the left of that walkway as well as a break room and bathrooms.
Terry Rodgers was up there as well and he encouraged us to take copies of the information they had out for the writers. There were statistics and writeups for both teams as well as a MLB stat package, all of which looked very interesting.
The back row had the television media, as I saw Pat up there. He was talking to someone else, but I heard him make the comment that he was listening to the feed of Dan and Al in the booth, so that he would know 1) whether they had covered something during the game so he didn't have to in the post-game show and 2) if they did cover something he wanted to talk about, he knew what they said and could refer to it. I found that pretty interesting, though it made perfect sense.
The front row had the writers. We looked for Pip and found him in the middle of two of the access ways to the front. We took one of those rows and saw Matthew Leach to our left, typing away on a deadline. To our right was Pip, but to get past Pip, we had to walk behind one writer.
That writer just happened to be "The Commish", Rick Hummel, whom the press box was partially named after. Do you know how very careful I was moving behind his chair? All I could think was, "Don't trip over Hummel's chair. Don't trip over Hummel's chair." I'm fairly sure that's the quickest way to get tossed out of the box. Hopefully out the door and not the window.
We made it over to Pip and watched as he recorded the action on the field into GameDay. Someone miles away was watching on their computer and getting the results of his inputs, which was pretty neat.
As you know, of course, there is no cheering in the pressbox. I want to note that all of us press-box rookies followed that to the letter, but it wasn't easy. We were up talking to Pip when Ryan Ludwick had his first at-bat in the game. Ludwick got a rousing ovation from fans that weren't necessarily enamored of him being traded away. We watched from right over home plate as he stepped out of the box and acknowledged the crowd with a tip of the helmet. Never said a word. Didn't say it was easy, but we managed it.
This entry has actually turned out a bit longer than I expected and there is still the actual game to talk about, or at least show pictures from. So tune in hopefully later this weekend for Part V!