Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jim Edmonds' Clubhouse Contribution

Since he's retiring, Jim Edmonds' leadership role for the Cardinals in the 2006 postseason should be noted. I can't do it very well, so I'll let Jayson Stark make the case:
"I'll tell you exactly when it happened," said Eckstein, the 5-foot-7 mighty-mite shortstop who became the shortest World Series MVP in history. "You have to go back to Game 1 against the Padres. Bases loaded. Seventh inning. Tyler Johnson on the mound. Todd Walker at bat. And he hit a ball through the right side that looked like a sure hit.

"But Ronnie Belliard was playing about 20 feet out on the outfield grass. He made a diving stop and got us out of that inning with an unbelievable play. And when people ask, 'What was the moment it all came together?' -- that was it."

It wasn't so much that that play won that game, because the Cardinals were already ahead, 5-1. But there's a feeling that sometimes comes over teams after plays like that which are bigger than those plays themselves. And the man in center field, Jim Edmonds, thought he recognized that feeling when he saw it.

So Edmonds gathered his teammates around him in the clubhouse after that game -- and awarded a game ball to Ron Belliard. And that, said Eckstein, "was the moment."

Every time the Cardinals won an October baseball game, from that day on, they assembled afterward and awarded those game balls. To one, to two, to three men who had risen to meet that day's biggest moments.

It sounds like a scene out of "Friday Night Lights," not a scene you'd envision in a real, live major-league locker room full of real, live major-league players during a real, live baseball postseason. But this really happened, in the Cardinals' actual life. And somehow, for this team, it worked.

"It worked because we were probably trying to do the impossible," Eckstein said. "And we knew we only had each other to rely on. Every team needs somebody to speak up and take on the responsibilities of leadership. And Jim Edmonds was that player on this club. When he speaks, everyone listens. And the dynamic of this club changed the moment he stepped forward in San Diego."

Next thing you knew, this team wasn't collapsing anymore. Next thing you knew, these Cardinals had forgotten that any of that September ugliness had ever happened.
That's a pretty special ballplayer. Jim Edmonds has a great future as the leader of a baseball team.

No comments: