St. Louis Cardinals

Postcard from Florida: “Trader Jack” holds court; Wainwright, Jay on mend

Two largely uneventful flights, save for a late gate change in Charlotte, N.C., landed photographer Derik Holtmann and I in sunny south Florida on Sunday night.

We will be in Jupiter through Friday afternoon providing online and print coverage for the News-Democrat as the Cardinals prepare to defend their NL Central championship.

The highlight of the first few hours after we arrived was the appearance of “Trader” Jack McKeon, who is staying where we are at Embassy Suites in Palm Beach Gardens.

The story-telling McKeon, 84, was the architect of the 1984 San Diego Padres who lost to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series and the manager of the 2003 Florida Marlins that defeated the New York Yankees in the Fall Classic. He was at first unrecognized as he sat at the bar, but it didn’t take long for him to engage a few fans and he was soon posing for pictures.

McKeon, whom I had spoken with only once over the years, appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman after the Marlins shocked the world in 2003. McKeon recalled Sunday that Letterman rushed him off the set when he began sharing stories like only McKeon can. Apparently, Letterman did not enjoy being “upstaged.”

The first few hours at camp Monday included a productive conversation with new right fielder Jason Heyward. He is locked and loaded as he prepares for his sixth year in the majors. Heyward, in the eyes of many, hasn’t yet had a breakout season. Not that he’s worried about it. His priorities are to fit in and help the Cardinals reach the World Series.

Adam Wainwright threw three simulated innings in his recovery from an abdominal strain. The Cardinals still believe there is time for Wainwright to be ready for Opening Day, even though he has yet to make his first spring start.

One of the hitters Wainwright faced was center fielder Jon Jay, who is recovering from wrist surgery and still hasn’t participated in a spring game. Jay had three hits, two against Wainwright. Jay doubled against Boone Whiting and slid into second base.

Nothing special on the menu Sunday night. Fatigue got the better of us as we remained at the hotel for complimentary munchies in the reception area.

David Wilhelm