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Opening Day 2015: Cards roll out tradition with all the trimmings

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio
It's not spring until the Clydesdales say it is.

The Redbirds are back, and it’s about time.

Because it just isn’t spring in St. Louis until Cardinals and Clydesdales are sighted at Busch Stadium.

After opening the season with a week-long road trip to Chicago and Cincinnati, the 2014 National League Central Division champs will be home Monday afternoon to take on the Milwaukee Brewers.

The theme of the Opening Day ceremony is “Tradition Meets Today,” and the Cards are rolling out all of the expected traditions. The Budweiser Clydesdales will get things started with their annual high-stepping around the warning track, followed by motorcades of Cardinals Hall of Famers and the 2015 team. The schedule is below.

Of course, the best tradition is a winning one, and the Cards will have their ace on the mound. Thanks to a postponed game last week because of rain in the Windy City, Adam Wainwright gets a rare twofer: He pitched the season opener -- a win against the Chicago Cubs -- and is now slated to pitch the home opener. Matt Garza is scheduled to pitch for the Brewers.

New security: Be an early bird

Fans will find some changes at the stadium, including the big one: walk-through metal detectors at every gate.

The Cardinals are advising fans to allow extra time for the security screening and to be prepared: Have tickets in hand and bags ready for inspections. Unlike the airport, people won’t have to take off belts and shoes, but cell phones, keys and glasses will have to be removed from pockets during the screening. Gates 1 and 6 usually have shorter lines, so you might give those a try.

For a more detailed look at the ramped-up security measures, see our previous story.

The detectors were installed in response to a new Major League Baseball policy that requires everyone entering stadiums to be screened.

Be advised, the detectors contributed to lengthy lines for fans entering Busch Stadium for the U.S. women’s soccer game on April 4. They also created opening day bottlenecks at stadiums in some other cities. 

 “Walking tacos” and a new scoreboard

Among the other changes at Busch Stadium:

* A new Trivision scoreboard in center field

* The re-numbering of bleacher seats to reflect their location on the first level of the ballpark. Bleacher sections are now numbered in the 100s instead of the 500s.

* Gates will now open 1½ hours before Monday-Thursday games and two hours before Friday-Sunday games.

* New food items include “walking tacos” that will be vended inside the stadium. For more on the new snacks, check in Monday for our story on this season's ballpark food.

Opening Day schedule

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Pre-game pep rally in the Ballpark Village parking lot. Fredbird will be on hand giving away tickets and prizes. Fans can have their pictures taken with a  Clydesdale, weather-permitting.

1:15 p.m. – Stadium gates open.

2:30 p.m. – Pre-game ceremonies begin. The Clydesdales will pull the beer wagon around the warning track followed by a motorcade of Hall of Famers. The 2014 entrants into St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame – Jim Edmonds, Willie McGee and Mike Shannon -- will be introduced from the dugout. The 2015 Cardinals will then arrive via motorcade.

There will be a tribute to outfielder Oscar Taveras, who died in a car crash in the Dominican Republic last October, following his first season with the Cardinals. There will also be a moment of silence for Taveras and for sportswriter Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who died in December.

The ceremonial first pitch will be thrown by McGee to Ozzie Smith.

3:15 – Game time.

If you can’t be there: The game and Opening Day festivities will be televised on Fox Sports Midwest. Mike Shannon and John Rooney will call the game on KMOX. 

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.