ST. LOUIS -- It turns out that the Cardinals' World Series title isn't just good news for the baseball operations department. The annual Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up fan festival did bang-up business over the weekend, drawing an estimated 20,000 fans to downtown St. Louis.
That would be the largest turnout since the event moved to the Hyatt Regency and possibly the highest in the history of the event, according to Michael Hall, the head of Cardinals Care. Final attendance and fundraising totals aren't available yet, but Hall is confident that the 2012 Warm-Up topped last year's total of more than $700,000.
The Warm-Up formerly took place at the Millennium Hotel, a couple of blocks away. It moved to the Hyatt in 2010.
"This was definitely big," Hall said. "Since we've been at the Hyatt, this was the largest one that I think we've had. The crowds Saturday ... Typically, the crowds aren't as large as we had on Saturday. And Sunday was even bigger. And then the afternoon on Monday was huge as well, so we were very pleased with the turnout."
A championship season naturally helps turnout, but not everything went Cardinals Care's way. Superstar Albert Pujols, typically one of the event's biggest draws, has departed via free agency. And catcher Yadier Molina, one of the most popular remaining players, declined to attend.
That didn't stop fans, however. One positive development for Cardinals Care has been the advent of online ticketing for autograph sales. That allowed Hall and the organization to have a pretty good idea before the weekend even started how sales were going. And they went well.
Then there's the logistical side, which proved somewhat problematic in previous years. The first year in the new location brought its share of headaches, but those seemed to be minimized this time around.
"We had some hiccups the first year when we went to a new venue," Hall said. "But with us being there multiple years now, I thought that not only was this the largest crowd we've had there, but logistically everything went the smoothest that I've seen. ... I just think it went a lot more smooth than it was in the past."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.