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Cardinals put out the welcome mat for alumni

It's great to see not only the young faces at St. Louis Cardinals spring training as camp gets up to full speed. But the old ones too.

So far Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Jim Edmonds, Jason Isringhausen, Lou Brock, Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa have either shown up already at Camp Cardinals or else they'll be there soon. And that's important because, while we've all heard a lot of talk about the "Cardinals Way" over the past year or two, words don't mean much without some reality to back it up.

La Russa, who now has to be objective as an employee of Major League Baseball, just came by to say hi. But the others are in Jupiter to instruct and guide the Redbirds' stable of young players. And that's something that was largely missed while La Russa was in charge.

Lou Brock and the ubiquitous Red Schoendeinst are regular fixtures. But Ozzie Smith and Jim Edmonds had their falling out with La Russa and Herzog didn't come around much to avoid friction with La Russa's vastly different management style. While La Russa has his own people to do those jobs, I think it's important to have continuity in organizational priorities and ethics.

Look what a lack of continuity does for a team like the Chicago Cubs. The Wee Bears change their manager every three or four years and bring in a guy from a different organization who throws out everything the guy before him was doing and then starts rebuilding from scratch. Before the new program can fully be put into effect, the current manager gets fired and a new guy tears everything he did back down to the ground.

With the exception of La Russa, who didn't have any direct ties to the Cardinals before his arrival as manager, St. Louis pretty much stayed home when it came to looking for a leader.

Joe Torre was a Cardinals player, Whitey Herzog is a native of the St. Louis area who grew up watching Stan Musial play. The Redhead is a Cardinal through and through. Ken Boyer, Vern Rapp... All Cardinals.

If there was one thing that bothered me during the La Russa era its that the Redbirds didn't reach out to their former players to keep the flame of what it is to be a Cardinal lit. Vince Coleman, Bob Forsch, Tom Herr and Ken Oberkfell all became coaches with other organizations when they should have been sharing their knowledge with young Redbirds.