MIAMI -- While his teammates gawked, observed and even cast judgment on new Marlins Park, Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay took it all in from a much more reflective and personal perspective.
Jay was born and raised here. He is a product of the University of Miami, and he makes his home here during the offseason. That's why, when Jay stepped foot onto the field at Marlins Park for the first time on Tuesday, he wasn't simply preoccupied by learning the outfield nuances or seeing how well the ball traveled during batting practice.
Rather, he looked at everything from the perspective of a local.
"We always hoped for something like this," Jay said. "Now, the Miami community will have a real baseball stadium. You'll get that feeling of a baseball park that we get going across the country. I think it's nice for the community and the kids and everyone that is a part of Miami."
One day later, the Cardinals looked right at home in a 4-1 win over the Marlins. Jay had a hit and made a nice catch in the spacious center field.
The location of the Marlins' new park is one Jay visited several times as a child, then as a college student, when it was still home to the Orange Bowl.
"I had some great memories in the same spot where we're at right now," Jay said. "This is something that they've needed for a long time down here. I'm happy to see it get done for the community down here."
Similar sentiments were shared by backup catcher Tony Cruz, who grew up about an hour north of Miami.
"I didn't think something like this would ever be here, but I'm glad they did it," Cruz said. "They do need some more support behind them, and I hope it does good for them."
Schumaker, Craig inch toward returns
MIAMI -- While the Cardinals were scheduled to fly to Milwaukee following a 4-1 win on Wednesday, Skip Schumaker and Allen Craig had a different destination on their itinerary. Both were ticketed to return to the organization's Spring Training complex in Jupiter, Fla., where they will continue their rehabilitation work in hopes of rejoining the big league club later this month.
Before separating, Schumaker (right oblique strain) and Craig (right knee surgery) joined their teammates on the field at Marlins Park on Wednesday to participate in some pregame work. For the first time since his injury, Schumaker was cleared to take part in some defensive drills.
"So far, no setbacks," Schumaker said on Wednesday. "But I haven't taken any live swings against pitchers. You can swing nice and easy in the cage, but you find out where it's at when you play."
A rehab assignment doesn't appear to be too far away for either player. Both intend to be in St. Louis for the team's home opener on April 13, but both also said there is a chance they could begin their respective Minor League assignments before then. The Cardinals also have the option of putting either player into extended spring camp.
"I'm still trying to get that last bit of strength in there before starting games," Craig said. "I want to make sure I'm feeling good. As far as the hitting goes, I don't think it's going to take me a lot of time to get ready in a rehab [assignment]. I think it's just going to depend on how long they want me to play in games to get my legs under me. That will be up to them."
While Craig is particularly interested in seeing how his leg feels after playing the field in a game, Schumaker is mostly concerned with getting at-bats. He logged just 21 in Grapefruit League play before getting hurt.
"I don't want to come back and be bad," Schumaker said. "I want to help this team win. If I'm not ready, it's not going to help us."
Six Cardinals experience first Opening Day
MIAMI -- While much has been made about Mike Matheny making his managerial debut during a 4-1 win Wednesday night, the Cardinals' regular-season opener had particularly special meaning to six players on the team's 25-man roster. For those six, this is another career first.
Outfielder Erik Komatsu, who did not appear in the game, is the only one of the six who had never been on a Major League roster until Wednesday. Tony Cruz, Matt Carpenter, Fernando Salas, Shane Robinson and Lance Lynn all played in St. Louis in 2011, but none have ever been with the team to open the season, and none factored into the club's season-opening win.
"You always want to be a part of Opening Day roster," said Lynn, a right-hander who will make his season debut in Milwaukee on Sunday. "I happen to have a World Series under my belt before I had one of these, which is kind of weird. But it's very exciting for this first one."
Komatsu said that his family will be in the stands this weekend in Milwaukee, opting to make the trip from California to see the team's first three-game series. Cruz, who grew up just a little more than an hour north of Miami, had eight family members in attendance on Wednesday.
"It's special," Cruz said. "Being here, close to home, it's exciting. We're the only team playing tonight."
Of all the unique features inside Marlins Park, one that grabbed several players' attention was the fish tank built into the backstop behind home plate. There are, indeed, two aquariums full of fish just in front of the first row of seats. The glass has been tested to withstand impact from baseballs and players.
"I was expecting a bigger tank," infielder Skip Schumaker said. "I'm actually glad it's that size because it doesn't affect balls in play or off the bat. I was expecting a big ol' fish tank behind home plate where you couldn't see balls off the bat. I'm more concerned about balls off the bat than seeing fish, so I think that was our concern."
Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who hasn't been out of uniform on Opening Day since 1962, was in attendance at Marlins Park on Wednesday. He even joined his successor, Mike Matheny, on an MLB.com set prior to the game, though the two didn't have an opportunity to speak privately in the hours leading up to the game.
"I still feel the excitement because I'm a baseball person and it's Opening Day," said La Russa, who has assumed a special advisor role within Major League Baseball. "You feel the excitement throughout Major League Baseball. ... This is just enjoyable. I'm really looking forward to it."
Right-hander Lance Lynn threw a 75-pitch, five "inning" simulated game in Jupiter, Fla., on Tuesday. The outing was scheduled to take the place five days after Lynn's last Grapefruit League outing and five days before his first regular-season one.
"It went well," Lynn said. "I'm right where I wanted to be at this time. Everything feels good going into my first start."
That first start is scheduled for Sunday against the Brewers in Milwaukee.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.