Okay, I’ll admit it. When the St. Louis Cardinals granted my request to do a “Show Me Your Office” article for the Hall of Famer, I was a little like a six year old being told he was going to Disney World. I mean, really. How cool is that? My hosts for the day, Martin Coco, Director of Ticket Sales & Alumni Relations, and Mark Walsh, Home Clubhouse Assistant laid very few ground rules for my visit; 1) Let’s do this when the team is out of town and 2) Don’t take anything (someone had gotten to them).
After working our way through the maze of the infrastructure of Busch Stadium we entered the double doors that led to a complex of rooms which very few outsiders get to see. My initial stop was the first door on the left; the office of manager Tony La Russa. Tony’s office was nothing like the man who has guided the Cardinals for the past 15 years. At least it was not what I expected it to be. I’ve watched La Russa manage for over a decade and even had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with him in 2005. If there were traits that struck me about the man, it was his idea of order, symmetry and all things well thought out. His office was the antithesis; at least to me. It looked like…..well…my office. Stacks of paper here, post it notes there, half a bottle of aspirin and opened cardboard boxes. But perceptible through the organized chaos were the number of books that lined the shelves of the Cardinal skipper. He is an avid reader and his bookcases are a testament to that.
Next stop was the locker room. Very much like I expected yet more nicely appointed. The first thing that takes your eyes are the jerseys all hung neatly on the front of each player’s locker. The lockers themselves are very spacious and made of rich walnut, each having its own electrical outlet and several cubbies, including one lockable compartment. For the most part the lockers and their contents all look alike. Without a name plate or the jersey, it might be difficult to tell one from another. However, each player seemed to personalize his locker in a way that seemed meaningful to him. Adam Wainwright has a scripture marked with a Sharpie on athletic tape adorning the front of his locker. Kyle Lohse had enough shoes to make Imelda Marcos jealous. Perched inside David Freese’s locker was a Batman shroud, and I swear Skip Schumaker could open up a retail sporting good outlet just from his locker. With big screen TV’s, leather recliners, poker tables and custom made carpeting, this was truly one cool “office”. Like La Russa’s office though, it was obvious that this was a working office. Mark offered several times to get the laundry carts out of the way or to discard anything that might interfere with a good photo. I told him not to bother as I really wanted to see this place as it really was.
Martin, Mark and I then walked past an oil painting of former Cardinal hurler Darryl Kile and into the players dining area which would rival most business cafeterias. Nice additions were video games and computers. From there my hosts took me into the equipment room (I still think Schumaker had more stuff) and then into the combination laundry / mail room. Rather than names on the mails slots, there were uniform numbers. While some players had a moderate amount of fan mail in their cubbies, letters for players like Pujols spilled out into overflow boxes on the floor. Believe it or not, this was the room where I learned the most about what it was like working in the Cardinal Clubhouse. After an evening game, clubhouse attendants are usually clocking out at about 2:00 am. When a player is traded for, the can easily have a uniform for him within 24 hours; sooner if necessary.
The training room wanted for nothing. There were elliptical trainers, treadmills, stationary bicycles and weights that looked really, really heavy. From there we visited the coaches’ locker room which was a miniature version of the player’s locker room, then proceeded down the tunnel to the batting cages and video room. Whereas the batting cages were simple in nature; just a couple pitching machines, screened tunnels and a rack full of bats, the video room with its intentionally dim lighting featured possibly every item know to modern technology. Located directly behind the dugout, players can go to the room to check out everything from a pitchers release point to the location of the last called strike. Video techs can assemble a montage of a particular relievers last 15 appearance in a matter of minutes, should La Russa or Duncan think he may enter the game the next inning.
The visit gave me a new appreciation of not only what it takes to put a major league baseball team on the field, but of all the people behind the scenes who make it all come together.
Go to http://mosportshalloffame.com/gallery/cardinals_office/ to see all the pictures!