Wise men say that you should never meet your heroes, and while Matt Holliday wasn’t my hero, he was pretty close. For those of you who aren’t fans of the best team in baseball, Holiday was a left fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals for seven years, the main power hitter once Pujols left, and the one guy on the team who always put the thought of a home run into your mind when he stepped into the batter’s box. While I was living in Florida, I was able to go to watch some Cardinals spring training practices in Jupiter, just a short fifty minute drive from us. It was early March but it felt like it could have been mid August when we pulled up to Roger Dean Stadium a few minutes before ten in the morning. That’s Florida for you. My wife and I waited patiently with other Cardinals faithful, some who’d even made the trip down from St. Louis, and then finally the players dressed in their baseball pants and red pullovers ran onto the field and began stretching and warming up.
This went on for a while and then the large team split up into smaller groups, pitchers over here, infielders over there, coaches with an alcohol problem and a pending divorce to the left. You get the idea. I shadowed the pitchers for awhile, watching Adam Wainwright and Jason Motte among others run through elementary drills that are taught in little league, then I watched the catchers, Yadier Molina putting on a clinic for the younger guys, blocking low thrown balls with little apparent effort. After that we walked around to the other side of the group of baseball fields where batting practice was taking place. I looked for players I recognized, but saw none. This must’ve been the younger guys, the kids from double A who were just happy to be there, alongside the veterans of Triple A who were unsure that they could handle another brutal season.
Then I saw David Freese walking between fields. Yes, world series MVP for the Cardinals David Freese. I asked for an autograph and made small talk with him as he stopped to sign my red St. Louis hat. He was really cool and didn’t even think twice about being a nice guy, and the ten seconds he’d stopped for me made me feel like a million bucks, and then I saw Matt Holiday walking the same path only coming in the other direction. As he got nearer I said “Hey Matt, how’s it going?” A few seconds passed with no response so just as he reached me I asked him for an autograph. His eyes never even glanced in my direction, and it wasn’t like he couldn’t hear me as I was only a couple feet away from him. That one experience changed my entire opinion of a baseball player that I once looked up to. After that when I saw him strike out, time after time, I took a little pleasure in his frustration, a feeling that he’d left me with just a couple years earlier.