When last the faithful at Busch Stadium saw young Kolten Wong there wasn’t a procession of trucks bringing players around to home plate or Hall of Famers there to greet them, and the only championship trophy present was the one slipping out of the Cardinals’ reach.
Wong was picked off first base to end Game 4 of the World Series, and there he stayed for what seemed an eternity, on his knees and head down. He didn’t return to that field again until Monday’s opening day, when as he rode in the traditional parade around the warning track, this time as a starter, he had his head up and saw the opportunity he craved all winter.

This was a second chance to make a first impression.

Back home for the first time this season, the defending National League champions lined up their recent trophies near home plate before first pitch and then lined up the reasons after it why they’re favorites to contend again.

Catcher Yadier Molina delivered a three-run double in the first inning to spur the Cardinals to a 5-3 victory against Cincinnati. In front of a crowd of 47,492, the largest ever at Busch III, including the postseason and All-Star Game, Michael Wacha pitched six solid innings in the first home opener of his career. Peter Bourjos and Matt Adams had two hits each in their first home openers as Cardinal starters. And though his day wasn’t packed with statistics, Wong’s influence spread through the game. He reached base twice, stole second, stole a hit late and had a heads-up play in the first inning that Wacha called pivotal. Impressions abound.

“I definitely wanted to put a better taste in fans’ mouths than what they got from last year,” Wong said. “I definitely wanted to put my best foot forward and show them that I’m the kind of player who is going to grind out every inning. That’s how I’ve been raised to play. That’s what I can offer this game. I wanted to make sure I showed that, and I started playing like that.”

The Cardinals reached Busch Stadium at 3-3 having spent the first week of the regular season on the road, dodging thunderstorms. They brought some sogginess back as neither team could take batting practice on the field because of rain. The clouds didn’t even part when the club’s red-jacketed Hall of Famers arrived. The Clydesdales’ annual clomp was cancelled, and the first few innings were played in a drizzle.