Daily Egyptian

Cardinals caravan stops in Carbondale

By Ben Tucker, @BenTucker_DE

Local St. Louis Cardinal fans fulfilled their fantasies of meeting the team’s players and coaches Sunday at SIU Arena. They even got the chance to hear their favorite players take some shots at the rival Chicago Cubs.

The Cardinals Caravan stopped in Carbondale and it gives fans a chance to meet players, get autographs and ask their favorite athletes questions.

Players Matt Adams, Greg Garcia, Charlie Tilson, Dean Kiekhefer, former player Danny Cox and Cardinals’ television play-by-play announcer Al Hrabosky were present. 

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Dan McLaughlin, an announcer for Fox Sports Midwest, said the organization made it clear it does not bring all the superstars on the caravan. He said the team likes to bring players who are going to be the next great superstars in MLB. The caravan included All-Stars Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright before they were household names. 

One player that might prove he is an All-Star is Greg Garcia.

Garcia, who was drafted by the Cardinals in 2010, batted .294 with Triple-A affiliate Memphis Redbirds before being called-up to the big league club.

Garcia talked a bit about his big moments in 2015. Rival Cubs fans, along with Cardinals fans, recognize the name, as he hit his first career home run against the Cubs on June 26.

He then made his mark later in the playoffs when he had a pinch-hit home run against the Northsiders.

“It was definitely the biggest home run of my career, by far,” Garcia said. “I might have overplayed it by putting my hands in the air.”

The folks on the caravan were also asked about other players in the league.

After being eliminated by the Cubs in the playoffs, former Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward signed an eight-year, $184 million contract with the Cubs, the largest in franchise history. With the loss of Heyward, who had a career-high .293 batting average last season, many fans were worried how the team would pick up the slack.

Cox, who played six seasons in St. Louis, said he isn’t worried about the absence of Heyward since he hit just 13 home runs and 60 RBIs the past year.

Plus, even if Heyward is gone, Adams is back and ready to produce. Adams missed more than 100 games last season with a quad injury, but he said he is fully recovered from the injury.

Adams also talked about the up-and-coming Cubs, who had 97 wins last year, a 24-win improvement from 2014. The two teams always have a spirited rivalry in the regular season, but after their first-ever meeting in the playoffs, the competition is at its highest point in recent years.

“We need no extra motivation to beat the Cubs,” Adams said. “The Pirates used to be my favorite team to play, but now it is the Cubs.”

Pitchers and catchers for the Cardinals report to spring training on Feb. 17 and begin the regular season April 3 against the Pirates.

Ben Tucker can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @BenTucker_DE

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