St. Louis' tradition not lost on Rockies

St. Louis' tradition not lost on Rockies

ST. LOUIS -- Opening Day at Busch Stadium is special for a player, even if he's wearing purple pinstripes instead of the birds on the bat.

"This place is rich in tradition, history," said Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, the only current Rockies player on the roster for the other time the club spent Opening Day in St. Louis, at the old Busch Stadium. "It's like a holiday here. It makes it a special place to open up the baseball stadium.

"They bring out their former players, and it's always nice to see them."

The 2002 opener, a 10-2 Cardinals victory, was even more special because Hall of Famer Stan Musial played the national anthem on his harmonica. Monday's forecast calls for showers, and even if it isn't raining the day is expected to be overcast. BUt if it's nice enough, then Musial may make an appearance.

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle looks forward to the pomp that goes with a Cardinals Opening Day. As a player, Hurdle was with the Reds in 1982 back when baseball insisted that club play the first game of the season at home. He also was with the Cardinals to begin the 1986 campaign.

Hurdle said the memory "draws you to a college football mentality, because there's so much red, a sea of red. The fans are vocal and passionate, and also knowledgeable. You can't say that about every venue you go to. They brought out the Clydesdales, the players were bandied around in cars, there was a lot of pomp and circumstance that went with it. It's cool."

The only Rockies player who has had the full Cardinals Opening Day treatment -- complete with being driven onto the field in a Ford Mustang convertible -- is right-handed pitcher Kip Wells, who experienced it last year as the Cardinals were coming off their 2006 World Series title.

"It was a little different for me because I wasn't with the team the year before," Wells said. "But it was emotional, something nice to experience."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.