ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The St. Louis Cardinals have raised more than 18 million dollars since 1997, when Cardinals Care and it’s most popular event, the Winter Warm-Up were created. That year, Alan Benes was a 24-year-old pitcher with the Cardinals, who had just finished his first big league season.
“As players it’s an easy thing for us,” Benes says. “All we have to do is just show up and be a part of it and help raise money for the community.”
Twenty-one years later, he is still making appearances here, on the Cardinals Caravan and at other fundraising events put on by the organization.
“And the impact that, that has on the community is tremendous,” Benes says. “Lots of small stadiums, small fields are being built and kids that didn’t have an opp to play baseball are getting an opp.”
One of the more noticeable impacts has been the Cardinals initiative to build ball fields in many of St. Louis’ inner-city neighborhoods.
“We say ‘just building a baseball field’ that makes a world a of a difference for the kids who get off the streets and go enjoy something that’s fun with their friends as well as family,” says former Cardinals pitcher and current minor league coach, Jason Simontacchi.
Simontacchi used to live in St. Louis only because he was a pitcher for the Cardinals in the early 2000s, but now he’s a permanent resident as he continues to coach in the organization.
“There’s no question they are involved,” says Simontacchi. “and I guarantee you they are involved a lot more than what the community thinks or knows.”
Even with one day of the 2017 Winter Warm-Up being cancelled and some big name players like Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler missing out, thousands of passionate Cardinals fans still made this year a success.
“It think as a player you realize how much passion there is,” says Simontacchi. “So then it’s almost like, ok well I don’t want to let these people down.”
And there’s no doubt that next year’s twenty-third annual Winter Warm-Up will continue the outstanding (kinda a corny word, feel free to try something else) pre-season tradition.
“You start to see that guys that are 30 years old that have their kids and they sometimes bring pictures from when they were kids and their parents brought them,” Benes says. “What a great thing.”
(TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)