Popular support for the Springfield Cardinals, the farm club for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, was discussed at this week's meeting of the Monett Kiwanis Club. Dan Reiter, who is in charge of marketing for the Springfield Cardinals, was the guest speaker.
Even though the metropolitan Springfield area is considered small for supporting a minor league baseball team, Reiter said the Springfield Cardinals have been successful due to an outpouring of fan support. The team boasted the second highest attendance in the Texas League two years ago and was third last year.
"Management is pleased with the area support," Reiter said. A game last year in Houston, Missouri, drew 900 fans in a town of a little more than 2,000 people.
"We can't control the game. Baseball is baseball," Reiter said. "We can control the fun. People come for fun and entertainment as well as to see a good ball game."
A particular feature about minor league baseball, Reiter noted, is the accessibility of players. Some will stay until all the fans have left to sign autographs. Young fans can easily gather autographs from the entire team.
To make the "take me out to the ball game" experience more entertaining, management has added extra activities. Reiter talked about the Field of Dreams opportunity for youngsters to go on the field with their gloves before games and talk about how to play the game. Personally, Reiter finds watching the thrill children have talking to players to be some of the most satisfying moments of his job.
A "musical chairs" game is also played for adult fans. Reiter said adults may not be much different from kids when it comes to games. He recalled one big adult plowing through a crowd like a linebacker to get a key spot for musical chairs.
Every Friday, fireworks are shot off after the game as an extra bonus.
While players in major league baseball aspire for the pennant ring, the minor league goal is seeing as many players from the team as possible make it to the majors. Since the Springfield franchise started, 16 players have gone on the St. Louis roster. Currently there are seven from the farm team in St. Louis.
Infielder Brett Wallace is currently the team's top prospect, Reiter said. Though not built like a typical baseball player, Wallace performs exceptionally well and may be in St. Louis by the end of the year, according to Reiter. Other exceptional talents Reiter mentioned were Colby Rasmus, who played in Springfield in 2007, and Josh Kinney, who played for the farm team in 2005 and 2008 before going on to St. Louis.
Reiter's own story of coming to the team was unusual. A graduate from the University of Missouri with a degree in marketing, Reiter entered a contest with Fox Sports in which the winner got to be a manager for the St. Louis Cardinals for a day. Reiter got to spend a day with the manager and take his family to the ballpark, a thrill for his father, a longtime Cardinals fan.
The top five finalists out of 300 applicants were offered jobs with the Cardinals. Reiter came in sixth. He inquired about the Cardinals starting a farm team in Springfield and subsequently had a position created for him when the Springfield Cardinals were organized.
Kiwanis Vice President Frank Washburn presided at the meeting. Jon Suit was program chairman.
In club news, it was announced Kiwanians will serve food at the Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by the Monett Chamber of Commerce and the Monett Ministerial Association, at 7 a.m. on Thursday, May 7.
Kiwanis Night at the Springfield Cardinals has been scheduled for Thursday, July 16. Randy Johnson announced that club members wanting to go need to pay in advance. Deadline to buy tickets is June 23. The game will be against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The first pitch will be at 7:10 p.m. at Hammons Field in Springfield.
The Monett Kiwanis Club meets every Tuesday at noon at the Happy House Restaurant for a meal and a program. The speaker for April 28 will be Wendell Bailey speaking on the Small Business Administration.