Jason Heyward to get #22 from Matheny

Mike Matheny

I have always enjoy reading Rob Rains blog, always informative and to the point. This article I am sharing that Rob Rains wrote is worth a read.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny could be wearing a different uniform number next season following the team’s trade for Jason Heyward on Monday.

Appearing as the keynote speaker at the Arrow Leadership and Success Summit at Southeast Missouri State University, sponsored by Saint Francis Medical Center, Matheny said he knew before the trade was completed Monday morning that Heyward also has been wearing uniform number 22, the same number Matheny has worn the last three years as the Cardinals manager.

“Mo (John Mozeliak) got ahold of me and said things were moving forward but there was just one glitch,” Matheny told a crowd of more than 1,000 people. “He really likes your number. The cool part of that story is the reason Jason has that number.”

Since he made the Braves as a rookie, Heyward has worn number 22 in honor of his best friend and teammate at Henry County High School in Georgia, Andrew “Willie” Wilmot, who wore that number when he and Heyward led the school to the 2005 Georgia state championship.

Wilmot, a year older than Heyward, was killed in an automobile accident the next year.

Matheny, who agreed to give up number 22 when he was a player for the Cardinals after they acquired Will Clark from the Orioles in 2000, said there are new rules in place because of the merchandising issues involved which make it harder to just “swap” jerseys.

“We’re trying to get that worked out,” Matheny said. “All I care about is what is on the front of the jersey, the number they put on the back I could care less.”

Matheny’s willingness to give his number to Heyward was an example of what he spent much of his 40-minute talk, and following question and answer session, addressing: the ingredients of leadership, the importance of relationships, and his belief that his team truly is a family.

He spoke briefly both about Monday’s trade that sent pitchers Shelby Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins to the Braves for Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden, and also about the death three weeks ago of Oscar Taveras in a car accident, the reason the Cardinals needed to acquire an outfielder.

“We build this family and all of a sudden we have a piece of the family go,” Matheny said. “That’s hard, in a lot of different respects. We hate to see Shelby go and Tyrell is a very promising young arm and I think he’s going to have a very good career and I think Shelby is going to continue to do a great job. But right now everybody knows we had a hole in right field we had to figure out.

“Jason Heyward can be a real good option and Walden also can be a huge pickup for us.”

Matheny knows the loss of Taveras will continue to be felt by the Cardinals for a long time, however, no matter how well Heyward plays, because of how his death has impacted others on the team.

“I have stayed in touch with guys I know were closest to Oscar and go out of my way to make sure I am in contact with them,” Matheny said. “I believe that is my job.”

Matheny also said he believes it is his job to lead the Cardinals through their grief, and continue to try to emphasize the family aspect of the team, and that they will get through this time together.

“You start thinking about young lives that have ended much too soon and what could we have done differently?” Matheny said. “What message could we have given that might have made a difference? It’s hard for everybody. You have to take it to heart when you have a group that buys into family. That’s what we are selling.

“It’s hard to sell when you see trades in the middle of the season or when you see a loss like we just had. What happened to this family thing? But the idea is right, the collective idea of what we are trying to do together.”

Matheny went to Taveras’ funeral in the Dominican Republic and also was back in the country two weeks later, accompanying a group of 13-year-old baseball players on a mission trip. He could not help but think about Taveras again when he was there.

“Every time I go back there I really think we ought to send all of our American players there,” Matheny said. “What I got to see is where some of these kids come from. If that had been me I would have had no chance.

“I see how hard it is for those kids to fight to get off that island to begin with, then when you see sometimes them make bad decisions I have a little better understanding that these kids weren’t brought up the same way I was. Hopefully we can grow them as men as well as baseball players. They are coming from a tough place.”

Rob Rains

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