As Mike Shildt approached the podium for his first post-game media session as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, he apologized.
“I got a little post-game shower in the clubhouse, so sorry for the appearance a little bit,” he smiled. It seems that Adam Wainwright was the instigator of the celebration.
“Really cold water,” continued Shildt. “You get in the laundry basket and they spin you around and then they just go at you with a bunch of cold water to the point where I was hyper-ventilating. I was just happy–and so were they probably, there was no nudity involved.”
As the laughter subsided, Shildt clarified that he was “escorted” into the laundry basket.
The ceremony was an example of how the clubhouse is wanting to come together and also show their support for Shildt.
“Losing Mike (Matheny) was a big thing for a lot of guys,” said Kolten Wong. “But to have someone like (Shildt) come in, who really deserves this chance–you’ve got a lot of guys who really back him up.”
Back in Springfield (AA) Wong played a full season under Shildt and then again later during a couple of stints back to Memphis (AAA).
“We all know what kind of manager he is–how he will fight for everybody,” said Wong. “He’s not going to be the kind of guy to just leave you out there. Mike’s been that guy since Day One, ever since I met him. He’s always been true to everybody. He’s not going to ‘BS’ you. He’s going to make sure you know where he’s coming from and if you have any problems, step into his office. He’s always been one that he’s going to dish it out but he’s always there to take it.”
And for an emotional player like Wong, Shildt has always been able to push the right buttons.
“No matter how good or bad you’re going, he always made it a purpose to make you to know that he was on your side,” said Wong. “Make you believe in yourself, make you know that ‘hey man, you’re a good player. I believe in you, I’m going to keep throwing you out there’ and that’ something special. When you have somebody that’s rooting for you as hard as Shildt always does for his team, it makes you want to fight for him more. It makes you want to play harder for him.”
“There’s one thing that matters to Mike Shildt and that’s winning a baseball game after 9 innings, no matter what it takes,” said Harrison Bader, who also had some experience playing under his manager in the minors.
“He was there to teach me a lot of things…Just natural growth in baseball on and off the field. Understanding of just everything about the game, he taught me a lot at the stage of my career.”
As a veteran, Yadier Molina never played in the minors under Shildt, but he has seen enough of him in Spring Training and the last two seasons in St. Louis to get a pretty good idea of what the new manager will bring to the table.
“I think he’s kind of an old-school manager,” said Molina. “Old-school technique and old-school game, for me, that’s a good thing. But he’s got a different kind of mindset. Like I said, kind of old-school. Hopefully, it will work.”
It’s been only one victory in one game and certainly there will be challenges ahead. But for a team that was dealing with shock, disappointment, and needing to find direction, Mike Shildt showed that he was able to provide the necessary comfort from his familiarity but also difference from being a new voice with his own ideas.
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports