Officially, his title is that of Special Assistant to the General Manager, but Cal Eldred is filling a much larger role with the St. Louis Cardinals that goes beyond his talking of game situations with major and minor leaguers–he’s talking life situations.
“Obviously there’s some stuff that hopefully I can help them out with from the pitching side,” said Eldred. “I’m going to do a lot of life coach stuff with a lot of the minor league teams, hopefully getting to see them a couple times during the season and when I would go in there, having a day or a little bit of time where I can sit down and go over a topic with the team. And then be available throughout the year for those kids, coaches, and questions.”
During his 14-year big league career, Eldred appeared in 341 games–nearly a third of which in St. Louis over his last three seasons.
“I kind of feel like–I know I don’t have all the answers,” stated Eldred. “But I have some pretty good resources with people around the game where I could at least, hopefully send them in the right direction.”
It’s that kind of honest approach that helps command respect for Cal Eldred, who learned some of his own lessons through the pressure of being in his early 20’s and being looked to lead the Milwaukee pitching staff.
“Within two years, we had lost a lot of our veteran pitchers,” explained Eldred. “I was kind of thrust into a ‘hey, you’ve got to be the leader on this staff’ and it was great; it was hard; it was challenging; it was learning under fire. I know I made some mistakes and would probably do some of those things different.”
But he did a few things right too.
Simply look no further than page 137 of the Matheny Manifesto where the Cardinals manager described his former teammate as the “epitome of a competitor” and “an example of a man who didn’t shy away from being a man. He knew what he stood for and he knew what he would fight for, and that’s the very definition of a man with authority.”
Throw in the experience of Tommy John surgery and continued elbow problems and Eldred has even more to relate with players.
“That’s part of coaching,” said Cal. “It’s part of this life. There’s things that go on and everybody has to deal with them and hopefully, everybody deals with them the right way.”
St. Louisan Anna McDonald noted in a recent article for ESPN that the Cardinals are among a small group of teams that are providing help in this life skills area.
“I applaud the organization for doing a lot of different things,” Eldred said of the Cardinals. “All of us are going to respond different to different influences. The more positive influences you can have for these kids and coaches the better.”
“Hopefully, fewer things fall the cracks and hopefully you’ve actually helped guys move on–not just on the field, but off the field.”