From Our Backyard To The Big Leagues
Have you felt it in the air? The excitement, the happiness, the pure joy of living? It’s here! After all these dreary months, finally a new season is here!
Welcome back, baseball!
April 1 marks Opening Day 2013 for Major League Baseball, and Columbia is ready to greet the boys of summer. Meet 16 past and present MLB players (and one notable broadcaster) with CoMo connections.
Born: April 28, 1983
Position: Third base
Mid-Missouri Connection: Freese attended the University of Missouri his freshman year. Although offered a baseball scholarship, he didn’t take it. At the time, he thought he was done with baseball.
MLB Debut: April 6, 2009, for the St. Louis Cardinals
Batting average: .296
Home runs: 35
Runs batted in: 177
St. Louis Cardinals (2009–present)
David Freese will forever be remembered for his batting in the 2011 World Series championship. In Game 6, facing two outs and two strikes, he hit a triple in the ninth inning to tie the game, and then in the 11th — again with two strikes — he hit a walk-off home run. His bat had already earned him the 2011 National League Championship Series MVP award, and when the Cardinals won the championship in Game 7, he became the World Series MVP as well. His 21 RBIs in the 2011 postseason set an MLB record and earned him the 2011 Babe Ruth Award. He is also a 2012 All-Star.
Considering you were on a break from baseball while at MU, how did you grow while a Tiger? What did you take from your time in Columbia?
Quitting baseball after high school was a tough decision, but the right one at the time for me. It’s what I wanted to do. Go to Mizzou as a student and not play ball. It allowed me to evaluate my life and come to the realization I was a baseball player and that’s what I wanted to do. I loved my time at Mizzou and always enjoy going back. A great year there in school led me back to playing ball.
I’ve read that you at first didn’t believe it was Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak calling with an offer. You were already in the MLB. How important or exciting was it to get to be a Cardinal?
I got the call from Mo while I was at a Burger King in California. I loved playing in the Padres organization but was thrilled to become a Cardinal. Yes, at first I wasn’t too sure if it was actually Mo who left the message or a buddy messing around, but when the Padres called me, I knew I had been dealt.
Those two at-bats in World Series Game 6 ― how did you pull that off? I mean, if you were coaching, what would you tell someone in that kind of pressure situation was the key to success?
You have to embrace the situations that God puts you in. The good and the bad. It’s all about poise. The results will not always be how you want but the effort needs to be there. Preparation is a huge part of becoming successful.
What experiences and opportunities stand out as the most memorable or fun, on the field and off?
I got to do some cool things after the World Series. Being on “Leno” and “Ellen” was amazing. I’ve always said this, though: The coolest moment was standing in the end zone at the Mizzou-Texas football game [Nov. 12, 2011] surrounded by the whole stadium on their feet cheering. I will never forget that feeling.
What motivates you?
I want to win. For me, it’s about winning. Everything else that comes with being in the big leagues is great, but nothing compares to winning a championship.
How are you feeling as the 2013 season begins?
I am very excited about this team this year. It’s a talented group with a ton of desire, but we have a lot of fun, too, and you need that during a six-month grind. Health is always the first thing you need to be a contender. If we can stay healthy, I like our chances to compete.
Born: July 27, 1984
Position: Starting pitcher
Mid-Missouri Connection: Scherzer played Tiger baseball from 2004 to 2006. He was named Big 12 Pitcher of the Year in 2005 and twice led the league in ERA before becoming Mizzou’s first-ever first-round MLB draft pick. He was inducted into the University of Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.
MLB Debut: April 29, 2008, for the Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks (2008–2009)
Detroit Tigers (2010–present)
Max Scherzer is heading into 2013 with a superb season behind him. In 2012, he led the American League in strikeouts with 231 strikeouts, and reached career highs in wins and win percentages. His team, the Detroit Tigers, swept the New York Yankees in the 2012 American League Championship Series, and in the final game of that series, Scherzer struck out 10 and allowed only one run over 5⅔ innings. Detroit was, in turn, swept by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
Scherzer will again be with the Detroit Tigers in 2013.
You were a first-round MLB draft pick, the first-ever to come from MU. What did that mean as far as opportunities and expectations?
Nothing as far as expectations, but that was a neat accomplishment because you always strive to be the best and to help further the MU baseball program. I think it helped set the doors behind me for guys such as Aaron Crow and Kyle Gibson, for them to be first-round picks, too. We had a nice little run of pitching there at MU, and it’s always fun to see those guys succeed as well.
Your debut in the major leagues, you threw 4⅓ perfect innings, struck out seven and set the record for the number of consecutive batters retired for a pitcher making his MLB debut as a reliever. What did that do for your confidence?
Nothing. It told me I could pitch in the big leagues, but I already had confidence that I was going to have success. For me, no matter what happens on the field, you always have to believe you’re going to have success. Whether you have a lot of success or you fail, your confidence is never going to change.
That’s going to sound strange to some people. How do you manage to keep that confidence if you’ve gone out there and had a hard time?
Then it’s time to work harder and go out there, and you’ll have success the next time. You just can’t get caught up in the highs and lows of sports. And for me, in pitching, they’re going to happen, but I feel like confidence is a choice, and I’m going to choose to be confident and believe I’m going to have success every time I step on the mound; no matter who I’m facing or what the scenario is, I’m going to come out on top.
Game 4 of the American League Championship Series was another highlight. You struck out 10 and allowed only one run over 5⅔ innings. Can you take us to that game? What was your frame of mind?
When you’re up three [games] to nothing, you’re feeling good that we’re going to the World Series, and I mean, what an opportunity! You’re facing the Yankees. All the marbles are on the line. You’re going up against the best pitcher. You know the Yankees have a great lineup and to be able to go out there and have the kind of outing I did and to get to the World Series — I think it was about 6-0 in the fourth, and I just remember thinking: “Man! We’re about to go to the World Series if I can just pitch a few more good innings here!” Fortunately, I was able to do that, and obviously, our bullpen was able to come in and shut them down, and man, what a feeling! To be able to win the series and sweep the Yankees, and do it at home in front of the fans — it’s just an unbelievable feeling.
How is the atmosphere different at the World Series?
There’s so much hoopla leading up to the game. That’s just unbelievable how much stuff goes on, but for the game itself — I mean, I hate to say it — it’s just baseball. You know so much is on the line, but when you’re actually out there playing in those games, I was able to keep everything slow. I thought everything was going to be intense to me, but I was able to keep it slow and actually just go out there and play the game like I always have. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t intimidated by the situation. In fact, I really enjoyed it.
You thought you might be nervous?
No, I didn’t feel I would be nervous. Actually, I knew I wasn’t going to be nervous.
Last year was a good year for your career. How are you feeling going into 2013?
You know, I feel good. I can’t wait to get down to spring training and pick the ball up again and start facing hitters.
Any experiences as far as games, or meeting people, or opportunities that stand out?
This is my No. 1 thing I’ve gotten to do because of playing for Detroit: I got to play Augusta National, the golf course. And I thought that was extremely rare, and I found out, it’s even rarer than that, so I got to golf Augusta, and that was a pretty unreal thing to be able to do.
Are you having fun?
Oh, yeah, I’m having a blast. I’m still getting to play the game I love every single day, and what else would I want?
Born: June 22, 1982
Position: Second Base
Mid-Missouri Connection: Kinsler played baseball at MU in 2003 and was inducted Feb. 1, 2013, into the University of Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame with the note that he “was instrumental in helping lead the resurgence of MU’s baseball program.”
MLB Debut: April 3, 2006, for the Texas Rangers
Batting average: .272
Home runs: 143
Runs batted in: 467
Stolen bases: 157
Texas Rangers (2006–present)
In his 10 years in the majors, Ian Kinsler has scored several impressive achievements: He’s a three-time All-Star (2008, 2010, 2012) and a two-time 30-30 Club member (2009, 2011); he’s been to the World Series twice (2010, 2011).
Kinsler’s 2012 stats were down from previous years, but in 2013, he will once again be starting at second for the Texas Rangers.
Something I find really interesting is that you had four high school teammates in Tucson [Brian Anderson, brothers Chris and Shelly Duncan, and Scott Hairston] who have made it to Major League Baseball.
Yeah, and I find it really interesting also, but no one seems to write about it or talk about it much.
What was in the water?
I don’t know what it was. We all grew up together, except Scott, playing in the same Little League, so we always competed against each other, and I’m sure that made us better, but to get to the level of the big leagues, that’s pretty unusual.
On April 19, 2009, you hit for the cycle and got a hit in all six at-bats — how was that?
That was just crazy. It was almost like an out-of-body experience. To get four hits in a game is really good, and to get six — it was almost like I wasn’t doing it. I came up for my fourth at-bat with a home run, a double and a single, and I had no idea I needed a triple. I hit a single up the middle, and when I got to first, I started thinking, “Ah! If I’d hit a triple there, I’d have a cycle,” so that’s when it all kind of hit me. And then, I got another at-bat, and it was just completely random that I hit it into the right center field gap. It took a perfect bounce off the wall, and I made it to third easy. It was just a weird game, and I still have the jersey with the dirt on it. It’s something I’m definitely going to brag about to my children when they’re old enough to understand.
Last year didn’t go as well as the years before. I read where you said, “You don’t want to have a bad year to motivate yourself, but when it happens, you’re motivated.” How are you applying that motivation?
I’m doing a lot differently. It’s motivation to get myself in better shape. Plus I’m getting older as far as baseball is concerned, so I want to stay on top of that. Every year, you have to prove yourself over and over again. People tend to forget really quickly in sports, and that’s motivation.
You’ve been described as fearless. Is that a trait you’ve developed, or is it written into your DNA?
I’m pretty sure it’s in my DNA. Something I’ve always liked to do in the games is take that extra base or do something someone else wouldn’t necessarily do. I’m not the fastest guy, but I believe my instincts are really good, and I trust my instincts, and I try to take advantage of as many things as I can.
It seems like you have a lot of fun out there. There was the incident of sliding on the tarps in the rain [Kinsler led five other teammates out of the dugout and into the rain to slide on tarps covering Shea Field in June 2008] …
[Laughing] Yeah. That was awesome.
Is baseball as much fun as it looks like it would be?
Yeah, and that’s another goal of mine: just to get back to having fun. Last year was a little tense for our team. There were extremely high expectations, and that takes away from the fun a little bit, but that is something I pride myself on, just having fun with the game and enjoying moments you’re in and enjoying opportunities you have. And I love to play the game. I love people who have a passion for it.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about your career or time in Columbia?
I’d just say that Columbia was a huge stepping-stone for me. It was just a big learning experience for me to be off on my own, and basically learn baseball and learn about life. I don’t think there’s really a better place in the country to do that, for me, anyway.
Born: April 26, 1978
Mid-Missouri Connection: Born in Jefferson City, Crede grew up and still lives 50 minutes south of Columbia in Westphalia.
MLB Debut: Sept. 12, 2000, for the Chicago White Sox
Last MLB Appearance: Sept. 13, 2009, for the Minnesota Twins
Position: Third base
Batting average: .254
Home runs: 140
Runs batted in: 470
Chicago White Sox (2000–2008)
Minnesota Twins (2009)
Joe Crede’s biggest moment in baseball came on Oct. 26, 2005, when the Chicago White Sox beat the Houston Astros 1-0 to cap a four-game sweep of the World Series. He was also an All-Star (2008) and a Silver Slugger Award winner (2006). In 2006, he hit 30 home runs, collected 94 RBIs and had a slugging percentage of .506.
Crede’s career was cut short in 2009, following three back surgeries. This month, he will be inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. He lives in Westphalia on a cattle farm with his wife and three children.
What do you remember about your rookie season?
I remember my first game. I didn’t start. We were up to bat, and we had already made the third out, and [Manager] Jerry [Manuel] hadn’t even told me yet that I was going in. After the third out was made, he came over and pointed at me and said, “You’re in,” and I’m like, “What?” I didn’t even know where my glove was! I hurried up and got my glove and ran out there, not loose or anything, and sure enough, the first three guys hit three ground balls to me, so the inning was over just like that.
How soon was it that you were starting?
Not until 2003. I came up again in 2001 for about two weeks in the summer, and that’s when I got to play in the old Busch Stadium. I probably had 200 or 300 people there at the game, and to be able to play in that stadium was very special to me because growing up, that’s where I realized I wanted to play big-league baseball when I was in fifth or sixth grade. Just sitting there, I was like, “Man, this is what I want to do” … and I really believed in myself that I could, at least, get to the big leagues. So playing there was — words just can’t describe what it was like to play in Busch Stadium.
What are other moments that you want to tell your kids about? Is it the game-winning RBI double in Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series? Or the 2008 Opening Day grand slam?
The most obvious would be winning in 2005. Growing up in mid-Missouri, the one person I always looked up to was Tom Henke. I can remember sitting in my living room and watching him win with the Toronto Blue Jays and just getting chills up and down my spine and thinking, “Man, I can’t believe that guy is from Taos, Missouri.” I never would’ve thought I could ever get that far, as far as winning a World Series. I always believed I could just at least make it to the big leagues, but when we won in ’05 … Everybody always asks me, “What went through your head when you got that last out in the World Series?” It was such an unbelievable moment. My whole body just went numb. I thought about everything I had gone through in my baseball life and my family and all my teammates all the way down to Little League.
What motivated you in your career?
I was always trying to prove to everyone how good I was. I was pretty frustrated when I got sent back to the minor leagues in 2001 because I was just coming off two MVPs in the minor leagues and I was like, “Man, what more could I do?” In ’02, before I got called up, I had a talk with my wife and I said, “Hey, I’ve done everything I dreamed of and more. I got my first hit in the big leagues. I got to play in Busch Stadium. I guess I’m just not good enough to play every day in the big leagues, but yet, I’ve still realized my dream of playing in the big leagues.” Triple A … it just wasn’t for me anymore. So we actually started packing up our apartment, and I was ready to just go home and call it quits and be happy with that. My wife talked me into playing the rest of the home stand in Charlotte that week, and at the end of the home stand, I ended up getting called up because the third baseman was hurt. So I went up and did well, and then I became the starting third baseman the next year. So I was like, “Well, I’ll play a little longer then.” [laughs]
Is there anything else you would like to say to people reading Inside Columbia?
To the players around the area, I’d like to say, “anything is possible.” I think the biggest thing people don’t realize is that even with the teams I played on in the summer in Jefferson City — the American Legion teams — I was never the best player on the team. So, you never have to feel you’re the best player on the team to be able to go and succeed in the game of baseball.
What does it take then?
Just drive and hard work and believing in yourself. It’s a matter of having that extra drive and that spark and having that confidence in yourself that you can go and play this game at a higher level and go out there and prove to everybody that you can.
Born: March 11, 1959
Position: Left fielder
Mid-Missouri Connection: A two-sport Mizzou athlete, Bradley is a Tiger football legend. He served as starting quarterback in 1979 and 1980, led the Tigers to three bowl games and holds Missouri records for passing and total offense. In baseball, he was an outfielder and star batter. He continues to live in Columbia and serves as a volunteer assistant coach for Tiger softball. He is a member of the inaugural class of the University of Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame.
MLB Debut: Sept. 2, 1983, for the Seattle Mariners
Last MLB Appearance: Sept. 29, 1990, for the Chicago White Sox
Batting average: .286
Home runs: 78
Runs batted in: 376
Seattle Mariners (1983–1987)
Philadelphia Phillies (1988)
Baltimore Orioles (1989–1990)
Chicago White Sox (1990)
Phil Bradley was a third-round draft pick for the Seattle Mariners in June 1981. He earned a major league reputation as a speedy base runner, and he was a 1985 All-Star. That year, he hit .300 with 26 homers, 22 stolen bases and a .498 slugging percentage.
Today, he serves as a special assistant to the executive director of the MLB Players Association.
What brought you back to Columbia?
I met my wife here my senior year of college. I got drafted June 1981. We got married in the fall of 1981, and we always came back to Columbia. We never really left.
You were a pretty good home run hitter —
I was more of an average hitter. I had a year or two where I hit a few home runs, but basically, I was a high-average hitter.
Do you have any favorite home runs?
The home run that is probably the most famous, but yet really didn’t count, was when I was the first batter at the first night game at Wrigley Field back on Aug. 8, 1988, and I hit a home run leading off the game, but the game got rained out in the fourth inning, so it happened, but it didn’t happen.
Were there any home runs that were really exciting for what it meant to the game?
I had a [walk-off] game-winning grand slam [on April 13, 1985, against the Minnesota Twins], but to me, the two biggest moments I had in baseball was that home run [at Wrigley Field], and I was the 20th strikeout victim of Roger Clemens when he struck out 20 batters back in 1986. And that, I mean, it is what it is. I’m not ashamed of it. It keeps me in the record books.
You were also pretty good at stealing bases. What does it take mentally and physically to be successful?
It takes a little courage, and it takes a good reaction. You have to react to the pitcher, and you have to get the best jump you can. Part of it is luck, and part of it is … what I call an educated anticipation, based on pitch counts, when a pitcher might throw a slower pitch. Kind of watching his patterns. So there are a lot of things that go into it, but for non-major league players, it’s getting the best lead you can and getting the best jump you can.
How did it feel to be selected to the All-Star team?
That was a big honor. It gave me an opportunity to be on the field with what turned out to be a lot of Hall of Fame baseball players.
Do you have any other moments that maybe weren’t big, memorable moments as far as the rest of the world is concerned but were for you?
I was just talking to a former teammate the other day. Back in 1989, I played for the Orioles, and we were one game out of first place going into the last three days of the season, and we were up in Toronto, which was in first place, and I led off the first game of that series — the first pitch of the game, I hit a home run off of Todd Stottlemyre. But we ended up losing the game 2-1, and we ended up losing the series two games to one, and so then we didn’t make the playoffs.
But you did your part, huh?
I tried. I tried.
You spent a year with a Japanese team.
Yes, I played a year over in Tokyo for the Yomiuri Giants.
You went there hoping to get back into the major leagues?
Yes. I got hurt in 1990 [had wrist surgery at the end of the season], and I went over there to play and to show people I was healthy and ready to go, and I played well. I came back to the states in ’92, and I got released in spring training. I played for a couple of Triple A teams, and then that was the end of my career.
Was it hard to adjust when the career was over?
Sure, it was very hard. I was still a young man. I was 32 years old, and it came very quickly. It took me about a year to get over it, and then I was able to make the adjustments I needed to, to get on with my life.
Is there anything else about your baseball career that might be fun for Columbia to know?
Major League Baseball is a unique profession because it is probably the one sport played by more males in the world on an amateur level, which then makes them part of that fraternity. Not everybody gets to the major leagues, but a lot of people play baseball. And to be able to play that for a living — really, to get to play that game for a living, it’s special.
Born: Dec. 21, 1957
Mid-Missouri Connection: Henke is a lifelong resident of Taos, located 50 minutes south of Columbia.
MLB Debut: Sept. 10, 1982, for the Texas Rangers
Last MLB Appearance: Sept. 30, 1995, for the St. Louis Cardinals
Games pitched: 642
Win-loss record: 41-42
Earned run average: 2.67
Texas Rangers (1982–1984)
Toronto Blue Jays (1985–1992)
Texas Rangers (1993–1994)
St. Louis Cardinals (1995)
Tom Henke, nicknamed “The Terminator” for his fierce dominance as a closer, was so beloved in Toronto that he had his own song, “The Ballad of Tom Henke.” Henke helped the Toronto Blue Jays win a 1992 World Series championship, was a two-time All-Star (1987, 1995), and in 1995, won the NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year award. And with that, to the bewilderment of many, he retired.
Henke has been inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Peer election into Cooperstown is not out of the question for this hero; time will tell.
When did you start aiming for the majors?
It was probably after I got into college. I got drafted a couple of times by the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago Cubs. I wanted to finish college [East Central College in Union, Mo.], and then I signed with the Texas Rangers.
So the reason you kept turning down offers was to finish college?
Yeah, because, you know, there are no guarantees in baseball. You’re really only as good as your last pitch. If you get hurt, your career can be over in a hurry, and so I thought I better have something to fall back on.
When you look back at your career, what highlights come to mind?
The ultimate would have to be the World Series in 1992. That’s what every player dreams of since he’s a little kid, not only playing there but possibly — possibly — becoming a world champion. So that was a dream, and fortunately, I was in the right place at the right time.
Some of the other things would’ve been the two All-Star games, 1987 and 1995, and when I retired with the St. Louis Cardinals. That was a special, special year, the year I played with the Cardinals, my hometown team. Being able to put on the birds on the bat — I sat there and looked at myself in the mirror in spring training and almost couldn’t believe that I was wearing a Cardinals uniform.
I’d like to read something here from HardballTimes.com: “In 1995, after years of piling up substantive seasons of leading the bullpen and being one of the most respected — but not one of the most celebrated — closers in the game, he seemed poised to start to pile up the stats and pad his Cooperstown resume. … So what did he do? He retired. … If only he were greedier. He might be in the Hall of Fame.” What’s your take on that?
Well, I followed my dad’s advice: I did the best I could for as long as I could. In 1995, I was going to be 38 years old that winter, and I had played 16 years, and I could feel the end coming. Yeah, I could’ve piled up a few more saves. I finished with 311, which when I retired was fifth on the all-time list; now I’m still in the Top 20, I think. A lot of my stats are very comparable with several of the guys who are in the Hall of Fame. Will it happen? Who knows. But I was happy leaving. I did it for the right reasons. My oldest boy was just starting high school, and I wanted to be home for my kids. Because no matter how much money you make, you don’t get that stuff back.
I played with a great, great ball player, a good friend of mine, and someone I always looked up to when I was playing ball, and that was Nolan Ryan. I asked him if he had any regrets because he played until he was 48 years old, and he said, “The only regret I’ve got is all the time I missed with my family.” When he retired, his kids were all out of high school, and I kind of thought about that. And I thought, “I don’t have to play until I’m that old, and I don’t even want to.”
What are you up to now?
Oh, I just do a lot of charitable stuff. I do my own charity golf tournament every October. We went over the $1 million mark this year for the Special Learning Center, a school for handicapped children here in Jefferson City. I just try to give back to the community that always supported me when I was playing. Plus, I’ve got a farm, and I do some hunting and fishing. And I enjoy my grandkids. I’ve got one right here on the floor right now. I’m babysitting. My wife took the other grandkids out roller-skating. I’m not much on roller-skating, so I thought I better just sit here and relax.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to Inside Columbia readers?
I just appreciate all the fans I had here in mid-Missouri. It was something I’ll always remember, how much they supported me and were pulling for me all throughout my career.
Born: Nov. 10, 1986
Mid-Missouri Connection: Crow played Mizzou baseball 2006–2008. His first career victory came during his freshman year in the 2006 NCAA regional, when he threw a complete game against Pepperdine. His junior year, Crow was named Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the Year.
Kansas City Royals (2011–present)
MLB Debut: March 31, 2011, for the Kansas City Royals
Aaron Crow was a first-round draft pick by the Washington Nationals in 2008; negotiations stalled, however, and he didn’t sign; in 2009, he was again a first-round pick, this time by the Kansas City Royals, and he did sign. Crow was an All-Star his rookie year of 2011. He opened his career with 13 consecutive scoreless outings, a feat only 12 major league pitchers since 1919 have accomplished.
How did you end up coming to MU?
KU and MU were really the only two schools that recruited me. I grew up in Kansas, so I was actually a KU fan most of my life, but I felt Mizzou was a better baseball program, and I felt more comfortable with the coaches and the way they recruited me.
What did you get from your time at MU?
The coaches, especially the pitching coach at the time, Tony Vitello, did a great job working with me and helping me mature on and off the field. Every day I was working and trying to get better and realizing different ways to use my abilities … and I think it showed by the end of my career.
Then there was a hiccup in getting signed to the MLB. You were a first-round draft pick by the Nationals in 2008 but negotiations stalled with that. What did you take from that experience? What were you able to do with the extra year?
Most of the year was actually spent in Columbia. I wasn’t in school anymore, but I was working out and just trying to get ready for the draft again. It made me realize you can’t take anything for granted, especially in baseball.
Then in 2009, you were a first-round pick again. Can you take us to that moment?
I was just at home at my parents’ house when I was drafted by the Royals. I didn’t know they were going to pick me. It was a surprise, but I was really happy with that because I grew up an hour from Kansas City, and I’d be close to home and my family.
Can you take us to your first game?
Yeah, I remember it pretty well. It was opening day 2011 against Anaheim, and I was just sitting in the bullpen, and the phone rang, and the bullpen coach told me I needed to get ready. I was surprised I was going to be the first one in from the bullpen that day. When I went in, there were two guys on base and two outs in, like, the seventh inning, and I was facing Howie Kendrick. I don’t remember much of the at-bat, but I’ve watched it a million times on video, and I ended up striking him out. But I don’t know how because warming up, I don’t think I threw a strike the whole time. I was nervous. It was a sell-out that day. Both of my parents and brother and sister were all there, and to get to share that experience with them, it was surreal. It was really fun.
Then you went on and opened your career with 13 consecutive scoreless outings. What did that do for your confidence?
It was huge. It was always a goal of mine to play in the big leagues but until you get there, you don’t know; there’s always going to be a doubt if you are good enough. So, to start my career like that was huge for my confidence. It made me think that I belonged and I was good enough. I don’t think I’ve had a streak like that since then, but it’s something I can work for and this year, hopefully, duplicate and do even better.
What motivates you?
It’s just so much fun. As a kid, it’s all I ever wanted to do, to go out in the backyard and play catch with my brother or dad or hit off the tee. It’s just something I’ve always had fun doing, and you couldn’t ask for a better job than to be a Major League Baseball player. There are always other guys coming up, trying to take your job and get to the big leagues, so just being able to continue to do something I love as long as I can is what motivates me the most.
You were also an All-Star your rookie year. Can you tell us about that experience?
I didn’t get to play in the game, but just being able to go there and experience the whole thing and talk to guys I had grown up watching play — I just hope I can do that again sometime later in my career.
HUB “SHUCKS” PRUETT
Born: Sept. 1, 1900
Died: Jan. 28, 1932
Mid-Missouri Connection: Pruett attended MU and lettered on the baseball team in 1921. He was inducted into the University of Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990 as a member of the inaugural class.
MLB Debut: April 26, 1922, for the Browns
Last MLB Appearance: Sept. 20, 1932, for the Boston Braves
Career Highlights: Pruett was famous for striking out Babe Ruth with his left-handed screwball. Pruett struck out the Bambino 10 of the first 13 times the two met, and Ruth got just one homer out of his 30 at-bats against Pruett.
Born: Dec. 22, 1937
Mid-Missouri Connection: James attended MU, where he lettered as a halfback in football for the Tigers in 1957 and 1958. He lives in Fulton.
MLB Debut: Aug. 2, 1960, for the St. Louis Cardinals
Last MLB Appearance: Sept. 27, 1965, for the Cincinnati Reds
Career Highlights: James was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals 1964 World Series championship team.
Born: July 15, 1939
Position: Third baseman/outfielder
Mid-Missouri Connection: Shannon came to MU on a football scholarship in 1957; he left for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1958.
MLB Debut: Sept. 11, 1962, for the St. Louis Cardinals
Last MLB Appearance: Aug. 12, 1970, for the St. Louis Cardinals
Career Highlights: Shannon has been a part of the Cardinals for 55 years. His highlights as a player include three World Series: 1964, 1967 and 1968, two of which — ’64 and ’67 — the Cardinals won. Shannon hit a home run in each series and also hit the last home run out of Sportsman’s Park and the first one out of Busch Stadium. Illness cut his career short in 1970, and the next year, Shannon joined the Cardinals’ promotional staff. He began broadcasting in 1972. Shannon is a 1999 inductee of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
Born: Oct. 7, 1939
Mid-Missouri Connection: O’Donoghue attended MU and played on the 1958 team that placed second in the College World Series
MLB Debut: Sept. 29, 1963, for the Kansas City Athletics
Last MLB Appearance: June 22, 1971, for the Montreal Expos
Career Highlights: O’Donoghue was a 1965 All-Star. His son, also named John O’Donoghue, was an MLB pitcher as well, throwing for the Baltimore Orioles in 1993.
Born: Jan. 14, 1937
Mid-Missouri Connection: Siebert attended MU and played on the 1958 team that placed second in the College World Series. Siebert was also a basketball star for Mizzou.
MLB Debut: April 26, 1964, for the Cleveland Indians
Last MLB Appearance: Sept. 25, 1975, for the Oakland Athletics
Career Highlights: Siebert threw a no-hitter on June 10, 1966, with the Cleveland Indians against the Washington Senators. Siebert is the last American League pitcher to hit two home runs in one game, which he did as a member of the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 2, 1971, against the Baltimore Orioles. On Sept. 11, 1974, he was credited with the win in a 25-inning Cardinals victory over the New York Mets — the second-longest game in innings played in National League history.
Born: Dec. 25, 1943
Mid-Missouri Connection: Musgraves was on the 1964 Mizzou baseball team, which took fourth place in the College World Series. He lives in Centralia.
MLB Debut: July 9, 1965, for the New York Mets
Last MLB Appearance: July 29, 1965, for the New York Mets
Career Highlights: Musgraves was a college All-American when the Mets signed him to a $100,000 bonus. In his debut game on July 9, 1965, he threw three innings of scoreless relief. He followed up with three more scoreless relief appearances. Then on July 29, he got the start and allowed just one run in seven innings. But he injured his elbow, requiring two surgeries. He never got back to the majors.
Born: Oct. 26, 1949
Mid-Missouri Connection: Rogers was born in Jefferson City and grew up in Springfield.
MLB Debut: July 18, 1973, for the Montreal Expos
Last MLB Appearance: May 19, 1985, for the Montreal Expos
Career Highlights: A five-time All-Star (1974, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1983), Rogers’ best season was 1982, when he collected a career-high 19 wins, pitched four shutouts and led the National League pitchers with a 2.40 ERA. Today, Rogers is the director of the MLB Alumni Association and special assistant to the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Born: Aug. 12, 1939
Died: Aug. 3, 2008
Mid-Missouri Connection: Caray, a St. Louis native, graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
MLB Debut: In 1976, Caray began calling games for the Atlanta Braves, a position he held until his death.
Career Highlights: Known for his sarcastic wit, Caray was inducted into the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame in 2004. He received six Georgia Sportscaster of the Year awards and a Georgia Area Emmy. Skip Caray was the son of National Baseball Hall of Fame member Harry Caray, longtime voice of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs.
Born: June 7, 1958
Mid-Missouri Connection: Laudner attended MU on a baseball scholarship. In 1977, he led the team in eight offensive categories: average (.378), RBI (54), total bases (107), slugging percentage (.622), hits (65), doubles (19), home runs (7) and walks (40).
MLB Debut: Aug. 28, 1981, for the Minnesota Twins
Last MLB Appearance: Sept. 3, 1989, for the Minnesota Twins
Career Highlights: Laudner was a 1988 All-Star and a 1987 World Series champion with the Minnesota Twins. Laudner started all seven games of the World Series and had one home run, four runs batted in and five walks.
One More To Watch
Born: Oct. 23, 1987
Mid-Missouri Connection: Gibson played for MU in 2007 and 2008 before becoming the Minnesota Twins’ first-round draft pick in 2009.
Career Highlights: Gibson is still working toward the majors. In 2011, he was rated the No. 34 overall prospect by Baseball America. But the season brought reconstructive elbow surgery and a long rehab. Gibson returned in late 2012. According to NBC Sports, his average fastball velocity was reportedly at 92–93 mph in the Arizona Fall League.