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Busch gets its own spring training

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 2, 2009 - Cardinals players and coaches spend the spring down in sunny south Florida getting into playing form. At the same time, in not-so-warm St. Louis, the rest of the Cardinals family works to get something else in shape: Busch Stadium.

On a recent late-March afternoon, water pooled on tarps that covered the infield dirt and pitcher's mound. Even at this early stage the grounds crew takes great care to make sure the dirt stays level.

The grass, which had welcomed the shower, is another point of pride. "This is the same grass from when the field opened," grounds keeper Ivory Mobile said. The new Busch gets a lot more air circulation than the old, and that means the grass can survive.

Not everything stays so consistent.

For Bill Findley, each spring is spent repainting the signs around the stadium - most by hand. Today, Findley kneels on top of the home dugout. Using an old food can as a paint bucket Findley finishes off the Cardinals bird-with-a-bat logo. Each year, he repaints all of the logos on top of the dugout.

"After 2006, we had to move the pennants," Findley said. But, he also said that was not such a bad thing. "I wish they would run out of room up here," he added.

Painters like Findley are not the only union members to call Busch Stadium home. Union electricians, mechanics and carpenters all have offices there that they work from. In fact, much of the stadium below the seats is taken up by offices: public relations, management and advertising are all in house.

There are no Cardinals offices in other buildings.

Craig Wilson, Cardinals production manager of scoreboards, designs and advertising, runs one of these many offices. In front of a huge array of computer monitors and television screens, Wilson and his crew of 16 are in charge of everything that appears on the stadium's screens. They also create much of the teams advertising. "We create 95 percent of all the graphic design," Wilson said. 

Getting ready for the season is a lot like a massive spring cleaning, said Jaren Odom, an assistant in media relations. All of the stadiums lights much be checked, every seat must be cleaned and deteriorating seats must be replaced.

But spring cleaners will not find any cobwebs. The stadium is busy year round with tours, events and CAPS, a baseball and geography program for kids.

Weddings and events can be booked for 10 to 2,000 people, and wedding ceremonies can be held on the field at home plate.

"Each day different things are going on around the stadium," Odom said. 

One thing has stayed the same at Busch Stadium, Clarence Holmes.

For 15 years, Holmes has manned the front desk at both stadiums. He is the first person you would see coming in and the last person before leaving. Homes' duties include guarding the front desk, but his top priority seems to be greeting people with his smile.

"Everybody sees Clarence," Odom said.

Brett Lohmeyer is a student at St. Louis Community College at Meramec and an intern with the Beacon. 

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