After a cold and wet start to the season, Major League Baseball finally sloshes into the Gateway City at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, when the Clydesdales take their first strut of the season around the warning track at Busch Stadium.
The St. Louis Cardinals are promising all of the traditional trimmings for their home-opening ceremonies: Motorcades will deliver the Hall of Famers and the 2018 team to home plate. There will be a color guard, a giant American flag at center field, and — weather permitting — a flyover by a KC-135 Stratotanker, an Air Force refueling aircraft.
The Redbirds opened the season on the road last week, and they’re starting their first homestand with a 3-3 record.
Cards right-hander Michael Wacha had been scheduled to take the mound against the Arizona Diamondbacks. But in a surprise move Wednesday evening, the Cardinals announced that 12-year veteran — and fan favorite — Adam Wainwright will return from the 10-day disabled list to pitch the home opener.
Weather forecasts for Thursday vary from partly sunny to mostly sunny, with temperatures in the mid-50s. But here's the best part: There's little or no chance of rain.
Get there early
As always, if you’re going to the home opener and want to be in your seat in time to take a cell-phone video of the Clydesdales, the Cardinals suggest that you arrive early. Because of the 6:15 game start, fans should be prepared for downtown traffic and construction at Ballpark Village.
“We’re opening gates at 3 o’clock to make sure fans have plenty of time to get in and not have to wait in those lines,’’ said Matt Gifford, vice president of stadium operations. “So, the earlier you get here, the better off you’ll be.”
All people entering the stadium must walk through metal detectors and have bags inspected. Gifford said fans have gotten used to the stadium’s magnetometers, which were installed in 2015. He expects the process to go smoothly.
“As the fans get more trained and our employees get more trained in the process, it really does make it efficient,’’ he said. “But on big days like opening day, the earlier you get here, the less you’ll have to wait in line.”
This year, fans will be allowed to bring ice packs and empty cups, empty mugs and empty plastic bottles into the stadium. Prohibited items include backpacks, alcohol, thermoses, hard-sided coolers, aluminum or glass cans or bottles, and commercial camera equipment.
A complete list of security rules are on the Cardinals website.
Opening Day schedule:
Noon: Pep rally at Ballpark Village.
3 p.m.: Gates open.
5:30 p.m.: The Budweiser Clydesdales kick off the pregame ceremonies, followed by the arrival of the Cardinals Hall of Famers.
5:50 p.m.: The 2018 St. Louis Cardinals will arrive by motorcade.
A color guard and presentation of U.S. flag in center field by service members from Scott Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood.
6:05 p.m.: National Anthem performed by Colleen Schoendienst, the daughter of Cardinals Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst.
6:07 p.m.: Flyover by KC-135 Stratotanker (weather permitting)
6:09 p.m.: The ceremonial first pitch will be a memorable one. Hall of Famer Bob Gibson will throw to his old catcher Tim McCarver in recognition of Gibson’s historic 1968 season. Gibson won 22 games that year and set a Major League record with his single season earned-run average of 1.12.
6:15 p.m.: First pitch
Follow Mary Delach Leonard on Twitter: @marydleonard