It may be the dead of winter, but baseball is already on the minds of thousands of mid-Missouri St. Louis Cardinals fans.
Thatâ??s because this yearâ??s Cardinal Caravan is passing through this weekend.
Fans flocked to last yearâ??s caravan as the Cardinals came off a World Series win with the World Series MVP David Freese here in mid-Missouri.
This year, things are a little bit calmer, but the fans are just as excited about their team. This yearâ??s Cardinal Caravan has Tom Lawless, Fernando Salas, Jordan Swaggerty, John Jay, Joe Kelly, Ray King and announcer John Rooney.
Mexico third grader Sam Adair said meeting the Cardinal players in person was a dream come true. His favorite player is outfielder John Jay.
â??He makes incredible catches," Sam said. "Heâ??ll flip over and catch them. Heâ??ll run through the wall and catch them.â??
Mexico fifth grader Madilynn Walker got her ball signed by John Jay, as well as Cardinal Alumni Tom Lawless and Ray King.
â??They are an awesome ball team," Madilynn said. "I'm one of their biggest fans.â??
There were autographs for kids and Cardinals prize drawings. Hundreds packed the Missouri Military Academy Gymtorium for a Cardinal pep rally.
Cardinal outfielder John Jay said, â??Cardinal Nation isnâ??t just in St. Louis. It branches out further. You get that appreciation from the fans.â??
Cardinal pitcher Joe Kelly added, â??I didnâ??t know how far Cardinal Nation spread out. Just being here so far, itâ??s pretty special.â??
Cardinal announcer John Rooney said, â??Cardinal fans are great. They turn out at the caravan stops year after year. They have a lot of enthusiasm. This is really the beginning of the baseball season for all of us.â??
The Cardinals have a new autograph policy this year.
Only the first 400 children ages 15 and under can get a free autograph ticket, which guarantees one autograph from each current and former player.
Last year, hundreds of Cardinal fans were disappointed in Jefferson City because of a lack of space.
Cardinal Caravan organizers had to turn fans away from last yearâ??s event in the Capital City because there wasnâ??t enough room for everyone.
The Caravan will be in Columbia and Moberly on Saturday. It will be at The Crossing in Columbia at 12 p.m. and the Moberly Municipal Auditorium at 6 p.m.