While T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues and his online campaign to appear on the cover of NHL 2015 (#NHL15Oshie) garnered most of the focus of celebrities in the crowd at Sunday's game, St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter also had some special guests in attendance.
The Turnpike Troubadours.
"I've been getting to know them pretty well over the last few years," said Carpenter of the band which performs his walk-up song "Long Hot Summer Day"
"I became a fan of just their music and I chose the walk-up song. We kind of conversed over Twitter one time back in 2011-12 and they come through Fort Worth all the time at place called Billy-Bob's."
So does the old adage still hold true—rock stars want to be athletes and athletes want to be rock stars?
"I sang on stage with them this offseason," shared Carpenter. "We had a TCU football game and they were playing afterwards. Me and just a group of my friends from back home were hanging out with them backstage and listening to the concert."
The next thing he knew Carpenter was being introduced to join them on stage.
"They were like 'hey, we've got a special guest'. I had no idea and was like 'wonder who it is'", recalled Matt who went wide-eyed when he heard his name called out. Surprised or not, the third baseman joined his friends on stage to sing-a-long to his theme.
On Sunday, the Troubadors saw one of his better performances at the plate this season as the third baseman reached base in all five plate appearances with a pair of singles and three walks.
Matt Carpenter has 38 strikeouts in 170 at-bats (22%) thus far on the season. Last year, he struck out 98 times in 626 at bats (16%)—but this year's number may not entirely be upon Carpenter.
As of May 16th, Carpenter led the Majors in called strikes that were out of the zone based on research by Michael Augustine, the editor-in-chief of BehindInTheCount.com. According to those numbers, Carpenter had correctly laid off 75 pitches that were erroneously called a strike. Shin-Soo Choo was next with 65 and Joey Votto had the second most in the NL with 58.
"I don't know how I feel about that," said Carpenter when told of the statistic. "Honestly, that's kind of the nature of a guy who sees a lot of pitches and works counts. There's going to be times where calls are going to be made that don't go in your favor, but I think that–my approach is something I really believe in. It's like you can't look at 40 games or one month. My approach, if I really continue to stick with it, over the course of the season is where it pays it's dividends. Right now, I don't feel great at the plate. I haven't really hit that groove yet but at the same time I find a way to get on base.
His own toughest critic on evaluating at-bats and pitch selection, Carpenter employs a consistent philosophy on borderline pitches.
"A 3-2 count or something and a guy makes a pitch that's a borderline strike that if I swing at, odds are I'm going to put it in play softly," explained Matt. "But if it's a borderline pitch, there's a 50-50 chance that he balls it and you're on first base. Where if you can't hit it hard, I mean, what's the point? Or at least, that's the way I look at it. So, situations where I feel like I took a pitch that I feel like should've been called a ball and they called a strike, it is what it is. You can't harp on it, you just have to move on."
"As the lead-off guy, that's what you gotta do—you have to find a way to get on there," added Carpenter. "I know there will be a time where—I'm hoping and I believe it, that there will be a time over the course of this season where I'm swinging the bat and instead of walks it will be five hits or something. So, that will come but at the time I've got to continue with my approach and stick with it."
Having hits in four of the last five games, Carpenter is currently batting .265 but owns a .371 OBP.
Brian Stull will be contributing to KSDK Sports throught the 2014 MLB season. Brian is the St. Louis Cardinals lead writer at St. Louis Baseball Weekly and is the host of the St. Louis Baseball Weekly radio show on CBS Sports Radio 920.