They came by the hundreds, braving the cold, decked out in brilliant red jerseys, T-shirts, sweaters, and jackets and by the time all were seated in the "red" chair seats at Marion Cultural & Civic Center Sunday afternoon it was readily apparent that there were very few Cubs fans in the crowd.
Several hundred fans packed the MCCC to ask questions and get autographs of some of their favorite St. Louis Cardinals baseball players of both today and yesteryear.
This year Marion was a stop for the popular winter Cardinal caravans that traverse the tri-state area each winter.
Cardinals players Tyler O'Neill, Ryan Helsley, Andrew Knizner, and Seth Elledge were joined by alumni Rick Ankiel and Kerry Robinson in Marion and broadcaster Polo Ascencio.
Fredbird was there as well, eliciting shrieks of joyful laughter from the younger ones in the audience.
Carson Shipley, Multimedia Communications Coordinator for the Redbirds and said the reaction here is typical of what the players experience throughout most of the caravan.
"The fans really enjoy this experience and so do the players," he said.
The Marion stop was just one of the 20-stop schedule for the National League Central champs, coming off a 91-71 season that ended at the hands of the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals.
Admission was free, with the first 400 fans through the door, ages 15 and under, receiving an autograph ticket that guaranteed them one autograph from each current and former player at the event.
Of note was the loud roar and cheers of approval for two of the players that were introduced as walked onto the stage, Tyler O'Neill and former Redbird pitcher turned outfielder Rick Ankiel.
That thunderous welcome from the crowd put a big smile on each of their faces.
The Cardinals will open their 2020 season on the road with a three-game series at Cincinnati against the division rival Reds beginning on Mar. 26, the earliest in franchise history, followed by a three-game series at Milwaukee. The home opener for the Redbirds is set for Apr. 2 against the Baltimore Orioles, the first for the Cards against an American League opponent.