Cheap Seats

Bring on the Clydesdales

Cardinals Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, when asked what he did over the

winter, replied that he stared out the window and waited for spring.

I know the feeling, Rajah. And, with only a few more days to go before the start

of the season, I can hardly take any more waiting.

It's been especially difficult the last few winters trying to make it back to baseball

season when all you have to get you through the long, cold St. Louis winters are

the hapless Blues and the clueless Rams. This year we had to suffer through the

seemingly endless Matt Holliday rumors and drama before he finally inked a deal

with the Birds in January.

The business of baseball gets in the way over the off-season when we have to

hear players whine about how $16 million a year over four seasons isn't nearly

enough scratch to play a game for three hours a day. So it is an unbelievable

relief to forget about the players' paychecks and the pain of writing that season

ticket check and get on with seeing some homers, strikeouts and double plays.

Being at the ballpark again after so long seems like a dream come true.

If there isn't something magical about being at Busch Stadium, tell me why hot

dogs taste so much better there than anyplace else. Why does beer taste so

good in a baseball stadium that perfectly sane people will pay $8 bucks -- not

including tip -- for just one of them? And who would believe that yellow goo

from a big plastic bag spread out over tortilla chips in a paper gondola would hit

all the right taste buds in a way Wolfgang Puck never imagined?

I'm not sure that anything quite matches up with opening day in St. Louis. It

brings a sense that all is well again. And, more than the sprouting of flowers and

the growing of the grass, it is a sign that warmer weather is upon us and that it

is time to get outside and have some fun. People have been trying to hit me up

for my opening day seats for months, a good sign when the fan base seems to

have been restless over the last couple of seasons as longtime favorites like

Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen have disappeared from the St. Louis landscape.

The Cardinals enter this season as the favorite in the National league Central for

the first time in four seasons and excitement is high.

Some of the things I most look forward to seeing this season:

* Can Albert Pujols win a fourth MVP award? He has to have a bad season at

some point, right? I can't imagine the disappointment if Pujols hit .285 with

25 homers, numbers 95 percent of major league hitters would kill for.

* Is David Freese for real? We all heard about his negative experiences during

the off-season. But he has handled it like a pro and is spraying the ball all over

the ballpark this spring. The local product will be a huge steal if he pans out

after arriving on the St. Louis roster in the Edmonds salary dump.

* Can Jaime Garcia pitch in April and beyond like he did in March? The Cardinals

have had some great pitchers in the Tony La Russa=Dave Duncan era. But few of

them have been home grown. Only Matt Morris was a Cardinals minor league

prospect who became a consistent performer at the major league level. But Garcia

has shown a lot of poise and great stuff since returning last year from Tommy

John surgery.

We're finally going to be able to stop talking about it and get some answers