(Jupiter, FL) As is the custom on the first full-team day in Spring Training, Mike Matheny held a meeting to talk with his players before they hit the field to begin their workouts. Besides the usual topics of what would lie before them this season, it was also the first time for all of the St. Louis Cardinals to be together since the passing of Oscar Taveras.
“I’d say it was different,” said Matheny, who admitted to his speech being a tough balance of things that needed to be addressed that weren’t about the competition on the field, but still important to what the team does.
“It’s a message. I believe the beginning of a lot other messages that are going to keep happening. I take a lot of pride in what any message I give to the guys contains and then to make sure I put in my homework and some time thinking about it so it comes across in a way to get the desired message across. They were a very good audience.”
This is the fourth such message for Matheny, who has gained a greater appreciation of how Tony La Russa performed the same task.
“I remember talking with Tony when I was a player about how much preparation and how much he thought about not just that meeting but the overall message and the tone and the direction given through those morning meetings,” said Matheny. “Seemed like he pulled them off the cuff pretty easy but I realize now how much thought…everything that I heard from somebody speaking or anything that I read this winter, it all seemed for the last several months to keep going back to how can apply this to my guys. All that is tried to be condensed into a clear message early, but fortunately we still have time. We have lots of days to get out here and speak to these guys. But we had some urgency this morning.”
Bill DeWitt, Jr. and John Mozeliak also addressed the team. No players spoke, but Adam Wainwright remained for the meeting before heading back to St. Louis for his medical exam.
“He’s one of our pillars, he has a presence. We’re kind of getting this thing going and we’re having some big conversations, we needed our big boys here. So was happy to see that he could stick around.”
OZZIE IN THE HOUSE
–The full list of guest instructors has yet to be announced, but Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith has returned to help out again this Spring Training. Besides catching up with some former teammates in John Mabry and Erik Pappas, The Wizard observed a lot of batting practice and also provided some guidance on the field for young and veteran players alike.
“He wants to be a resource to help guys. He doesn’t want to come out and tell every guy he has to do things a certain way, but tell him it’s something that worked really well for him. And obviously it worked really well, it’s very valuable for us. And passing along that tradition–it’s something we take very seriously.”