Back in 2010, after managing his Johnson City team to the Appalachian League Championship, Mike Shildt was invited by Tony La Russa to spend some time at the end of the season on the big league staff with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“There were a lot of takeaways,” recalled Shildt this past weekend, as he now sat in the same office and chair that belonged to La Russa at that time.
“Tony let me be the steal sign,” shared Shildt. “If he was going to do something with his body, I would put my hand on the rail and it would tell the guys at first they were on green light. When he told me, I was probably four people away from him, so about 10-12 feet away from.
“He would kind of walk up and down, I should’ve just moved closer to him but I didn’t. I was like, ‘I got this’. It was a day game in Pittsburgh, so I had my sunglasses on. And I’d been in a dugout before, so I knew to try and be coy. Not one time did Tony, like even look in my direction. Not even close.
“But I’m looking at him, kind of being coy about it and looking for him to give it to me. So we had a couple guys on and so then after the inning, he kind of walked towards me but not really. Just kind of sauntered up to me, but like he wasn’t really talking to me and he said ‘Will you quit staring at me?’
“I’m like, first of all, I wasn’t even staring at him. Second of all, I never even saw him turn my direction. I don’t know how in the world this guy had any radar up that I was kind of…
“I was like, ‘yes sir’. It blew me away because he was just the best at being dialed in and he could see everything. But he was seeing something that I didn’t even know he was looking at. Here I am thinking he was managing where he was, but he’s still got a feel for what I’m doing down here without even looking.
“So then I just got a little closer.”
La Russa was among those who reached out to Shildt when he took over as the interim-manager of the Cardinals and they still talk regularly.
“Tony’s been amazing as always,” said Shildt. “Sharing information, sharing truth, accountability, and giving me wisdom.”
photo credit: Denny Medley, Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports