The message was heard loud and clear by Dexter Fowler. And the St. Louis Cardinals right fielder agreed with fans that he needed to attend the team’s Winter Warm-Up this weekend.
“I felt like I owed them,” Fowler explained. “A lot of people don’t know for those whole Cubs conventions, I didn’t go to one of them. I couldn’t make them. But, this is my first one in a long time, and it’s been great. It’s been great. Looking forward to more.”
Fowler had originally planned to attend the wedding of one of his former teammates, Chris Young. But after a backlash from Cardinals fans on social media, in particular with Dexter making an autograph appearance last week near Chicago, he changed his schedule.
“He took me under his wing, so that’s one of my guys,” Fowler said. “I shot him a text message today and reached out and gave my love to him and his bride, and that’s that. He understands.”
Well-received by the fans he met during the Warm-Up, Fowler is looking to start 2019 with a clean slate and reset his time with St. Louis, which was part of the reason he felt he “owed” the fans to attend.
“So last year obviously didn’t pan out like I wanted it to,” Fowler said. “God works in mysterious ways. I was able to – obviously caught a lot of backlash. I felt like adjusting my plans kind of gave it a leap of faith, I guess.”
It was faith that helped Fowler out of his depression over failing to meet external in his own expectations on the field last year.
“You learn from that stuff and you keep going,” said Fowler. “Everybody has their peaks and their valleys. It was kind of a valley. At the end of the day, it’s how you come out of it. Trials and tribulations. My family and stuff they helped. It’s good to be around them. They put that smile back on my face.”
His joy had returned, but after seeing his batting average (.180) and on base percentage (.276) drop to career lows, Fowler wasn’t sure that he would get a chance to prove himself again in St. Louis.
“I feel like it was all up in the air, but they came out – me, Shildty, and Mo we kind of hashed it out,” he explained with a laugh. “It was a good talk. It was a good talk. Put everything behind us, almost like a clean slate. It’s been great.”
“Yeah, now Dex has to go out and prove it but he’s certainly going to get a lot of opportunities,” said John Mozeliak when asked if Fowler was the Cardinals starting right fielder. “We have depth there. We’ve already talked about Martinez and O’Neill so this spring will be a tell-tale but a healthy Dex, and if you think back to two years ago and Dex’s year, if we got that we’d be in a good place.”
A fractured left foot ended Fowler’s season the beginning of August last year and after a setback in his recovery, he finally feels back to normal.
“It’s great,” said Fowler. “I’ve been running. I’ve got my speed so I’m good.”
And according to his mentor, Barry Bonds, so is his swing.
“The last video I sent him, I said, ‘What do you think? I feel like I could still do this, I could still do that.’ He goes, ‘It’s perfect. Your swing is perfect.’,” Fowler said. “I’m feeling good. Any time you have one of the greatest to ever play the game say your swing is perfect, you’re doing something right.”
CARDS VS CUBS
–Fowler had yet to see the full comments of the back and forth between Kris Bryant and Yadier Molina on social media, but he was aware something was going on.
“So people have been blowing me up,” Fowler smiled. “I was literally doing signings, and I was like, ‘Why is my phone blowing up?’ My wife and my daughter are home sick, so I was like, ‘Oh, I hope it was nothing (with them).’ I look at it and it’s Yadi, Waino, everybody, they’re all just texting. I get 50 text messages, and I’m like, ‘What is going on?’ And I’m still clueless.
I kind of got filled in on the way here, but I have to sit down and read everything and see what it is.”
Adding that he thinks this is good for the rivalry between the two teams, Fowler also praised the passion and spirit of Molina.
“Yadi is a fiery guy, which is awesome,” Fowler said. “I love it. I love it because then I can fire him up a little bit more. I like that. I like to stir the pot a little bit. If you guys know me, that’s me. I like to walk around the clubhouse just trying to get everybody going. He’s an easy target for me to get.”
photo credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI