Poppin’ champagne

It never gets old. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to celebrate a few times now and it gets better each time. This has been a tough season for me personally, but it makes it much easier to deal with when you’re playing on a winning team. I’ve got great teammates and great friends.

I was pretty sure we would clinch on the road, so my wife, Lory made sure to come along. It didn’t happen in Houston, which worked out perfectly for me because my mom made plans to come visit during the Colorado series. Colorado has a great lineup and great pitching so they didn’t make it easy for us to win, but we did it. It was awesome for my mom and Lory to be there to join in the celebration.

The clubhouse was crazy. Everyone was spraying everyone with champagne and beer.  Pujols likes to sneak up on people and dump coolers of ice cold water, which is really funny as long as it isn’t you. He got Tony pretty good. Jeff Murphy, our bullpen catcher, came up behind me and held me so Mark DeRosa and others could douse me with beer. The Denver Post got a great shot of it. I will be sure to save that one. 

Music was pumping and all the the wives that came on the trip got to come down and enjoy the fun — or maybe I should say, observe the fun, because they stayed off to the side so they wouldn’t get soaked. They got some great pictures though. I started that night, so being on the field as we got the third out was very cool.

On Monday we will be heading out to take on the Dodgers. Here’s to coming back to St Louis and popping some more champagne.

Till next time…

Back in the Day

When I was growing up, there were no Florida Marlins, so like most Floridians, I was an Atlanta Braves fan. TBS was on in our house, and I got to watch John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux play every day. They were the guys I looked to emulate on the mound.  So obviously, when word came that John Smoltz was going to be a Cardinal, I was excited.

When he arrived, I was a little leery of saying, “Hey John, I grew up watching you as a kid and
I’m a big fan,” because I said the same thing to Eric Davis when I came up as a pitcher and he looked at me and said “thats why I’m going to retire.”

So I wasn’t sure how to exactly word my adulation. But, before I could even say anything to him, he came up to me and shook my hand and said, “I’ve got to give you props for what you have done” and shook my hand. That was pretty cool.

Our last off day was Albert Pujols’ Celebrity Golf Tournament at St. Albans golf course. My wife and I had just been fitted with some new Taylor Made clubs, so I was excited to play and try them out. I had a great group and it was a lot of fun. I knew we didn’t have a chance to
win, though, when Smoltz showed up. Rumor has it that he could be a pro, he is so good.

Mike Piazza was in the group ahead of us and he looked like he was driving the ball pretty well, and Ryan Ludwick was behind us, which made for some good ribbing throughout the day.  It was a great day benefiting a great cause.  For more information about the Pujols Family Foundation, go to http://www.PujolsFamilyFoundation.com.

Till next time…

Interviews

I think sometimes dealing with the media can be tricky. The biggest thing sometimes is you have to be careful with who you can trust and who you can’t. sometimes it feels like you’re caught in the middle, trying not to say the wrong thing where they can take it out of context and use it in a way that you didn’t mean. It’s always tough. You never know who’s trying to get what angle. You see it every day, where some of these quotes can be taken out of context. You just have to be careful with what words you choose and how you choose to use them.

If it’s somebody you don’t know, you have to be especially careful. With people you do see every day, I think they’re a little bit more understanding of who you are and what you’re trying to say, what message you’re trying to get out there. if you don’t know somebody, sometimes people don’t know how to take other people. You don’t know if it’s sarcasm or seriousness or what.

But I think it’s still part of the job. It’s just part of it. Sometimes it can be fun. This blog is kind of cool because I can say whatever I want. But I view interviews as part of the job.

When you’re coming up, Major League Baseball takes all the rookies and you get a lesson on interviews. And then Scott Boras and the guys at his company, they give you a warning. And Cardinals people as well. As soon as you sign and throughout your way up, you kind of learn what you should and shouldn’t do and say.

Sometimes I enjoy it. When you do well, it’s fun to talk about it. But I do think sometimes people in the media make too much out of whether we talk or not after a game. I think there is a certain responsibility, but who’s to say who has the responsibility after a game? Who gets to decide that?

I think I can be tough with the media sometimes. But that comes from my personal experiences and what I went through. The way that it was handled. You get a bitter taste in your mouth, and sometimes it’s hard to forget that.

I usually don’t read the paper. If it’s our game, I was there. I saw it. SportsCenter too. If it’s on, maybe I watch it, but I usually don’t.

Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’

Remember that Limp Bizkit song? That’s what I think about when I think  about this team. We just keep rollin’.  With the additions of Lugo and Holliday, we have really gained some much needed momentum.  Holliday has been on fire. They say sometimes you just need a change of scenery and apparently it was true with him.  He is a great teammate but I already knew that. We played together on the 1997 Junior USA Team in Canada.

After my 0-for-3 with a walk on Sunday, the mustache had to go. It was working there for a while, but I guess it ran its course. August is here and with our division being so tight, every game counts from here on out.  This past series with the Astros had a playoff feel. It’s exciting. If we can keep our bats hot and our starting pitching stays on course, this will be a fun ride.

Don’t forget about my charity wine benefiting Stray Rescue St Louis (strayrescue.org). Randy Grim, the director of Stray Rescue, just launched his latest book “Don’t Dump the Dog,” and my wife and I attended the VIP Party.  We got to meet the staff from Best Friends Animal Society and the show Dog Town on the National Geographic Channel. They are great people doing great things for animals in need. It’s a great wine for a great charity.

Until next time….

Changes and adjustments

I want to say thank you to everyone for their well wishes on my health.  My shoulder isn’t 100% but I’m dealing with it, just like everyone in the clubhouse is dealing with something. I’m continuing treatment so I’m starting to feel better in my swing.  I’m making some adjustments and hopefully things will continue to turn around for me in the box.  

I launched my charity wine last weekend benefiting Stray Rescue St Louis (StrayRescue.org). Stray Rescue saves dogs and cats living on city streets and helps them find homes. My wife and I have two dogs, a rottweiler and a Siberian husky, and they are a big part of our family. The wine is  a 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet blend. It’s a very enjoyable red. You can order it online at http://www.wineandcheeseplace.com to benefit a great cause.

There has been a lot of movin’ and shakin’ around our team lately.  But I’m sad to see Chris Duncan go. He was one of my good friends on the team and it won’t be the same without him in the clubhouse.  He will be missed. As you know, we gained Julio Lugo in the trade and now we have acquired Matt Holliday.  It looks like the front office is really trying to get this team in a position to win another World Series. It’s an exciting time to be a Cardinal.  I have a good feeling about this team and can’t wait to see how the puzzle pieces fall into place.

Till next time….

Central Division showdowns

We went into Cincinnati first and took two out of three from the Reds. We also had the same umpiring crew as we did when I had my fight with the outfield wall. I was glad to see those guys because I wanted to talk to them and make sure the call was right that night. I felt because I took three steps and then transferred the ball, that it was an out and I was right. The head ump clarified that because the ball was voluntarily transferred, it was an out. Just like a shortstop turning two. I was glad to know the effort wasn’t in vain and now anyone who was wondering, knows the truth.

Before we headed to Milwaukee, the All-Star selections were announced and I want to give props to Yadier, Albert and Franklin for making the team this year. It was the first for Yadier and Franklin and I’m sure it was extra special for all in front of the hometown crowd.

Chicago was the last stop before the break and it’s one of my favorites. Wrigley has great energy and it seems like there are just as many Cards fans as Cubs fans for our series.  We ended up splitting the series, two out of four, after a doubleheader Sunday and I couldn’t wait to get back home and enjoy some relaxation. We spent our time off at the lake and any time I can be on the water, I’m happy. The three days flew by and we’re back in town getting ready to take on the Diamondbacks. Hopefully everyone is recharged and ready for the second half.

Until next time…

New York State of Mind

We headed to New York City to face the Mets for the first time at Citi Field, and the new stadium did not disappoint. Although I am partial to Busch Stadium, Citi Field was among the top stadiums I’ve played in. The outfield is big and there is a section in right field where the fans are at field level, which I thought would be a cool vantage point to watch the game from. The clubhouse was much improved from old Shea and it was great to be able to take the 7 train from the city right to the stadium.

The series didn’t go how we would have liked it to, and I can’t say that I was much help. Especially knowing that a few of their top players were out of the lineup, you want to take advantage of those situations.  I was very frustrated with most of my at-bats but it was nice to double off Johan Santana, who I consider to be one of the best.

Now we’re playing the Twins. The last time (other than in Spring Training) I played them is when I pitched against them in 2000. They have some pretty big bats, but our rotation is solid so it will be fun to see how the series turns out.

Till next time…

Home Sweet Home

There is nothing like coming home. Last week we headed to Florida for our series with the Marlins. My wife and I look forward to this trip every year where we can see our friends, family and visit our favorite restaurant, Mama Mia in Hollywood.

I heard that Florida had been receiving tons of rain before our arrival but luckily the rain stayed away for us so we could get our games in and enjoy the Florida sunshine. My fight with the outfield wall a few weeks back kept me out of the lineup longer than expected and I really wanted to come back and help the team in any way that I could.

It feels great to come home and it doesn’t hurt to have a great series either.  I started to feel more comfortable at the plate and was a single shy of the cycle on Wednesday night in Florida. If I were to pick one hit out of the cycle that I didn’t get, it would be the single.  I finished the series going 8-for-13 with 4 extra-base hits, including a home run.

We are now in Cleveland and it’s my first time playing at Progressive Field. It’s a hitters’ park and I hope to keep the good at-bats flowing.

Till next time…

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