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Ozarks Life: Celebrating 20 years of Springfield Cardinals baseball

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – On March 31, 2005, the inaugural Springfield Cardinals team arrived in the Queen City.

A few days later, on April 2, the St. Louis Cardinals helped christen Springfield’s new home, Hammons Field, with an exhibition game.

The current General Manager, Dan Reiter, has been with the team the entire time.

“They were gonna hire five sales staff,” Reiter said with a smile. “And I was hired number six. And honestly, I had a pretty big chip on my shoulder just, I’m competitive. And I wanted to prove that I should have been one of their first five hires.”

Like Dan, there’s been a passion second to none at Hammons Field. From that first day, the Springfield Cardinals have been stitched into our fabric like the iconic Birds on the Bat.

The Greatest Cardinal off them all, Stan ‘The Man’ Musial threw out the ceremonial first pitch to the delight of a huge crowd.

The first true star the Springfield Cardinals had in 2005 was former Major League pitcher, Rick Ankiel, who was restarting his career.

“When Ankiel arrived,” Reiter said, “everyone was curious, because it was a national story. How is this pitcher going to convert to an outfielder?”

The year of firsts in 2005 included the team’s first bobblehead promotional giveaway.

“When you start a promotional schedule, so much of it is based on players that have gone through or are on the team,” Reiter said, “and we were starting nothing. And so really, Ned Reynolds was that connection for a lot of people to sports. And so that really made a lot of sense for our first bobblehead.”

Eventually, great players would have their bobbleheads. The first big prospect to come through town was Colby Rasmus in 2007.

“I can always remember Colby Rasmus being the first player that I noticed that played the game different,” Reiter recalled.

After Rasmus, many stars came through the Ozarks.

Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras won the Texas League MVP in back-to-back years in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Kolten Wong, Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes, Sandy Alcantara, Jack Flaherty, Harrison Bader, Paul DeJong, MSU’s Luke Voit, and most recently, Masyn Winn and Jordan Walker all called Springfield home for a bit.

But who the first Springfield Cardinal to win a World Championship?

That honor goes to Springfield’s Josh Kinney in 2006.

As for the Springfield Cardinals, their lone Texas League title came in 2012.

And as high as the team was then, by the end of the decade, some worried about the Spring-Birds future.

“It was tough, and it was horrible,” Reiter admitted.

You had COVID, then Major League Baseball buying Minor League Baseball. Stadiums had to meet certain requirements to keep their teams and Hammons Field was lacking in many areas.

“And it was a horrible time,” Reiter said, “but you also saw the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The beacon was the City of Springfield who stepped up to buy Hammons Field from a bankruptcy limbo.

“I think the most important day in our team’s history was the announcement that the team was coming and number two was the City of Springfield buying the stadium,” Reiter said.

And here we are, it’s time for baseball again.

Who knows what we’ll see this summer?

The late Lou Brock was here for a first pitch, who’s the next legend?

Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina rehabbed injuries here and no doubt a Major Leaguer will come through in 2024.

But as Dan Reiter says, while it’s fun to watch who’s on the field it’s those off of it who really matter.

“The number of people that have come through here that have been ticket takers, ushers field crew, the Team Louie, and it’s all of them make that experience for the fans,” Reiter said. “And I think it’s a thank you to all the people who made it happen. It’s also a thank you to all the fans.”

As for the future of Hammons Field, the city and the Cardinals want to make Hammons Field more than just a baseball stadium. They’re launching a concert series at the ballpark. The first performance is set for May 31 when former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, Adam Wainwright, comes to town.