The St. Louis Cardinals have a couple of extra stalls in their coaches clubhouse this season. They belong to Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith.
“I want them here,” said Manager Mike Matheny. “Willie was here for Opening Day. Obviously, Ozzie was in his red coat, Willie, too. We’d like to have them around, keep them engaged. They’re valuable to our organization, and we know they can help these guys.”
There is not a formal schedule for their participation.
“A lot of times we’ll coordinate it for when Willie is coming into town too and maybe get them both at the same time,” explained Matheny. “Make sure we stay in communication. If there’s something that we see we need or he sees something, he knows how to get ahold of us. But in general, we’ll try to maybe take advantage of the times when he and Willie can make it in and work.”
The lockers and coming down to the ballpark will be more than symbolic for both McGee and Smith. Willie is already employed as a Special Assistant to the General Manager and works with prospects in the organization. Ozzie has been a regular at Spring Training the last couple of seasons as a guest instructor.
“He’s got ideas, and so we ask him,” said Matheny. “Willie comes in and he doesn’t want to be put on display, he wants to work. I know with Ozzie, same thing. It’s a big deal for us to have them around, but more importantly, it’s beneficial to us to get better.”
There is also the possibility that Chris Carpenter could also be more present at the ballpark this season.
“Hope so,” said Matheny, who reminded his former battery mate still has young kids at home. However, Carpenter’s recent appearance as guest instructor in Spring Training went very well.
“I think he was really blown away at how much the guys engaged him in conversation," said Matheny. “He’s special. A lot like some of these other guys we’ve talked about. He’s the kind of player I think that can continue to make an impact after his playing career–those are people we definitely want to see around as much as we can.”
The Cardinals continued another change towards their improvement as the pitchers participated in PFP (Pitcher Fielding Practice) before today’s game.
“Most likely, you’re going to see something going on every single day,” said Matheny. “Kind of building off what we did in the spring and giving guys a say on some of the things they felt they could do better and obviously they wanted to field their positions better. Put them in place to talk about the work that we’re going to do throughout the year, and that’s something that they’re excited to do. Instead of just talking about being better, we’re going to work at it on a pretty consistent basis. It’ll be a little different every single day, but today they took some groundballs. Just trying to keep them moving and athletic and thinking about the defensive side of the game.”
Position players may have a few subtle changes to their pregame as well, but most will likely be left to individual work.
Saint Louis Baseball Weekly