(BaseballStL) — St. Louis has plenty of well-known home opener traditions. Perhaps the most famous is the mix of current heroes and Cardinal legends on the field together. Monday’s first pitch will be thrown out by a guy who stands in both camps.
Chris Carpenter, now officially into his first year of retirement, will do the honor of tossing out the ceremonial first ball.
Want more from the home opener on your phone? Click here.
“When [John Mozeliak] asked me I was really excited about it,” Carpenter said before the game. “It’s going to be an interesting, or should I say different day, there’s no question about that. But I’m real excited about it.”
The former Cy Young winner threw five Opening Days for the Cardinals, winning three of them. In 2014, he finds himself on the mound for St. Louis’ home opener with a pitch limit of one. Despite not being part of the in-game action, the 37-year-old says he doesn’t regret his decision to step away from the game.
“That’s how I know it’s the right decision and the right move. I’m happy with it. I thought I was going to get that itch this winter, and especially when I got down to [spring training], but there was nothing there,” Carpenter said. “I enjoyed being on the outside looking in and just being a part of it that way.”
As part of Busch Stadium’s home opener ceremonies, Carpenter will be joined by a patient from Cardinal Glennon’s. Anna Stetzel, a young girl who has undergone multiple heart procedures, will walk to ball to home plate. Standing next to the three-time All Star, Anna sheepishly grinned, telling reporters it was exciting to be near Carpenter.
For the former pitcher, it was a humbling experience being near Anna.
“It’s so rewarding to be a part of this. To be here with Anna,” he said. “With the things that she’s been through and the person that she is and will continue to be. Her strength shows everybody how anyone like Anna can be.”
Carpenter, who was uncharacteristically jovial with the media, seemed to be at peace with his new role. Despite not being in the clubhouse before the game, the two- time World Series champion seemed content. His family will accompany him to the mound, which he said will mean a lot during such an important moment.
“It’s just another journey, another experience in my life that I’ll never forget,” he said. “I was saying to a friend of mine this morning, ‘How many people are this lucky? To be able to go out there and throw the first pitch?’”
For once, it’s the actual pitching that has Carpenter the most nervous. When asked if he’d have a World Series flashback while on the bump, he grinned wide and said, “I’m just hoping I get it there. I haven’t thrown a whole lot so I should probably start warming up.”