Daily Egyptian

Cardinals Caravan brings baseball to Carbondale

By Thomas Donley @Tdonley, Daily Egyptian

Carbondale baseball fans got a chance to interact with past and present Major League Baseball players Friday when the Cardinals Caravan came to SIU Arena.

More than 200 fans packed the lobby of the arena to ask questions to current pitchers Michael Wacha, Tyler Lyons and Marco Gonzales; current outfielder Tommy Pham; former infielder Tom Lawless and former pitchers Danny Cox and Al Hrabosky.

News Talk 1420 WINI and SIU Athletics presented the St. Louis Cardinals’ traveling offseason fan event. WINI and River Radio sponsored the event, while Saluki Athletics provided the venue.

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“We’re not losing any money, and it’s a really fun event so we’re happy to host it,” said Nicole Sack, Saluki Athletics marketing graduate assistant.

Sack said the caravan boosted promotion of this weekend’s Saluki men’s and women’s basketball games.

Children ages 15 and younger also got the chance to receive autographs from all seven Cardinals.

Eleven-year-old Chase Austin of Marion was excited to get autographs and interact with the players, particularly Water.

“Seeing the guys you see on TV and being able to actually have a conversation with them, that just means a lot,” said Austin, who took advantage of a half day of school to come to the caravan.

The caravan was a hit with fans of all ages. Pat Jackson of Carbondale, who brought her grandsons to the event, said she enjoyed seeing the Cardinal players in person during baseball’s offseason.

“I have seven grandkids and three kids, and my husband and I, we’ve all been Cardinal fans our whole lives,” Jackson said. “It’s a great feeling.”

Cox, who pitched for the Cardinals from 1983 to 1988, said the Cardinals Caravan was a good way for the players to reward fans across the Midwest for coming to St. Louis to cheer on the Cardinals.

“The Cardinals are really appreciative of the fans they get,” Cox said. “They come out and visit the people who come out and see them in the summer.”

Hrabosky, who pitched for the Cardinals from 1970 to 1977 and is now a TV broadcaster for the team on Fox Sports Midwest, took to the podium at the end of the question-and-answer session to appreciate a fan who thanked the players for coming to Carbondale.

“We want to say thank you to you,” Hrabosky said. “That’s what the caravan is all about, to reward you for making that four-hour trip [to Busch Stadium].”

After the two-hour stop in Carbondale, the caravan traveled to Evansville, Ind. It is making stops in Paducah, Ky. and Cape Girardeau, Mo. on Saturday. Five other caravans with other players are also making stops in the Midwest.

Aaron Graff also contributed to this story.

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] 

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