There are a few Cardinals ballplayers that I absolutely LOVE to watch: David Freese, Brendan Ryan and “Hunky” Matt Holliday top my favorites list. When a player makes that list, he is usually there to stay, such as dear Yadier Molina – who sparked my love for the St. Louis Cardinals back in 2006.
Other players wearing the Birds on the Bat get my support and my fan love too of course; but sometimes there are players that I just have not found a connection with. Joe Mather has been one of those guys… until this past Wednesday night.
My impression of Joe Mather has been clouded by previous, albeit limited, in-person observations. Last year Joe was recovering from injury, working his way back in AAA. He was frustrated at the plate and in the field, and his mood reflected that frustration. When the Memphis Redbirds came to Oklahoma – yes, I am an Okie – Joe would run right past the waiting fans, dashing straight into the dugout without so much as a glance.
During Spring Training in Florida this year I asked Joe for an autograph. He just shook his head and said “later,” but never returned. Of course, I understood. Players cannot always stop to sign autographs or talk with fans. They have jobs to do. But because of these less-than-encouraging impressions of Joe Mather, my interest in cheering for him has been somewhat lackluster.
My kids, on the other hand, have taken a real liking to Joe Mather, probably because I have shared with them the hilarious Brendan Ryan home videos (with sidekick Joe) from the FSMW website. So, when Joe Mather was optioned to AAA Memphis this past week my kids were thrilled. You see, the Memphis Redbirds were visiting our local Oklahoma City Redhawks for a four game series and we already had tickets.
The kiddos have learned that with just a little extra effort, they can improve their chances for an autograph.So with handmade signs reading “JOE MATHER,” they waited patiently by the 1st base side of the stands during the pre-game warm-ups.
Tyler Greene – always smiling and willing to sign a baseball – trotted right over to visit with us, but Joe Mather was nowhere to be seen.
Just when I thought Joe might disappoint us yet again, he came onto the field, ran some drills, saw the signs and headed our way. While signing baseballs, Joe perked up when I joked how nice it was for him to grow a mustache too, in support of his Cardinals teammate Brendan Ryan (who credits growing a mustache with helping him break out of a slump.) Joe laughed and talked with us a bit about Brendan. That fun interaction made up for all the past “Grumpy Joe” moments I had witnessed.
During Wednesday’s game, Joe had quite a few Cardinals fans cheering him on. By the middle of the game, Joe was smiling as he jogged to and from the dugout, past our seats. And by the end of the game, the Redbirds had won and Joe was celebrating in the outfield with teammates Allen Craig and Jim Rapoport. It was great to see a “Happy Joe” having fun playing baseball in my hometown!
But the story doesn’t end there. I was living the dream when, after the on-field celebrations had ended, Joe Mather went into the dugout, fished out a game ball and looked in my direction. (Our front row seats gave us a clear view of the covered dugout.) Joe caught my eye, pointed to me, and lobbed me that baseball, up and over the dozen or so fans between us. Thankfully I caught the baseball with some modicum of grace, and looked back at Joe. He smiled a great big grin, waved goodbye, and then headed down the dugout steps and out of sight.
Welcome to the list! =)
Welcome to the list! =)