By Jeff Jones

Twitter – @jmjones

JUPITER — Many Cardinal fans have spent this week expressing their belief that there’s not much that offers more romance than the sound of baseballs popping in mitts to signal the end of winter.

For the Cardinals themselves – and their partners – romance itself might take a little more effort than a game of catch.

It’s not that the collective wives and girlfriends of the Cardinal players aren’t in love with the game as well as their significant others, of course. But when you’re a major league player staring down the hectic barrel of another long spring of workouts and another long season of significant time away from home, it can be difficult to make sure that everyone feels valued.

“Just always too busy, right?,” asked outfielder Tyler O’Neill. “One of the busier times of the year, so we just don’t go out on Valentine’s Day.”

His girlfriend, Stephanie, is here in Florida, traveling down with Tyler “pretty much every year.” O’Neill says the two will go out for a nice dinner but otherwise keep the evening low key.

Top catching prospect Andrew Knizner plans to be alone on Valentine’s Day. His girlfriend, Ally, is a Miami Dolphins cheerleader who’s currently in California recruiting candidates to join the squad. This year, at least, Knizner has a little bit of clarity.

“We started dating last year in spring training, but it was still kind of new at Valentine’s Day, so this will be the first real Valentine’s Day,” he said. She was out of the country last year, so he was able to avoid the awkwardness of defining holiday expectations in a fresh relationship. This year, he says he has a trick or two up his sleeve.

“I got a couple things set up,” Knizner teased. “I don’t wanna…”

And he paused.

“She’s gonna read about it for Valentine’s Day. I’m not gonna spill any beans yet.”

Adam Wainwright will also be without his partner – his wife Jenny – on Valentine’s Day, but he certainly won’t be alone. While his wife travels, his four daughters are here with him in Florida, and according to Wainwright, they’re looking forward to a daddy-daughter day.

“We’re just gonna go to dinner,” Wainwright said. “I’ve got ‘em flowers.”

His wife and girls have been down at spring training on February 14th in every year that Wainwright could remember. “This,” he said, “is the first year that my wife is not here.”

Thankfully, they got in a little quality time before she took off. “I spent the last week with her every day, just me,” Wainwright said, showcasing some of his well-established veteran finesse.

Dakota Hudson and his wife Ashlen welcomed their first son into the world in 2018, and she’s at home with him in Kansas. Dakota says she’ll be down in March and they’ll celebrate then, but he’s not planning to let the day go by unnoticed.

“It’s just recognizing your partner,” Hudson said. “She’s at home with our son. She’s being a great mom. I appreciate that and her, so it’s just making sure I talk to her and tell her what she means to me.”

She was in Florida last February and the two enjoyed a day at the beach and a dinner out together. Hudson also said that the two don’t typically exchange flowers, but he has a gift on its way to her for this year. Like Knizner, he was reticent on the details.

“I don’t wanna discuss it because it’s a surprise,” Hudson said. A negotiation over a story embargo was unsuccessful in revealing any further details. Knizner and Hudson may be young in their MLB careers, but making sure to get full credit for a surprise is a big league veteran move.

Romance, it turns out, is still thriving in places outside of the baseball diamond.