Crowds have been typically heavy at the annual three-day Winter Warmup, with fans snaking through long lines to pay triple-digit sums for an autograph from Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina or 2006 World Series star David Eckstein.
The Cardinals have been to the postseason five consecutive seasons. And though they couldn't catch the big free agent fish, they've added Mike Leake, Korean reliever Seung Hwan Oh and infielder Jedd Gyorko, plus Wainwright is back at full strength from a torn left Achilles.
''What a loyal fan base. You just couldn't ask for better,'' DeWitt, the team's chairman, said Sunday. ''It's always a fun time for me because it really sets the stage for spring training and I know talking to some of the players they're all excited.''
DeWitt said it's far too early to gauge potential punishment that could be levied by Major League Baseball stemming from former scouting director Chris Correa's recent guilty plea to hacking the Houston Astros' player database from 2011 to 2014. Nothing is anticipated until after Correa is sentenced April 11 - also the date of the home opener.
DeWitt said the team has been told by MLB that until it gets all information from the U.S. Attorney's office it won't be ''in a position to make any decision.''
''I think I have confidence in the commissioner doing the right thing, whatever that right thing is,'' DeWitt said. ''Some of the facts you know because there was a confession or a plea. What else they have and want to talk to the commissioner's office about, I don't know.''
DeWitt repeated past contentions that the case was a ''one-off'' that doesn't match with the Cardinals' philosophy.
''Look, it's a very competitive business, and we all want to beat the other team,'' DeWitt said. ''Everybody lives within the rules and tries to figure out what's going to give them the advantage, but that sort of activity is just not at all in the culture of Major League Baseball.''
Besides the pending penalty, which could involve draft picks and/or financial considerations, the 100-win Cardinals keep getting asked about being underdogs. The Cubs knocked them off in the NL Division Series and are perceived as having a younger core, largely thanks to Heyward's observation to that effect.
''Nobody likes being called old, right?'' the 33-year-old Wainwright said. ''Somebody has to get old, and if we're still playing and older it means we still have some ability.''
Molina also is 33 and coming off thumb surgery that could delay his start to the season. Outfielder Matt Holliday is 36 coming off an injury-interrupted season and entering the final year of his contract.
''The more and more people talk about that, the more we laugh,'' Wainwright said. ''I told my wife the other day, this is the most excited I've been about spring training since I can remember. I'm chomping at the bit to get back out there.''
''Look at the talent that came up last year for us and what they did,'' Wong said. ''All those guys, when they came up they did what they needed to do.''
Wainwright argues that the emerging talent now is superior to reinforcements that arrived after a three-year run that included two 100-win seasons and the '06 World Series title when Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and Eckstein aged. From 2007-10, the Cardinals missed the postseason three out of four years.
Wainwright is feeling refreshed, too, due to enforced inactivity after tearing his left Achilles last April. He pitched sparingly at the end of the season and in the playoffs.
''I'm not looking at the end yet,'' the 6-foot-7 right-hander said. ''Honestly, my arm greatly benefited last year from having that time to rest.''