(VIDEO)-The Patriarch of professional Peoria baseball relishes Opening Day.
Pete Vonachen arrived at Peoria Chiefs Stadium an hour and a half before the first game of the season. He immediately surveyed the stadium concourse and was all smiles.
Vonachen is pleased the Chiefs are again flying under the flag of the St. Louis Cardinals. He says he has no problem with the Cubs decision to pull out last year, because it was a "business" decision, and nothing personal.
Fans were lined up outside Peoria Chiefs Stadium well before the gates opened Thursday evening. Vonachen was thrilled to see that. Vonachen says he hopes the fans support the now Cardinals affiliate this year, and come out to enjoy all the fun the Chiefs organization works hard at providing.
Pete was asked what his best friend, the late Harry Carey would think of this year's switch from Cubs to Cardinals affiliation. He says even though Harry became synonymous with the Cubs, Pete says Harry was still a big fan of the Cardinals.
And, when you talk with Pete, he still brings his "A" game.
For example, he was reminded about the time the Midwest League suspended him for a dozen games when the club still played at Meinen Field. Not to be stopped, Pete sat on top of the team's clubhouse outside the park, so he could still view the games. Pete says the team sold more tickets just to see him on the roof of the clubhouse, so he made more money during that time.
As for a comment about the statue of Pete and a youngster just inside the entrance of the downtown stadium, he quipped that Saddam Hussein also had a statue.
When told he is a Peoria legend, Pete said, "yeah, but so was Al Capone.
It's always fun with Pete at the old ball park.