Here are some spring training photos, courtesy of the great Redbird Central.
Unfortunately, none of the photos on that website come with a story.
So, fresh off their trip to the Holy Land, I had to re-dispatch the Scottius Maximus Enterprises crack team of reporters to Jupiter, Florida, to find out the stories behind the photos. No thanks are necessary.
Our first photo involves Tony LaRussa's old friend and ex-Dallas Cowboy head coach Bill Parcells. Why is Parcells in camp? While most of you are probably thinking he is there to give a motivational speech, or to be LaRussa's "second" in a duel with Scott Rolen (although the Rolen-LaRussa feud is now reported as resolved), you'd be wrong on both accounts.
He's actually here to organize this:
That's right, The St. Louis Cardinals Chorus Line. Rumor has it that Bill is a huge Broadway show fan. And while he has a reputation as being a great NFL coach, he has an even bigger talent as a choreography coach. He's trying to get the Cardinals ready for an opening day 7th inning stretch show, a salute to the 2006 World Series Champions. Kick those legs up, boys.
Sometimes when a team wins a National League Pennant, or a World Series, they begin to think they can do more than they actually can. Witness the above. And witness this:
Yadier Molina is catching this year without a glove. When asked why, he was quite convinced it would make him a better catcher. "I'd be the only one in the majors doing it," he said confidently. "I'm already the best defensive catcher in the National League. This way, I'll be able to catch and throw in one motion. Just see how many runners I pick off or catch stealing this year."
When reminded of Scott Rolen's near disastrous efforts to play third base with his teeth when he forgot his glove during Spring Training two years ago, Yadi was incredulous. "I'm not playing with my teeth. You think I'm stupid?"
Yadi is not the only one playing without standard equipment. Albert Pujols has caught the hubris bug also. He has been taking batting practice sans bat. He is taking his swings with his right hand.
"If I am good at this, I may eventually do away with the stick permanently," said Pujols. "I seem to pick up the ball better this way. And my swing speed is much faster without the bat."
Pujols could just pull it off, because...well, he is Pujols. Unfortunately, other less talented hitters, are trying their luck with his new technique:
Yes, that is reliever Josh McKinney, who is carrying his right arm back to the dugout after he broke off it off at the shoulder from swinging too hard. The arm went sailing off his shoulder half way to the pitchers mound. Batting practice coach Whip Willis added, "I've seen a lot in my day, had balls flying at my head, pieces of broken bats...but I ain't never seen no arm." Kinney will be flown back to St. Louis on Thursday to have it reattached.
One could call McKinney careless, but that word would be an understatement if used to describe what veteran shortstop and World Series MVP David Eckstein is doing. Eckstein, still bothered by a strained muscle on his torso dating back to last fall, has incorporated a new training technique to help him overcome the pain in his side.
Yes, it's true folks. Our hero, under the tutelage of the Cardinals new trainer Master Po, is overcoming the pain in his side...by bashing himself in the back of the head with a bat. Or two.
Eckstein says, "I really don't feel the pain anymore, as long as I crack myself a couple of good ones to start the day. Master Po thinks I'll be ready for opening day."
Here's Eckstein after starting the day with a particularly vigorous workout with the bat:
"Those aren't tears," insists Eckstein. "They're what Master Po calls 'cosmic toxicity' which has built up in my side muscles. It must be beaten out through the eyes."
Inspired by Master Po's training methods, Albert Pujols even went and shaved his head.
Other Cardinals, including manager Tony LaRussa, are considering what is now called "The Po" as a new look for a new season.
The oddest thing of all, however, has to be what the following photos reveal. First visible in an afternoon photo of Eckstein's exercises. To the untrained eye it just looks like Eckstein taking a couple whacks at the top of his head. But if you look closely, you can see, in the top left hand corner of the picture, a floating spherical object in the sky.
Early the next day, a similar, possibly the same, object was seen in the sky during So Taguchi's warm up exercises.
Folks, there is no other explanation but a UFO. The Cardinals camp is being visited by extra-terrestrials. Probably by virtue of being World Champions.
The UFO didn't go unnoticed.
Outfielder Preston Wilson was the first to see the object hovering in the sky, and was quick to point it out to the rest of his teammates:
"Looky there, I said to Coach (Dave) McKay. What is that thing?" said Wilson.
The rest of the Cardinals also caught a glimpse of it and were quick to join Wilson in admiring its awe inspiring maneuvers.
Aaron Miles also caught a glimpse.
"The weird thing is, it almost looked somewhat like a baseball. Maybe its a message of peace from elsewhere in the universe," remarked the bewildered Miles.
But Cardinals spring training instructor, 86 year old George Kissell, is not preparing for peace.
"If those varmints come anywhere near me," Kissell said, "I'll savage them. We don't take kindly to invasions where I'm from."
Once the media got word of the visit, the place was crawling with reporters. But by then the aliens had disappeared.
"I guess it just is part of being World Champions," Eckstein reassured everyone. "From across the Universe, everyone, and everything, wants to be a part of it. This same thing happened when I was with Anaheim in 2003."
That's quite reassuring.
With all the weirdness going on in Florida this spring, it should be an interesting year.