"I've heard a lot about you guys wanting to get me to a World Series," Carlos Beltran said. "I really appreciate that, and I expect a lot from you guys. Now let's go get it done."
And just like that, the party was on. Players screamed. Champagne corks popped. Beer poured. Music blared.
It's a common scene in October and one that's becoming a habit for a Cardinals team that is making its fourth World Series appearance since 2004. But this scene in particular has eluded Beltran. He's been to the postseason many times, with several teams. But Beltran had never won a pennant.
Beltran, and the Cardinals, are going to the World Series, and while many on this team have done this before, experience didn't dull the celebration. It was loud, wet and chaotic, mirroring the scene on the field as the Cards clinched in front of their hometown fans. The fans in the stands went nuts, players' families rushed onto the field, and platforms were frantically rolled out in anticipation of the trophy presentation. All as the skies opened up and poured on Busch Stadium.
The rain was largely ignored, and the show went on. As "Taking Care of Business" blared on the loudspeakers, Bill Giles presented the Warren C. Giles Trophy to chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt, general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny.
"I can't even get my head around what's happened here," Matheny said.
Matheny had plenty of time to think about it, though. There was little intrigue attached to Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, not after the Cardinals scored four in the third inning and another five in the fifth. Couple that with Michael Wacha's domination of the Dodgers, who amassed two hits and didn't score, and the final frames of this game were less about nerves and anxiety and more about wondering how much longer they'd have to wait for the inevitable.
It made the Cards' Game 5 loss in Los Angeles irrelevant and actually somewhat appreciated by a team that was grateful to seal the deal at home.
"Coming back here and doing it in front of our home fans, we gave them another game to watch at Busch Stadium. Seeing that confetti on the field, getting that big platform out there, getting that trophy presented in front of our home fans, that's a special moment," Adam Wainwright said. "I don't think the L.A. fans would have liked it that much."
Watching from the dugout, Wainwright said as soon as the Cardinals scored their first four runs, he just started counting down.
"As a guy on the bench, it's a lot more nerve-racking than when you're playing," Wainwright said. "I just wanted to start counting outs. Every out we got, I'd say, 'All right, 16 more outs to go. Twelve more outs to go.' Once you start getting into single digits, then you start really getting excited."
Not yet in
With Carlos Beltran advancing to the World Series for the first time in his career, the following is a list of active players who've played in the most regular-season games without appearing in the Fall Classic.
Despite the 9-0 final score, there were still nerves attached as the game progressed. DeWitt, noting the Dodgers are "an explosive team," took nothing for granted until Trevor Rosenthal's final pitch was safely tucked into catcher Yadier Molina's glove.
The battery mates embraced, fireworks shot off beyond the outfield, the white-towel-waving crowd went wild, and Fredbird sprinted back and forth in front of the home dugout, waving a Cards flag. Wainwright got a hold of a copy of Saturday morning's front page, which screamed in bold letters "NL Champs" -- an image that was plastered on the enormous Busch Stadium video board.
Clearly, there was no mistaking who came out on top in this series. Celebrating in St. Louis, DeWitt said, was the icing on the proverbial cake.
"You look at the fans, and they're so good, they're so respectful and they're so passionate about the Cardinals," DeWitt said. "We were second in attendance, behind the Dodgers. If you consider the difference in markets, it's pretty remarkable."
Inside the clubhouse, it was fitting that it was Beltran who kicked off the raucous celebration. Much of the talk surrounded the 36-year-old veteran and his 16 years of Major League experience -- without a World Series appearance.
That's all about to change.
"I feel like a winner right now," Beltran said. "Being able to turn the page and being able to get to this position, I feel like a winner. I know at the end of the day, we're going to fight. We're going to battle, we're going to get there. We're going to compete hard and we're going to try to get it done."
Pausing, he broke out in an ear-to-ear grin.
"If we win it or not," Beltran said, "I can say, I was there."