It was a reunion of former teammates at Meadowbrook Country Club this morning as the Pujols Family Foundation hosted their 12th annual Celebrity Golf Classic. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday served as the chairs this year and with a day off on the Los Angeles Angels schedule, both were in attendance and Mike Matheny was the surprise honoree before the carts rolled out.
“Yeah, blown away,” described Matheny, who was under the impression he would only be signing some prints not receiving an original painting from artist Rick Rush. “Just kind of really amazed at the effort and the thought he put into it.”
Rush read the Matheny Manifesto and took notes on various things that made an impact on the St. Louis Cardinals manager. From the ice cream cones after his Little League games to working with youth teams and missions in the Dominican, Rush incorporated several themes into the painting of Matheny in his usual stance in the team’s dugout.
“Once again, that letter was just written to kind of help parents and coaches–I didn’t mean for it to necessarily be a life statement,” continued Matheny. “It’s a pretty humbling call too, to realize how closely people do watch what you do and how you go about your business. Something to always keep as a reminder, better make the most of what you got. Try and make a positive impact and try to stay consistent because when you make some strong statements people are going to be watching close to see if you’re following through with it.”
Besides their time together on the Cardinals, Matheny and Pujols have worked together on various charitable projects and the slugger was happy to have his former teammate honored.
“He was one of the first guys when I got to the big leagues in 2001, who took me under his wing and just guided me the right way,” shared Pujols. “Told me what’s right and what’s wrong–one of the leaders in the clubhouse and that’s what he taught me. Now, sixteen years later, that’s my job now out West–just try to teach the young players that are coming up and mentor them as much as I can, just in the same way that these guys did when I came here.
“I didn’t even know when I was 21–I thought that I knew everything, but I knew nothing. But I was really a good listener, a hard worker, and they respected the work and they just wanted me to get better every day. And Placido Polanco, Edgar Renteria, Fernando Vina, and Mark McGwire–who I stay in touch with even during the course of the season.
“Those guys really–the success that I’ve had, I share that success with those guys. I remember when I had that little press conference when I hit my 500th press conference, some of those guys I shared those memories because even though they weren’t there, they helped me to accomplish what I have accomplished in this game. Especially my manager–my ex-manager, Tony La Russa, and he’s here.”
The Rick Rush painting of Matheny was made possible by an anonymous donor. A limited amount of prints were being made available with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the charity.
photo credits: Bill Greenblatt/UPI