It was nearly eight years ago, but St. Louis Cardinals fans still clearly remember that September game against the Chicago Cubs and the wild pitch from Carlos Marmol that allowed Adron Chambers to race across the plate with the winning run.
“That’s still one of my favorite games of all-time and one of the best teams in the country, the 2011 World Series champions,” Chambers beamed in a phone conversation for St. Louis Baseball Weekly. “I look back in time and I see the things we did in that locker room, there wasn’t nothing but positivity and love for one another.”
“After we lost to Texas that last game before we went back home, Tony La Russa came in the locker room. He told us if we win Game 6, we will win Game 7. It was the way he said it. How he said it–he was such an infectious person. He believed in what he believed in. He was very strong minded, so it was almost like when he said that, the way he said it, we believed it. Even having that great game as we did in Game 6, I think his conversation right before we got on that plane that was the moment we kind of opened our eyes–we’ve come this far, we can do this.”
These days Chambers is passing along those lessons and others he’s learned to youth near his home in Pensacola, Florida.
“Tony La Russa, he was the guy that saw that I was a young man, inexperienced in many ways when it came to baseball. He took me under his wing. Albert Pujols took me under his wing. Ryan Theriot took me under his wing. I kind of think it’s my duty to show what I know and at the same time being able to give the real truth about baseball. Not that I have every answer, but give them the real honesty about what baseball has done, how to teach the game, and let a guy be himself–however you want to play the game. Not trying to be a guy that teaches one way or this way. Introducing it to them, being a guy that’s about coming together because that’s what baseball is about.”
Some of the children Chambers works with are younger, but many are old enough to understand some of the life lessons he’s experienced as well. As a football player at Mississippi State he was suspended after being arrested for assault and in 2015 he was suspended from MLB for 50 games following a second positive test for a drug of abuse. Chambers doesn’t hide from his past, instead he tries to use it as a teaching point so other don’t make the same mistakes.
“I’ve been through a whole lot,” he acknowledged. “It’s crazy, because back then I didn’t think that my faults were what I was going to be able to learn from and grow from. But now that I’ve gotten a little bit older and see some of the things they do, I’m able to see and tell them you’re only going to learn from your mistakes. Whenever they can resonant and listen to me in that aspect of understanding that you will mess up. You’re not perfect. I think the older groups can understand that a little bit better so I love going to the colleges around here and the high schools and talking.”
The 32-year old Chambers hasn’t abandoned his dream of making it back to the big leagues, either. Besides his coaching, Adron is still training so that he will be ready if any team offers the opportunity. But he’s also understanding that with his past–and the current market of unsigned talent, the wait may continue.
“I think it’s a combination of both,” he said. “I tell a lot of the guys I speak with over at Pensacola State College that don’t think the things you do today won’t get looked at tomorrow. Most definitely, I think what I’ve done–not that anybody has a responsibility to give me a second chance, that’s not the case, but at the same time I think it’s also the attitudes and the way the game is going.”
In 39 games last year for Lehigh Valley (AAA-Philadelphia), Chambers hit .278 (35-126). He’s hitting the cage almost daily, doing yoga, and other physical training but beyond the numbers he wants teams to understand what he can contribute as a person.
“Being a part of an organization t’s a responsibility, it’s a representation,” he explained. “I was so happy to be able to wear that birds on a bat. It made things a lot easier though when I was going up to people and being myself and being honorable and the way people responded to that. It was life lessons for me. Being in my position now, not to have a job or anything like that, I don’t think it has to do with them not wanting me, it’s more ‘Who are you now? Do you know who you are? The type of player you are, how consistent can you be?’ I think all of those have a lot more responsibility on me picked up than anything.”
Last off-season Chambers spent some time working out with former Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham and he’d like to see his friend again soon.
“The way I’ve been working out now, I’d race him right now,” Chambers stated. “I think I would beat him. I’m going to say I think, because I’m going to give him his respect because he’s working hard. Tommy Pham is one of the hardest working athlete brothers that I’ve every been around. He works extremely hard, he’s very passionate about baseball.”
Position players officially report to Spring Training this next week. Chambers believes that a few teams have his name under consideration. But that could be next week, or the week after, or even longer.
“This is something I’m really hungry for,” Chambers stressed. “Not only today, I want to be back on the Major League level. I was in Triple-A, even when I left St. Louis in 2013 and being in the minor leagues, I never felt like I should be in the minor leagues. Not that it was about any disrespect for the minor leagues, but I always considered myself to be a Major League player. At the same time, during that time, I didn’t necessarily have a Major League attitude. So now, having combined all the work ethic and attitude together I know without a doubt in my mind, when I get back on a Major League field it’s going to be on and popping and the legacy will be able to continue. I just love winning. The Cardinals taught me winning, so wherever I go I just want to be a part of a winning organization–and be myself. Be myself and win and continue to learn and get better.”
A LONG TIME COMING
–Besides preparing for his return to the big leagues and working with youth players, Chambers has also been affected by the documentary Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story. The film details how two teams of 12-year old boys, one white and one black, played against each other to send a non-violent message to others.
“That little league team is from Pensacola, Florida,” Chambers shared. “I got to meet one of the players, he only played one year, his name is Freddie Augustine. You talk about a very nice, humble man. It was unbelievable.”
Augustine, now a reverend, is one of the names that Chambers has included in his social media countdown of his Top Black Athletes that he’s been recognizing for February’s Black History Month.
“There’s so many guys that didn’t get recognized on a global level, for me being able to use my social media to kind of help that,” Chambers said. “Just to let people know that Negro baseball was so infectious, especially in the black community. It’s not about white people or about whoever other race, it doesn’t matter. It’s about showing people that baseball is love. It brought our communities together. It brought our people together.”
Mr. Rev. Freddie Augustine is my sixth Black athlete of the month. Although only playing baseball for just one year of his life, that year has… https://t.co/jnmngbgH3P
— Adron Chambers (@kingchambers_8) February 12, 2019
photo credit: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson