Caravan comes through Joplin

Matt+Adams+%28Left%29+and+Kevin+Siegrist+%28Right%29+of+the+St.+Louis+Cardinals+share+a+laugh+at+the+Cardinals+Caravan+event+held+at+Missouri+Southern+on+Jan.+17.%C2%A0

Kristen Stacy | The Chart

Matt Adams (Left) and Kevin Siegrist (Right) of the St. Louis Cardinals share a laugh at the Cardinals Caravan event held at Missouri Southern on Jan. 17. 

Matt Barney, staff writer

Members of the St. Louis Cardinals organization returned to the campus of Missouri Southern Saturday for the annual Cardinals Caravan.

Hundreds of anxious fans, young and old, lined up outside the doors of Taylor Auditorium for a chance to meet and greet their baseball heroes.

The first 400 children under the age of 15 received a ticket that allowed them to get autographs from the players.

The St. Louis delegation included current players — first baseman Matt Adams and pitchers Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist — along with former Cardinals Jason Simontacchi and Kerry Robinson. Legendary broadcaster and Cardinal play-by-play voice John Rooney and mascot Fredbird were also on hand for the affair.

“We have such great fans and such an enormous fan base,” said Siegrist. “Something like this is important to interact with the fans who can’t get to a game all the time and only get a chance to see us on TV, so it’s fun. Cardinal fans love their baseball.”

The celebration started with the players fielding questions from supporters in the crowd, and was followed by the autograph session where a procession of fans came onto the stage for a chance to meet their idols.

“It’s part of us giving back for what they [Cardinal fans] do for us, giving us support whether it’s local or coming down here to Joplin,” said Simontacchi. “It’s part of the business. I think we should be doing this kind of thing to pay our respects and say ‘thanks a lot for your support.’”

A family atmosphere surrounded the event as fathers and their sons filed into the cramped auditorium. Carthage resident Jeremy Jadwin and his son Cooper, waiting their turn to enter the theater, were enthusiastically hoping to add to their collection of autographs acquired during last year’s Caravan.

“I really want to meet Matt Adams, Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist,” said Cooper Jadwin. “Matt is my favorite, though.”

“It’s good community relations; we enjoy these Caravans,” said Jeremy Jadwin. “It’s a chance to let them know we’re real ordinary people that come from the same places they do.”

The United Way, the St. Louis Cardinal’s partner organization, was present for the third consecutive year, selling raffle tickets for a chance to win Cardinal memorabilia and baseballs to be autographed by the players. The non-profit hoped to raise $1,000 throughout the day to benefit local community outreach projects.

“This fundraiser has been great for us and a good chance to be out in the community,” said Vice President for Marketing and Communications Leslie Harris. “The Cardinals are good to us; they always donate to our silent auctions throughout the year, and we have a magnificent partnership with them.”

Joplin was the second stop on the three-city tour for Caravan group No. 1. The crew had been in Springfield the day before, where they visited the pediatric ward and other areas at Mercy and Cox South hospitals. The group then made a trip to JQH Arena for the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions on Friday night. The Caravan ended Saturday night with a show in Rolla. The team also dispatched five separate Caravan groups of different Cardinal personnel for appearances across Missouri, along with stops in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee.

“It’s neat to meet different people and their families and hear their stories and how excited they are for the upcoming season, how die-hard of a fan they are,” said Adams. “It’s awesome to be a part of these caravans and take time out of our schedule to come be with our fans.”