By: Chelsea Ladd
Whether you have been a lifelong lover of of baseball, looking for a new team to cheer for when baseball returns, or even using this time in quarantine to discover that you enjoy the game with the help of ESPN and MLB Network showing the classics, I have the ultimate guide for you to get to know a few of the St. Louis Cardinals.
I’m from the Lou and I’m proud – okay, I’ll be honest, I was raised two hours away from St. Louis and Busch Stadium, but the Lou is still my city and I’m more than proud to have the opportunity to write about the team that I hold so dearly in my heart.
First things first, let’s talk about the notable members of the team – the men that helped build Busch Stadium III: Adam Wainwright, Matt Carpenter, and Yadier Molina. While Carpenter began to shine brightly for the bird in 2011, Waino and Molina have been the ultimate pitcher/catcher battery for 14 seasons. Uncle Charlie, as many call Wainwright, and Yadi aren’t just teammates, they are best friends and brothers.
Adam Wainwright is an icon and one of the purest human beings on the planet. He has a beautiful family and works hand-in-hand with Big League Impact, does “Walking With Waino,” in which he gives a daily devotional via email to fans, and is now currently doing videos on his Twitter where he’s singing and playing guitar. You cannot go wrong by supporting Wainwright and his often unhittable curveball.
Matt Carpenter may have had a down season in 2019, but that didn’t stop him from being a stand-up man on and off the field. After Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston in 2017, Carpenter pledged to donate $10,000 to the victims with each home run that he hit during the remainder of that season. His social media is filled with his wife and kids, a beautiful insight to his life outside of baseball.
The Cardinals and Yadi, Yadi and the Cardinals – if two things go together like peanut butter and jelly, it’s this tattooed catcher from Puerto Rico and the birds on the bat. Yadier Molina is the youngest of the three Molina brothers, all catchers and to this date the only trio of brothers to play as catchers in the majors. Molina has a charity, Foundation 4, which helps raise donations for childhood cancer patients in Puerto Rico. After the devastation of Hurricane Maria, Molina and his wife Wanda started a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $1 million. While he has a bad boy reputation and a flair for the dramatics, Molina is one of the nicest men you could ever meet.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the name Jack Flaherty. Not only is he an ace on the mound, he’s an ace off the mound, too. After an unreal second half to the 2019 season, he was sure to be the Cardinals’ weapon of choice against their opponents this year.
While he has always been an incredible pitcher, he shined even brighter after the passing of his friend and fellow pitcher Tyler Skaggs. He even openly admits everything changed for him after Skaggs’ death. “You could kind of feel and tell that when something goes on like that, you’ve got someone looking out for you.” Taken from my own piece while covering the St. Louis Cardinals back in January, when Flaherty stood directly in front of me and the rest of the press while a sea of red took over the Hyatt in St. Louis for the annual Cardinals Winter Warm-Up.
Another pitcher worth mentioning is on that is currently on the mend, Jordan Hicks. The flame-throwing closer from Texas was sidelined for most of the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in June. Hicks is known for his sinker and four-seam fastball, which were the second- and third-highest average speeds in 2018 at 100.5 and 100.4 mph, respectively. One of his fastest pitches, before being injured, screamed into the catcher’s mitt at 104.3 mph. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes while in high school and doesn’t let it stop him from playing the game that he so dearly loves.
Giovanny Gallegos, the once Yankee turned Cardinal, is a secret weapon when unleashed from the bullpen. Last season, he struck out 93 batters in over 74 innings, and was the guy to call when the Cards found themselves in sticky situations. Born and raised in Mexico, Gallegos has never forgotten where he came from. During the off-season, he spent time with children in a hospital while back home with his family. He is also very open with his faith and always kind to everyone he meets. Don’t sleep on Gio – he’s one of the most amazing relievers in today’s game.
Nicknamed “Lizard King,” Miles Mikolas is exactly what you would expect from a pitcher that uses Led Zeppelin as his walk-up song. He and his wife Lauren are very active with charity work and are a part of Big League Impact. Last year, they took part in Strike Out Sex Traffickers with Miles Mikolas. Oh, and of course, he once ate a lizard while in the bullpen on a bet. The video was posted on YouTube and the nickname stuck.
One of the more underrated pitchers in the bullpen – and the starting rotation at times – is Daniel Ponce de Leon. His swagger on the mound is something to enjoy, but often gets the best of him if his fastball isn’t up to par.
Back in 2017, he was hit in the head by a line drive – after emergency surgery and remaining in the hospital for three weeks, he was cleared to return to baseball. Many were unsure if he would ever step on the field again after the injury. He did, and while he is often ping-ponged between St. Louis and Memphis, Ponce de Leon is worth becoming a fan of. He is also very open about his faith and I had the opportunity to hear him speak while covering Christian Day at the Ballpark last summer.
Have you found your new favorite player yet? If not, it’s okay – here are a few more birds that might catch your attention!
After finally winning a Gold Glove for his legendary skills at second base, Kolten Wong could almost be called underappreciated. Born and raised in Hawaii, Wong took charge after the lower Puna eruption by fundraising and creating a GoFundMe for disaster relief. Not only is Wong fun to watch defensively, he’s a wonder at the plate, leading the league in bunt hits last season. You might have heard of his younger brother, Kean, too – a second baseman for the San Francisco Giants.
A man of science, music, hunting, and baseball? May I present you to shortstop Paul DeJong. While in the big leagues, DeJong (pronounced Dee- Young) wants and hopes to use his platform to inspire kids and motivate them. While in quarantine, Pauly D (as his family, friends, and teammates call him) launched an educational initiative to encourage kids to keep learning while stuck inside. Kids can send in videos with baseball-related science questions and he’ll pick some to answer on social media. He’ll also be sending those kids his specialized Topps baseball cards that promote academics, science, and literacy. He isn’t just smart off the field. He’s one of the most intelligent men on the field with his defensive skills.
We can’t forget that he took out the “M” in the Big Mac Land sign with a home run last season at Busch Stadium. He paid for the sign by donating $20,000 to the Ronald McDonald House. He’s extremely great to have conversations with and quite charming. If you are able to meet or chat with DeJong, I highly recommend it – you won’t be disappointed.
If you’ve ever fell down the rabbit hole on Instagram and noticed a flashy, curly haired baseball player on MLB.fits, then you’ve seen Harrison Bader. Not only does he stand out in a crowd, he is a showstopper in center field for the birds. While his offense is not always something to write home about, his speed around the bases and in the outfield makes him a lethal addition and ultimately the heartbreaker of many with his heroic diving catches. If you’re like me and are all about Instagram, Bader is one of the best ‘gram follows during this quarantine.
The future of the Cardinals looks bright with top prospect Dylan Carlson. At only 21 years old, Carlson cracked the Top Ten list at number 10 among all MLB prospects. Despite not having played in an MLB game or even being on the 40-man roster yet, Carlson is already a fan-favorite amongst the St. Louis Cardinals. Not only is he someone to watch, he’s genuine on and off the field. I had the opportunity to be around him in January and let me tell you, this guy – everyone will know his name in years to come.
While there are many more players that could be spotlighted, I’ll go straight to my favorite member of the St. Louis Cardinals, and that is their mascot Fredbird. Often mischievous and clever, you can find Fred roaming Busch and playfully pestering fans of all ages. I will note, he is not the mascot you want to be stuck in an elevator with – from experience, he jumped around and made the elevator shake, stole the jersey I was holding and then threw it back on top of my head. But let’s be real, I loved every second of it.
I hope this has helped you find your new favorite Cardinal and I cannot wait until baseball returns, so I can cheer on my team proudly in my favorite city and in my favorite baseball stadium.
Stay safe, everyone!