ST. LOUIS — An early passage into spring has become linked with the St. Louis Cardinals' annual Winter Warm-Up.
The event remains wildly popular as it reaches its 18th edition. Regularly, thousands of fans shake their inertia and leave their warm homes to satisfy their baseball fix long before the fun begins in earnest in April.
For the fifth consecutive year, the fanfest will unfold at the downtown Hyatt Regency at The Arch, 1315 Chestnut St.
As usual, autographs can be obtained from current and former players and questions can be asked of Cardinals front-office employees like General Manager John Mozeliak, Farm Director John Vuch and Scouting Director Dan Kantrovitz.
Fans also will be afforded an opportunity to hear updates from Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III about progress being made at Ballpark Village, which will make its debut this spring after eight years of waiting.
Cardinals team physician Dr. Wendell Becton will conduct a forum on concussions in baseball, and John Ulett will discuss the responsibilities of his role as a public-address announcer.
"We love bringing together our players and fans as we work to raise money for kids in the Cardinals community," said Belleville native Michael Hall, vice president of community relations and executive director of Cardinals Care, the team's charitable foundation. "Winter Warm-Up is always a lot of fun for the fans, but it's also fun for us because we know that the fans are helping us make a real difference throughout Cardinal nation."
Here are the particulars of the Warm-Up:
When is it?
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday.
What's the cost?
Like last year, three-day passes for fans ages 16 and older are available for $40 at the Busch Stadium Cardinals Team Store, area Cardinals Clubhouse stores and at the autograph and admission sales table on the second floor of the hotel. Three-day passes for fans between 5 and 15 are $10; kids under 5 are admitted free.
What if I am in the military?
All military personnel, as well as employees of fire and police departments, can receive one free adult pass while supplies remain. Don't forget to bring valid identification.
What current Cardinals are attending?
Pretty much all of them. Count on seeing Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, recently retired Chris Carpenter, top prospects Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, Stephen Piscotty and Zach Petrick, newcomers Mark Ellis, Peter Bourjos, Jhonny Peralta and Randal Grichuk, Matt Carpenter, Matt Adams, Matt Holliday, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Jon Jay, Pete Kozma, Kevin Siegrist, Seth Maness, Trevor Rosenthal, Daniel Descalso, Lance Lynn, Allen Craig, Jason Motte, Tyler Lyons, Tony Cruz, Joe Kelly, Shane Robinson and Sam Freeman.
Molina, the Cardinals' most popular player, will be at the Winter Warm-Up from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
Former manager Tony La Russa will attend the Warm-Up on Sunday and will be among those honored at the 56th annual BBWAA Dinner that night at the Renaissance Grand Hotel, 800 Washington Ave.
Current manager Mike Matheny also will be feted at the dinner Sunday, then attend the Warm-Up on Monday.
Check cardinals.com/winterwarmup for the updated information on autograph times and presentations.
How do I get autographs?
In most cases, autograph tickets are needed. Many of those, however, already are sold out. Some remain available, and a handful of players will be signing for free, including Grichuk, Piscotty and former players like Alan Benes, Danny Cox, Ken Dayley, Ryan Franklin, Ricky Horton, Al Hrabosky, Kyle McClellan, Cliff Politte, Kerry Robinson and Jason Simontacchi. No autograph ticket is needed for the free signatures.
Who benefits from the Winter Warm-Up/
Needy children throughout St. Louis and the metro-east. Cardinals Care, formed in 1987, has raised more than $20 million and has provided $11 million in grants to 800 non-profit kids organizations. Cardinals Care also has constructed 21 ballfields for kids.
How crowded will it be?
In recent years, attendance for the three days has been 10,000 to 12,000. Translation: Yes, it will be crowded.
What if I get tired of the crowd?
Try taking a guided tour of Busch Stadium. They will be held every 20 minutes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. all three days of the Warm-Up. The tours include a stop inside the Cardinals clubhouse, which is off-limits to fans during the regular season. Go to cardinals.com/tours to check out the prices and to purchase tickets.
Is parking plentiful?
Absolutely. Plenty of garages are within walking distance to Hyatt Regency at The Arch. The hotel has a garage and valet service. You might even find street parking, but prepare to walk several blocks in that case. Attend the Warm-Up as if you're going to a regular-season game.
Are food and drink available?
Yes, so don't bother bringing any from home. No food or beverages will be allowed inside. The best advice is to fill your bellies before arriving to the event, because items aren't cheap.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.