Emotions high as Cards celebrate home opener
After traditional parade, family of slain soldier raises title banner
ST. LOUIS -- Rain may have delayed the start of Friday's pregame ceremonies, but it certainly didn't dampen the mood inside Busch Stadium, as the Cardinals kicked off the season's 81-game home slate after honoring history and celebrating last year's championship.
"This is as special as it gets," Skip Schumaker said. "You don't take this one for granted. To be part of a World Series is the best thing ever. To win it and come back and be on the Opening Day roster is another dream to come true."
As has become tradition in St. Louis, the Opening Day ceremonies began with a procession of the franchise's Hall of Famers. Six of those former Cardinals -- Ozzie Smith, Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Bruce Sutter and Whitey Herzog -- came in on the flatbed of Ford trucks. A golf cart ushered Stan Musial, 91, in from the outfield.
"I thought it was great being able to be around so many Hall of Famers and great ballplayers," said new Cardinal Carlos Beltran. "It was just a great feeling."
Before the current coaching staff and roster were paraded around the field and then introduced, representatives of the franchise's last four World Series championship clubs carried those respective trophies onto the field. These included Mike Shannon (1967), Tom Herr (1982), David Eckstein/Jim Edmonds (2006), and Tony La Russa/Dave Duncan (2011).
In arguably the most poignant part of the ceremony, the Cardinals' 2011 World Series championship banner was raised by the family of U.S. Army Specialist Jeffrey L. White, Jr. White, who was in attendance for Game 7 of the World Series while on leave last October, was killed in Afghanistan on April 3. He had plans to attend Friday's home opener with his family.
Shannon Magrane, American Idol contestant and daughter of former Cardinals pitcher Joe Magrane, sang the Star-Spangled Banner. A member of each of the last four championship teams then simultaneously threw ceremonial first pitches. Those baseballs were gold, as was the lettering on the Cardinals' jerseys.
The team will don those same uniforms on Saturday, which will be highlighted by the World Series ring ceremony.
In addition to delaying the game one hour and 44 minutes, the rain also prevented the Budweiser Clydesdales from taking part in the on-field ceremony. That was the only adjustment made to the schedule.
"I'm looking forward to getting in front of the fans and then switching gears and getting back to, 'Let's just play good baseball,'" manager Mike Matheny said beforehand. "I want to make sure I slow down enough to enjoy the day, the excitement of it, because this only happens once in my position now."
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.