Mike Matheny opened his first year behind the helm of the defending World Series champion Cardinals winning 14 out of 22 games, shooting the Redbirds to the top of the NL Central. Managing for the first time at any level, Matheny made the opening month of his new gig look easy, despite the pressures of a widespread fanbase and a team trying to repeat as World Series winners without all-world first baseman Albert Pujols who had moved on to Los Angeles. Matheny and the Cards fell back to earth, settling into their current 3rd place position in the NL Central. Calm and steady behind the plate in his days as a Cardinals backstop, Matheny seems to exude the same consistent confidence in his players as a manager. Let’s get the details on Manager Mike Matheny.
Matheny, born on September 22nd, 1970, played for four different teams during his 13 year major league career (Toronto, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and San Fransisco). He anchored the defense of the Cards from 2000-2004, winning three of his four National League Gold Gloves as a catcher during that span (2000, 2003, 2004). The epitome of a defensive oriented catcher, Matheny squeezed out a .239 batting average, 67 home runs, and 443 RBI throughout his 13 seasons in the major leagues. Thanks in large part to his defensive contributions and ability to manage the St. Louis pitching staff, Matheny reached the postseason in four out of his five years with the team. He set multiple records defensively as a catcher throughout his career, including establishing a Major League record for consecutive games played without committing an error. From August 1, 2002 to August 4, 2004, Matheny failed to commit an error in the field. In 2004, he set another MLB record by successfully fielding 1,565 chances without committing an error. In 2007, Matheny retired from baseball following a season of concussions. After working as a special advisor to the Cardinals in 2008, Matheny was hired by the Cardinals on November 14, 2011 as their new manager.
The Cardinals are not the first team Mike Matheny has managed for. Following his retirement from baseball, Matheny coached his son’s Little League team. In a moment that should resonate with everyone who has played youth baseball, or has experienced Little League from the other side of the fence as a parent, Mike Matheny wrote a letter. His letter was simple, born out of experience in a game that shaped his life from a young age. It cautioned parents of children on his Little League team to avoid becoming an overzealous figure in their child’s baseball experience. Some excerpts:
-“this experience is ALL about the boys. If there is anything about it that includes you, we need to make a change of plans.”
-“I know that it is going to be very hard not to coach from the stands and yell encouraging things to your son, but I am confident that this works in a negative way for their development and their enjoyment.”
-“The difference for kids at this level is the amount of repetition that they get. As a parent, you can help out tremendously by playing catch, throwing batting practice, hitting ground balls. This is the one constant that I have found with players that reached the major leagues … someone spent time with them away from the field.”
- “The best situation for all of us is for you to plan on handing these kids over to me and the assistant coaches when you drop them off, and plan on them being mine for the 2 or so hours that we have scheduled for a game, or the time that we have scheduled for the practice.”
-“I would like for these boys to have some responsibility for having their own water, not needing you to keep running to the concession stand, or having parents behind the dugout asking their son if they are thirsty, or hungry, or too hot.”
Matheny has been an early success story as the Cardinals manager, remaining a steady force in the dugout. He is currently the youngest manager in Major League Baseball, and as of July 25th, has led the Cards to a 51-46 record.