Since his arrival in a December 2003 trade, Ray King has established himself as one of the Cardinals' most popular players, to go along with his well-known status as one of the game's most durable relievers. The affable left-hander appeared in a career-high 86 games last year. King answered questions from fans about team chemistry and playing for St. Louis during an online chat.

dbredn1: What would you consider being the toughest thing during a regular season?

Ray King: The schedule. Two-game series in Pittsburgh, come home and face the Cubs and Houston. You never know what day it is.

mlb_com_member_2: Ray, how do you feel the bullpen has changed from last year?

King: First, the absence of Steve Kline and Kiko Calero. Those were two guys that we relied on to come in and get tough situational outs for us, or pick up an inning and get to the next guy. This year, we're relying more on Al Reyes, a guy that has bounced around, but we have a lot of confidence in. They've picked up the slack for the guys who have left, and we're just looking for one more guy to pick it up.

mlb_com_member: Ray, is there less clowning around in the bullpen without Kline, and what is your thought on his comments about missing St. Louis last week?

King: Without Steve, it's totally different. We don't have that one guy you know is going to come in and make the guys laugh, he keeps everybody loose. It's not all serious down in the bullpen. He's always got everybody laughing, but when it's time to run through the gate everybody's ready to go. The things that Steve said -- a lot of guys feel that way when they go to a new team and things don't start out the way they want them to. We had something special where everybody on the team was fun-loving and cared about each other. In that division, if you lose some games early, it could be the season. Steve vented his frustration at the wrong time. There nothing wrong with what he said if that's what he feels.

dbredn1: What advice can you give a youngster who wants to become a big leaguer some day?

King: First of all, you've got to love what you do. If you love what you do, some things become easier than others. In baseball, you've got to be a student of the game. You can't be better than the game, you've got to let the game take care of itself and it will take care of you. School is the first thing I always tell every kid, because not every kid can make it to the Majors. Education is No. 1, and having a relationship with your parents and understanding that what they're saying to you may not be what you want to hear now, but down the road it can make you a better person. When you get drafted and you go to a new city, the things that mom and dad told you can come back to the forefront. The main thing is taking care of yourself on and off the field.

Base_Ball_2: I just wanted to say that your my favorite pitcher. You really seem to be an all around nice guy. How do you stay so upbeat knowing that as a pitcher, a lot of the outcome of the game rests on your shoulders?

King: First of all, I look at baseball as a grown man playing a kids' game and I love doing it. Being a pitcher, I thrive every day coming to the ballpark knowing that I have a chance to go into that game and have an effect on outcome. It's kind of like when you're a kid growing up in the backyard, you want to be on the mound facing that guy in that situation. When you're little it always happens. When you're grown, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. As a reliever, we want to have as much success as possible and keep the media off our backs.

mlb_com_member_2: Ray, how does St. Louis compare to the other three cities you've played in?

King: St. Louis is probably the best baseball city in professional baseball. When you come to the ballpark, you know there's going to be anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 people at any game. On the weekends it's probably the hardest ticket in baseball to find. As a player, it makes you want to have success because when you have that many people cheering for you at home and away from home, you don't want to let the team down or the fans. If a call is close, you don't have to say anything. The fans say it for you.

bdixon05: Mr. King, do you feel that this year's bullpen can top the production of last year?

King: I think the bullpen can duplicate it, if not better than what we were last year. We had Izzy (Jason Isringhausen) banged up pretty much all year and he still had 47 saves. I think we found some reliability in Al Reyes, and Randy Flores has thrown well for us. A couple of other guys, Julian (Tavarez) and myself, feel very confident with the way the season is going. With the starting staff heating up the way they did on the five-game road trip, there's less pressure on us where we only have to get one or two innings. I think if everyone collectively can come together, then we can duplicate the things that we've done. We're hoping for a better season if possible.

David_Lovekamp: You guys lost some key members in the clubhouse from a group that was shown to have great chemistry. With the additions of David Eckstein, Mark Mulder, Einar Diaz, Abraham Nunez, and Mark Grudzielanek, has the clubhouse personality changed at all?

King: I think the guys that we have coming back, Reggie Sanders and Larry Walker, they're true veterans that keep the chemistry going. Guys that we picked up are guys that have been around for a while. Eckstein played for a World Series Champion with the Angels. Grudzielanek has been around long enough that he knows how to find his way around a clubhouse. Diaz is a guy who can throw and can swing a little bit. So we're not really missing guys in terms of clubhouse camaraderie. We miss what they did for us, but the new guys have done really well and picked up the pace. Eckstein, first game gets on base five times. Diaz can replace Molina or give Molina a day off. Nunez had four hits, so you can give Eckstein a day off or Grudzielanek. These guys fit right in with the program that Tony La Russa designed, and they fit right in the clubhouse. The clubhouse is our second family home. Everybody fits right in and we're right where we were last year.

monstermullet: How would you rank the Cardinals organization to the ones you have been apart and have seen in your Major League career?

King: St. Louis is right up there when you talk about baseball. You talk about the history of teams such as the Yankees, the Cubs, teams that have gone out and had success over and over again. I've enjoyed every moment I've had here in St. Louis in this organization. It's been very promising, from bringing in quality guys, not only on the field, but in the clubhouse. Everybody is proud to put on that uniform. You look at what the organization has done over the years, from Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith to guys like Albert Pujols and Matt Morris, who came up through the system, they take pride in that. Being a part of that is something that you can't put into words.

Michael_Seitzinger: Is there a time that you would prefer people asking for your autograph and when they should not?

King: Usually during batting practice at home, I don't mind signing. The toughest time is coming into the ballpark. You're trying to focus on what you need to do to prepare for that game. So sometimes when you're driving into the parking lot or going to stadiums on the road, it's not a hassle, but you're trying to focus on what you have to do. After the game, walking in, if we had a good game I may stop to sign a few. To me the only awkward situation is when you're out with your family. That's family time with the kids. You're gone so much that that's family time and I think that should be off-limits.

dave_zyto: What do you do to relieve stress?

King: I don't really think about it. I think playing the game of baseball, it's a game itself. To me, stress is when you're over in Iraq wondering what's the next thing that's going to happen. We're playing a game. You hit the ball, you catch the ball, you throw the ball. You can't have success all the time, but if you prepare yourself to where you can look in the mirror after the game, that's the way you deal with it. As a reliever, we have to forget what we did yesterday. We can go out there several days in a row. So if you go out there Thursday and you're still thinking about Monday, your chances of success are way down.

King: That's all. Thanks for all the great questions and for coming out and supporting us. See you in October!