On Opening Day at Busch Stadium, one particular player will hop into the bed of a Ford truck and begin the drive along the warning track to be dropped off at the home dugout. As his name is announced 40,000 people will look around, shrug their shoulders, and say "WHO?"
That's because every season, the Cardinals break camp with one guy you've never heard of: The Cardinals Hipster.
A few recent examples:
2011: Bryan Augenstein - Augentein had a brief cup of coffee with the Diamondbacks in 2009 and was mainly known for good minor league peripherals when he was signed by the Cardinals to a minor league deal. He impressed the Cardinals enough in Spring Training to make the Opening Day 25 man roster, only to throw 5.2 innings the entire season.
2010: Allen Craig - Long before he was a World Series hero, Craig had a reputation as a hitter without a position. Making the team in 2010, Craig was mainly used as a pinch hitter, where from Opening Day until April 24th he had one single and two walks in 20 PAs. His BaBIP during that stretch was an unimaginable .077. He was sent down to Memphis and the local media and a large percentage of the fanbase decided he was nothing more than a glorified John Gall/AAAA-player who didn't have the mental toughness to be a successful pinch hitter in the Majors. Thank God those people are idiots.
2009: Joe Thurston - Thurston had been a fill in player with the Dodgers and Red Sox before signing a minor league deal and making the the team with the Cardinals in 2009. He somehow managed to get 307 PAs that season, despite hitting .225/.316/.330, being a terrible fielder, and being one of the worst baserunners this side of Ryan Theriot. He was out of baseball in 2010, but randomly appeared in one game for the Marlins in 2011.
2008: Rico Washington - A feel good story, Rico had been in the Minors for eleven seasons before finally making the big leagues with the Cardinals. He appeared in fourteen games, finished the year in Memphis and was out of baseball the next year. Washington doubled in his final Plate Appearance, following the George Costanza advice of going out on top.
2007: Because Walt Jocketty re-signed the entire 2006 team to nine year extensions, there was no Cardinals Hipster in 2007. Preston Wilson would be the closest, just because everyone had forgotten that he was on the team in 2006.
2006: Ricardo Rincon - Rincon had been around forever, but not for the Cardinals, so nobody here really cared about him. Signing a 36 year old relief pitcher is normally a bad idea, and it was here, as Rincon had a ERA+ of 45 in only 3.1 IP. He was out of baseball in 2007, but had a cup of coffee with the Mets in 2008. Amazingly, he was still pitching in AAA in 2011.
2005: Einar Diaz - I hate so much about this person. We're moving on.
2004: Hector Luna - Hector Luna! Luna was a Rule 5 draft pick who lasted the entire year for the Cardinals, playing five different positions and having an OBP ~.300. It was like having Jose Oquendo back! He had a perfectly cromulent 2005 and was traded for Ronnie Belliard late in the 2006 campaign. He's bounced around the league since then and spent 2011 in AAA for the Red Sox.
2003: Lance Painter - Painter had already been in the Majors for over a decade, and even played for the Cardinals in 1997 and 1998. The problem was he was completely forgettable to begin with and was actually out of the game in 2002. When he made his triumphant return the next season, nobody really gave a shit. Or knew who he was.
Who will be this year's Cardinals Hipster? The early money is on Erik Komatsu, a 24 year old outfielder picked up in this winter's Rule V Draft. He's hit .302/.389/.434 in 348 MiLB games and has shown solid but not spectacular defense from the corners.
Chances are you've never heard of him, though.