The St. Louis Cardinals are playing baseball tomorrow.
Pitchers and catchers report to Jupiter, Florida for Spring Training on Wednesday, February 17. After a topsy-turvy offseason, it’s time for the crack of a bat, the pop of a mitt, and the smell of the ballpark to take their rightful place at the center of the stage. I’ll say it one more time– the St. Louis Cardinals are playing baseball tomorrow.
The most striking storyline at the beginning of this spring season will be how teams adapt to the new MLB safety regulation protocols. After last year’s struggles, I have confidence in the Cardinals’ organization to navigate their way through this more nuanced and improved system in order to stay out on the field.
Outside of that shadow, the sun will shine brightly on a well-balanced Cardinal team. We broke down the depth of the pitching staff a few weeks ago– the battle for the fifth spot of the rotation, the closer position, and the last long reliever role in the bullpen will be intense from the moment players arrive, so keep your eye on the young guys gunning for those coveted roles.
Guiding the young pitching staff once again will be Yadier Molina. I find it silly to ask how much Yadi has left in the tank, but there is a bit of pressure to produce after the long wait to re-sign this winter. Behind the future Hall of Famer, Andrew Knizner will compete with non-roster invite Tyler Heinemann and recent acquisition Ali Sanchez for the backup role. The development of top prospect Ivan Herrera is the other important storyline to watch behind the dish this spring.
While the pitchers and catchers get a head start, the rest of the team reports to Jupiter on February 22. In one week, we’ll see Harrison Bader diving across the outfield, Dylan Carlson switch-hit, and Paul DeJong take ground balls. We’ll see Matt Carpenter try out batting gloves, Tyler O’Neil show off his biceps, and Paul Goldschmidt hit a baseball into orbit.
On top of all that, we’ll see Nolan Arenado wear the birds on the bat for the first time– perhaps some of us have waited two years for that moment. It’s all coming together.
Off the field, the 2021 season will be special in many ways. Legendary broadcaster Mike Shannon will be calling his last season from the booth. The team will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the 2011 World Series Champions. And the beautiful part about baseball is that the best moment from this season is sure to surprise us all.
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It’s tough to gauge the vibe around a team when we aren’t together in big groups, but I can assure you, the energy around this team should be nothing but positive. All a fan can ask for is a chance to raise the trophy at the end of October, and the 2021 Cardinals have a better chance than most.
So, Cardinal fans, as the team makes its way to Florida, let’s show them our support. I know questions remain about how good this team is, but we just had an entire offseason to be negative. Go ahead– it’s time to dust off the jersey from the back of your closet, start grilling hotdogs, and tell this large amount of snow outside that spring is on its way. Baseball season has officially started.
As a baseball fan born in mid-February, pitchers and catchers reporting has always had extra significance for me. For those looking a little further ahead, Opening Day is about a month and a half away, on April 1st at Busch Stadium against the Reds. The countdown to the first pitch is almost over.