The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

January 18, 2014

Miller, Kelly lead team into heart of Cardinals Country

The Cardinal Caravan made a stop in the heart of Cardinal Country on Saturday.

Each offseason, the St. Louis Cardinals send groups of active and former players along with radio and television personalities throughout Missouri and even parts of Illinois, Tennessee and Arkansas to interact with the communities.

One of those caravans stopped at the Taylor Performing Arts Center at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin this weekend. On board were current pitchers Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly as well as Cardinals alumni Danny Cox and Tom Lawless. Rookie second baseman Kolten Wong was scheduled to appear as well, but wasn’t able to get to St. Louis before the caravan departed.

“I’ve been a Cardinal fan for 60 years; I’m 68,” said Steve McCrary of Webb City. “They take time out of their busy offseason schedules and go all over the state and parts of Arkansas and Illinois, all of Cardinal country. We appreciate it very much.”

McCrary was at the event with his three grandchildren, Chase, Kylie and Levi, all first-time caravan attendees.

Fans lined up outside Taylor Auditorium, some as early as 7:30 a.m. for the noon event, for the chance to get up close and personal with the current and former players.

The 2,000-seat auditorium was slightly less than halfway full of Cardinal fans of all ages.

The event began with a question-and-answer session where the crowd touched on topics ranging from Joe Kelly’s dancing abilities to the team’s new acquisitions, center fielder Peter Bourjos and shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

Those moves both came with some questions, as it took parting with 2011 World Series and NLCS MVP David Freese to land Bourjos in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels. Peralta was given a four-year deal worth $53 million despite being suspended 50 games in 2013 for performance-enhancing drug use.

“Peter Bourjos is a good friend of mine,” Kelly said. “And he’s a very, very good athlete. It’s going to be fun to see him out there.”

After taking questions, fans age 15 and younger had a chance to get autographs from the players.

“It’s just fun to be on the caravan,” Lawless said. “Cardinal Nation is everywhere, all over the midwest, east coast, west coast, it’s everywhere. To be a part of that, it’s kind of special.”

Lawless played in two World Series with the Cardinals, 1985 and ’87, and hit a go-ahead home run in game four of the ’87 series.

“Not just in Missouri, we’ve got fans all over the place,” Miller said. “St. Louis’ fan base is one of the best, if not the best.”

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