First Day In the Big Leagues

I have talked the past few days about how difficult it is to send a player out of big league camp, and the even more difficult task of telling a player that we are going to have to let them go. Thursday was one of the better days, when you get to tell a young player that has busted his butt, that he is going north with the team. I was able to tell two of our young players who have never made an opening day roster that they were going to be with us in Arizona when we open up against the Diamond Backs. The moves we have made, kind of told them this already, but it is always nice to hear it first hand from the manager. I hope that they celebrated a little tonight, and called their families and friends to share the good news.

I will never forget the first time that I was given this news. I was just out of AA, and hadn't spent one day in triple A, so I was just excited to be invited to spring training with the big club. We had a very unusual spring and our catchers were dropping like flies, and all of a sudden, the skinny kid with number 98 on his back was actually getting some playing time. I was trying to do things the right way, and keep my mouth shut, and in the meanwhile, I was actually playing pretty well.

The turning point was a game that I actually got to start against the Cubs (because everyone else was hurt) and in the second inning, the batter decided to charge the mound. I had a little practice at this, and did my job of stopping the batter, and actually snuck in a couple jabs, and my pitcher and manager were the happiest people in the ballpark. Our manager Phil Garner was quoted after the game that he "didn't know the name of the kid behind the plate, but he may have just made our ball club." Come to find out, he wasn't kidding. A week later he called me into his office, with stogie in hand and told me the words that I had waited my whole life to hear, although he said them a little different than I dreamt.

He said, "kid, I really don't want to do this, but you are going to have to make our team." He made it sound like they tried everyone else on the planet and I was the last living soul left for the position. It took me a few seconds to register what he said, and then when I realized that he wasn't kidding, I left his office on cloud nine, and I don't think it was from the cigar.

I immediately went back to the hotel and spent $100 in quarters in the pay phone at the team hotel calling everyone I knew, and some people that I didn't know, just to tell them that I was going to the big leagues. Just when I thought that I had finally achieved this monumental goal, we had one last exhibition game against the Tigers on April 1st before we opened the season on April 3rd.

I caught part of the game and actually hit a double off of David Wells and came off the field pretty proud. I was instantly summoned into the managers office where 3 or 4 of our veterans stood next to the managers desk. His face said it all, and when the first words he said were "I'm really sorry..." I thought that I was going to get sick. He proceeded to tell me that he made a mistake and that I needed some more time in AAA before I came to the big leagues. All I could think about was how many people I had told, and that I was so close to reaching my dream. What seemed like an eternity of silence, all of a sudden turned into a room full of laughter. I didn't understand the joke, until one of the guys yelled out "April fools!" I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or punch someone in the mouth. That was the meanest joke anyone could have ever played, but it made for a great "first day in the big leagues" story.

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  • Well-deserved reward for the

    Well-deserved reward for the hard work and dedication these young men have put into ST and playing on the Cardinals minor league teams. They believe in themselves and continue to thrive in the Cardinals organization through the support of teammates, coaches, manager and FO. Thank you for sharing with us. You are all very much appreciated by Cardinals fans everywhere.
  • Wow. I remember that spring

    Wow. I remember that spring training dustup. I was doing a job-shadow with the sports guys at a local newspaper. A picture of it came across their AP picture feed. The guy I was following printed it off for me. Kept that pic for years. Funny to think that you were in that. Crazy to think that I'm not the only one that remembers that. Either way, thanks for writing this blog. As a Brewers fan it pains me to follow a Cardinal, but I love the lessons you share.
  • Mike, I have been a Cardinal

    Mike, I have been a Cardinal fan for sixty years and David Freeze is right. Cardinals fans expect the team to win all of the time and you do. I for one am glad that you are the manager. You have the same mind set that all of us do also. I am 69 and hope before I die to get to see the Cardinals play in person. Keep up the good work and win us a Championship this year. Go Cards!!!
  • Early 90's had Bruce Benedict

    Early 90's had Bruce Benedict tell me that they wanted me to stay in extended spring training until the draft. It was on April fools day also. One of the best men I have ever met Willie Stargell ask me to think about it. What a day. I'll never forget it. Thanks to the Braves organization for the moment in the sun.