How to streamline and strengthen security measures at Busch Stadium for the coming season was already a chief concern this winter, and then a few hours after the Paris attacks in November, Busch Stadium hosted an international soccer game that underscored the need.
“It hit home that we’re in a different world,” Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said. “We have to make sure that there are no loopholes or weak links in our security.”
The Cardinals, as mandated by Major League Baseball, enhanced security measures at the ballpark this past season with metal detectors at every game, and the team also hired two vapor-wake trained security dogs to work at the stadium and around Ballpark Village. This year, increased measures will include more cameras in and around the ballpark, and an upgraded control room to handle the additional information. In September, a Cardinals fan was shot after leaving a game during what police described as a robbery.
DeWitt said the team has also worked with the city to improve lighting and increase staffing around the ballpark as a preventative measure.
“We’re not shy about mentioning we’ve got hundreds of security cameras around the ballpark both in and out,” DeWitt said. “If people want to get nuts, it’s going to be on camera.”
Other changes at the ballpark include the debut this season of a larger, high-definition scoreboard, one that will usurp the entire surface area of the scoreboard that had previously been up, including the ad space on the sides. The Cardinals have also increased the number of 6 p.m. starts for this season, upping the number of weekday 6 p.m. starts to nine already scheduled. The team has been surveying fans to see whether they prefer 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. starts, and they have found the fan base split. Players have expressed a preference for the earlier game, DeWitt said.
They continue to seek a happy medium, the president said.
In the coming year, an expansion to Ballpark Village is also expected to take shape. The second phase of the development, DeWitt said, could include apartments, office space, additional retail areas, and parking to accommodate the additions. A hotel has also been discussed. DeWitt said the Ballpark Village property could take another decade to develop, though it will come in increments and over the next two years see new additions.
“This phase is all about creating the village in Ballpark Village,” DeWitt said. “We’ve got the epicenter, the hub of it. … Future phases are going to create that neighborhood and really that will be a happy day for me because the true vision of it will be established.”
STEP FOR MARTINEZ
Carlos Martinez made some giant strides last year in his first year as a rotation member. But perhaps not one nearly as big as the one he took when, even with Spanish-speaking shortstop Jhonny Peralta standing by as a potential interpreter, Martinez, reluctant to do so, conducted his first lengthy, solo news conference Monday.
After some 7 minutes, 24 seconds of questions, all in English, and Martinez answers, all in English, the righthander laughed and said, “Wow.” Then the 24-year-old hugged Cardinals communications manager Melody Yount, proud of his accomplishment.
Earlier, Martinez had said, “I try every day to learn a couple of words. That’s why I’m here right now. I just try to speak a lot with my teammates, with Mike (Matheny) and everybody. Just try to learn some words every day.”
Martinez’s 2015 season ended early because of shoulder problems, and he has spent much of the offseason at the team’s Jupiter, Fla., complex.
“It’s getting better,” Martinez said. “I think I have like 90 percent of my arm. And it will be better in spring training.”
Martinez threw 179 2/3 innings last season, up 80 from the year before.
“It was hard for me because I never threw too many innings,” said Martinez, who was sidelined when the Cardinals could have used him in the playoffs. “I wanted to compete in the playoffs to help the Cardinals,” he said. “It was really hard for me.”
Addressing his emotions, which occasionally can steer him sideways, and how he tries to control them, Martinez said, “I’m from the Dominican and all Dominicans have a lot of emotions. When I have problems on the mound, I just (step) off the mound and take a little breath and keep going again.”
FAN BALLOT REVEALED
The 2006 World Series champions, who are set to be feted all season as part of the 10th anniversary of Busch Stadium III, could have a presence in the Cardinals Hall of Fame’s class of 2016. DeWitt announced Monday the eight names that will be on the fan ballot, and for the first time Chris Carpenter, Scott Rolen, and Jason Isringhausen are eligible for the vote.
The other five names are Joe Torre, Mark McGwire, Edgar Renteria, Keith Hernandez and Matt Morris. The fans will elect two players from that list during online voting that will begin and extend through March. The top two vote-getters will be inducted with one legacy pick by the Red Ribbon Committee and a fourth member of the class selected by ownership.
LA RUSSA WILL BE ON HAND FOR HOME OPENER
Cardinals Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, now running the Arizona Diamondbacks’ baseball operations, said the offseason acquisitions of pitchers Zack Greinke (free agency) and Shelby Miller (trade) do not just signify that the Diamondbacks are trying to win the National League Western Division title in 2016. “We’re going for it for the next four or five years,” La Russa said. “Our club is really young.”
La Russa noted that the D’backs needed two more starting pitchers, plus a reliever because “in this division, if you don’t have starting pitching, you’re not going very far.”
But now that most of the offseason dust has settled, La Russa said, “We’re going to able to compete with anybody.”
As for his former team, La Russa said he again would be on hand for the home opener April 11 against Milwaukee. His Diamondbacks open their season home the week before that but La Russa said that even if there was a conflict, he would choose to take part in the Cardinals’ ceremonies.
“My obligation to the Cardinals and that red jacket ... if we open the same day, they’re going to play the (Arizona) game without me.”
Then, jokingly, La Russa said, “From what I hear from the (Arizona) manager and the coaches they can hear me yelling from upstairs in the (press) box. They’ll be thankful that I’ll miss.”
NO LONG TERM-DEAL BUT ROSENTHAL HAPPY
Closer Trevor Rosenthal, having seen his salary rise tenfold to $5.6 million as a first-year arbitration candidate, said any discussions of a long-term deal hadn’t been entered into yet.
“From the Cardinals’ standpoint, they kind of have me under control still for the next three years even though this is the first time my salary is based off performance, which I’m certainly appreciative (of),” said Rosenthal.
• The 20th annual Winter Warm-Up, which raises money for the club’s charitable arm, Cardinals Care, drew about 18,000 fans to the Hyatt Regency during its three-day run. The attendance was close to average, down from the most robust year of 2012, which followed a World Series win.
• Amateur scout Matt Blood has left the Cardinals to work for USA Baseball as effectively the general manager for one of its amateur elite teams. One of the players Blood scouted and signed while working for the Cardinals was lefty Tim Cooney.
Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.