According to team President Mark Lamping, 3,020,500 of 3,531,377 tickets available -- or nearly 85 percent of tickets available for the 2006 season -- already have been spoken for. And those remaining are expected to go fast when they go on sale in a week.Sidney Ponson has begun the long road to recovery:
"The opening of new Busch Stadium means the demand for Cardinals tickets, and the scarcity of tickets, have never been greater in the history of the ballclub," Lamping said. "If fans decide to spend some of their hard-earned money to attend games, they need to plan ahead and buy them early or they might be disappointed."
For the first half of the season, the new ballpark will hold 40,713 spectators. By July 13, it should be up to full capacity with room for 46,861. But record season ticket sales have eaten up 27,500 seats to each game already. Group tickets, multi-game plans, party room and picnic area tickets as well as complimentary seats and tickets the Cardinals are required to set aside for players, umpires and baseball dignitaries account for another 9,788 seats per game, on average. That's 37,288 people filing through the turnstiles every time the Cardinals take the field.
Everything is new in 2006 for the 6-foot-1, 250-pound right-hander. Not allowed to drive, he is shuffled to and from camp, first by a longtime friend and former Aruban police officer and now by a cousin. He has grown out his brown, curly hair and sideburns after years of shaving his head.Speaking of pitching, there is a nice article on Jason "Izzy" Isringhausen:
And he is pitching for his career.
"I think it's a good situation for both of us," La Russa said. "We can always use a good, quality pitcher and we have a good supporting cast for him.
"This gives him a real shot, but the key is personal responsibility. At some point, Sidney is going to have to carry this responsibility himself. We're not going to lock him up after the game."
Ponson will compete with rookies Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright for the fifth spot.
"If he puts his head straight, I'm telling you he's going to help us out a lot," said Albert Pujols, the NL's reigning MVP.
And Ponson is willing to accept any role, even if it means pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in his career. Ponson has seen how the Cardinals, and pitching coach Dave Duncan, have helped revive the careers of starters Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan.
"They asked me where I was with my problems. I told them I'm taking care of my problems. I'm going to put everything in the past," Ponson said. "I told them I'm not going to be drinking anymore. I told them sincerely I'm done with drinking. I'm not going to do it."
"He'd look at the scoreboard to see 99 (mph), then turn around and look at us," said Cardinals lefthander Mark Mulder, Isringhausen's A's teammate in 2000 and 2001. "He'd look in the dugout at me and (fellow starting pitcher Tim) Hudson. He'd also maybe walk the bases loaded, then strike the next three guys out. Obviously, he's become more efficient. He's different. Izzy's not the same as when he first started doing it."
His fifth spring training with the Cardinals represents something different to Isringhausen. He reached camp in shape, in control of his mechanics and pain-free. The preceding seasons in St. Louis included two operations and a realization that less can be more.
"I probably don't throw as hard as I once did. But then again I don't have to," Isringhausen said. "I used to check the gun every pitch to see where I was. That was pretty much it: how hard I could throw it."
Rebuilding the bullpen represents one of the biggest tasks facing the Cardinals this spring. Fretting about the closer is not a part of the mix.
"He got himself into great shape coming into camp," said manager Tony La Russa. "He's not in a situation where he has to slow this down or that down."