Big Mac is Back in Camp

JUPITER, Fla. (SCN Monday, February 22, 1999) - Royalty usually needs the sound of a trumpet to announce their return.

The crown jewel of the St. Louis Cardinals announced his return with the loud crack of his bat.

Two days ahead of schedule, Mark McGwire arrived in Cardinals camp Monday.

After traveling by private jet Sunday night, Cardinals co-owner David Pratt, who owns the jet, personally escorted McGwire in Monday morning to the Cardinals' spring training facility.

After hanging up pictures on his locker of his son, Matthew, and Pope John Paul II, whom he met in St. Louis last month, McGwire chatted with teammates, worked in the weight room and made some noise in the batting cage. He then played table tennis with some other players on a new table set up in the clubhouse earlier in the day, then left.

"We hope the people in St. Louis, and here, will give him some space, let him go to a restaurant, go to the mall," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I'm betting on the people in St. Louis. He's their guy. I can't imagine anyone would do anything to hurt him."

McGwire, who set the home run record last season by hitting 70, did not speak with reporters. The Cardinals have scheduled a news conference for Wednesday after the team's first full-squad workout of the spring.

McGwire was expected to join in a team party Monday night at a local restaurant to watch an episode of the TV show "Mad About You." McGwire plays himself in the episode.

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