For new Cards, Opening Day in St. Louis is a spectacle to behold

Cardinals reliever Pat Neshek has seen a St. Louis home opener from the other side, and he can attest that it is like no other.

A wet Opening Day didn't keep the Cardinals' faithful from showing up Monday.

Jeff Curry / USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS -- Ten of the 25 Cardinals on the active roster have not experienced the spectacle that is Opening Day at Busch Stadium, at least not as a member of the home team.

But one of the newbies, reliever Pat Neshek, was with the Padres when they opened here three years ago, and he says no place is like Busch Stadium.

"It's the biggest celebration I've seen for Opening Day," Neshek said a couple of hours before Monday afternoon's festivities. "It was nuts. We walked over (from the Westin) and there were people camping out. The whole city just shut down. And the next day, we had an off day, it was like a ghost town."

As an opponent, Neshek appreciated seeing the Clydesdales make their appearance (who were rained out for this one) and thought it was cool when the red-jacketed Hall of Famers were introduced to the crowd. As for when the actual Cardinals passed by, well, that was a little more lighthearted.

"We threw gum at them," Neshek said. "I hope they don't throw gum at us (Monday)."

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As a footnote: Neshek picked up the win in his previous Opening Day at Busch when the Padres pulled out a 5-3 victory in 11 innings.

Another Cardinal at his first Opening Day in St. Louis, Keith Butler, actually saw something similar in the minor leagues. At Class AA Springfield, the players are driven around the park in trucks before introductions.

"They do a really good job there of making everything as close as possible to St. Louis," Butler said. "The first pitches, the jerseys we get to wear. I think that's why they had the trucks on Opening Day."

Butler wasn't buying the experience in Springfield would prepare him for St. Louis, though. As much as Hammonds Field tries to replicate Busch, there's something that it can't match: A crowd of 40,000-plus.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.