Cardinals rubber chicken circuit tour ending

Lance Berkman in Houston Friday night

The celebrations will soon be over as the St. Louis Cardinals get to work defending their crown.

Within the next ten days, one might consider the St. Louis Cardinals as unofficially transitioning from "World Champions" to "defending World Champions" as they filter into spring training camp in Jupiter, Fla. to prepare for the 2012 season.

 

A winter that may normally seem too long to some may have been too short this time around for many members of the 2011 team as they participated in numerous ceremonies and banquets celebrating their accomplishments.

 

No Cardinal can match the whirlwind experienced by NLCS and World Series MVP David Freese. The third baseman's numerous appearances, including multiple occasions on national television, may have culminated with him being a part of the club's White House visit.

 

Almost certainly, every member of the team, whether young or old, dealt with these requests for time, often from local concerns. 

 

Just this past Friday night, Lance Berkman was honored in his Houston hometown as the Area Major League Player of the Year. The setting was the 27th annual Houston Baseball Dinner, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Astros franchise. My friend and blogger Bill McCurdy was in attendance and shared the above photo.

 

A polished and entertaining speaker, Berkman fired off some comedic jabs at those from his MLB home for more than 11 seasons. Though still extremely popular in Houston, he also absorbed some friendly blows, including wishes from Astros manager Brad Mills that he plays his age (36) this year. New GM Jeff Luhnow openly campaigned for Berkman to become the Astros' 2013 designated hitter as the club moves to the American League West.

 

Though he is at the other end of the Cardinals experience spectrum, 2011 rookie Daniel Descalso also covered his share of events this winter. On Saturday, the 25 year-old was honored at his alma mater, the University of CaliforniaDavis.

 

Last month, his high school, St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Cal., celebrated Daniel Descalso Day. Along with being noted as World Champion, in a reminder of his roots, the infielder was tagged by his local paper as being the oldest of "George and Marylou Descalso's six kids."

 

One of the newer Cardinals in the photo-op news is reliever Marc Rzepczynski. Though he joined the club in trade from Toronto in July, the left-hander quickly became a vital member of the bullpen down the stretch and through the post-season run.

 

A graduate of another school in the California system, UC Riverside, "Scrabble" attended the college's annual baseball alumni game on Saturday. Though he did not pitch, not surprisingly Rzepczynski was the center of attention.

 

In hometown papers across the country, even minor leaguers are receiving ink as they share their hopes and dreams of one day reaching the pinnacle of their profession as have Berkman, Descalso and Rzepczynski.

 

One such example is Henderson High School's Tyrell Jenkins. The former Texas prep star is understandably excited about participating in his first major league spring training camp. The fact the right-hander will be working alongside the 2012 champions is the frosting on the cake.

 

Very soon, the excitement and celebrations will subside as the returning champions and the new-for-2012 Cardinals report to camp and get to work. Yet the official transition may not occur until the home opener on April 13 when the flag is raised and rings distributed.





Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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