Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: AAA Memphis

How To Fall In Love With a Baseball Player

Beyond the stats and the standings,there is nothing like falling in love with a ballplayer to intensify your experience of the game.  And I feel quite confident claiming a mastery of this process.  Just to be clear:  I’m not talking about cleat chasing…. because that is something entirely different and most definitely frowned upon by the wonderful husbands/boyfriends who might be taking us to ballgames in the future.

Rob JohnsonNo, this is the “real thing,” that once-in-a-lifetime feeling.

Okay, okay…. It’s a once-every-season feeling if you’re really, reealllly lucky.

Two weeks ago I fell in love again, and here’s the story:

I am convinced the best baseball love stories start in a minor league ballpark, and this one is no different.

On July 11th we stopped in Memphis, TN to visit the home of our AAA Redbirds.  With front row seats behind the net, we settled in to savor the spectacle of Carlos Martinez throwing his much touted heat.

What we got instead was an unexpected sideshow.  An uncommonly gifted heckler (fairly original content) was just hitting his stride, brewing up discontent amongst the home crowd fans when Redbirds catcher Rob Johnson stepped over and bit back with such professional poise and wit coupled with just the right dose of good-natured humor that the heckling gremlin was not only silenced but forced to fist bump his once prime target as Johnson extended his arm across the first few rows to make contact with a friendly “gotcha!” and a knowing smirk before getting back to work, not missing a beat.

Then, after a hard fought win and even with the lateness of the hour (a game delayed by rain), Mr. Johnson alone hung out in the dugout, signing autograph after autograph for every child with a baseball, engaging them as he scribbled on their keepsakes and further endearing himself to his youngest fans.  One young girl squealed “You are my FAVORITE ballplayer” to which Rob quickly responded with a smile “well, YOU are my favorite fan!”

rob johnson handshakeMy kiddos wanted a photo with their new hero.  So, we asked and Rob readily accepted; but before striking the obligatory pose between the two of them, he held out his hand to each, took a moment to introduce himself and then asked their names and ages.  Personal interaction.  Building a relationship.  Job well done, Mr. Johnson.

Add to his plus personality that we were on hand to witness his speedy pickoff of a runner stealing 2nd as well as his superb handling of the Redbird pitching that evening and I ask you, what’s NOT to love about Rob Johnson?  😉

The very next day, July 12th,  as we were continuing our cross-country road trip we were thrilled to hear Rob had received a call-up to join the St. Louis Cardinals.  (After the Ty Wiggington release, when Yadier Molina’s injury appeared worrisome.)  He’s already made appearances in three games with our big boys. So, if you’ve been watching the Cardinals lately, you might’ve already caught a glimpse of him.

Rob’s no rookie.  At 30 years old he’s played for a few other teams (Mariners, Padres and Mets) over the past seven years. And as a third catcher, his time here on the Cardinals bench may be cut short once the team has no lingering concerns about Yadi’s need for further rest.  Regardless, Rob Johnson has given us another reason to love the game:  another connection, another personal story.  If you are in the market for a new favorite ballplayer, we’ll be happy to share him.  Or feel free to fall in love in the minor leagues yourself!

rob johnson and kidsWant to learn more about Rob?  Here are some recent links from Jenifer Langosch at mlb.com and Derrick Goold at stltoday.com about his value to the club and our pitchers.  Don’t love him already?  Read these:




Go Cardinals!  😉

Catching Up With Bombs, Pags and the Walrus

Mather and Wallace meet up at 1st base

Okay, first things first:  I know Brett Wallace doesn’t like that nickname, so I am not going to repeat it (again)….but it made for a catchy title this morning while I was adequately caffeinated.

My local AAA ballpark was hopping this weekend, full of former Cardinals.  The Colorado Springs Sky Sox were in town for a series against the OKC Redhawks and one glimpse at the Sky Sox roster had me grabbing the kids for the Friday night festivities.

My kids love Joe Mather — I admit, they probably caught that bug from me – and Joe is now with the Colorado Rockies organization playing with the AAA Sky Sox.  As usual, Joe was not an eager autograph hander-outer, and he burst from the dugout pregame without so much as a look towards the stands to his right where a small minion of mostly older men were waiting with baseball card catalogues.

Joe and the kiddos

The kiddos are accustomed to this as getting Joe to venture towards the stands has challenged them before, but they’re persistent – and having me prodding them on with confidence that Joe would LOVE to sign for them seems to boost their persistence.

This time we had a special memento for Joe to sign – a photo that he took with us the last time he was in town (as a Memphis Redbird, still part of the Cardinals family.)  With a little help from Mom, my kids did finally coax Joe over and as hoped, we got a smile out of him when he saw their 8×10.  I snapped another quick photo of the three off them before Joe had to get his game face back on, and we had ourselves another Mather story to add to their baseball memories.

We alone cheered on the Sky Sox that evening, three lonely voices in the crowd, but the kids were having a blast with it.  The Sox lost. And no, they don’t wear high socks.  (I know, I know… someone needs to nudge the Sky Sox and tell them that high socks should be mandatory with a name like Colorado Springs SKY SOX.)

Sunday offered another chance to head back to OKC’s Bricktown Ballpark and test out some new camera equipment on one of my favorite subjects: ballplayers.  Former Cardinals?  Even better!

Pagnozzi catching

If you haven’t been keeping up with the Colorado Sky Sox roster (and why would you?) you’ll be surprised to know that Joe is playing among friends.  Matt Pagnozzi is catching and Clayton Mortensen is a pitcher.  As an added bonus, former Redbird Brett Wallace (now with the Houston Astros) was manning 1st base for the OKC Redhawks after being sent down to AAA earlier in the month.

Ah, the Astros… but that’s a different subject. 😉  (My local OKC Redhawks, former Texas Rangers AAA ballclub, became the AAA affiliate of the Astros this season.)

This weekend’s fun gave me a good reason to dig up a little information on these former Redbirds and share some photos of the boys.

So, here ya go!

Joe Mather

First, of course, we start with Joe Mather (“Joey Bombs”):

Joe Mather (buddy of Brendan Ryan, remember?) played with St. Louis in 2008 and 2010.  His 2009 season was hampered by recovery from surgery for a broken bone in his left hand, injured September 2008.

Joe played with AAA Memphis from 2007 through 2010.

In November of 2010, Joe was selected off waivers by the Atlanta Braves and played in 55 games with the club before being granted Free Agency June 23rd.

On July 7th, Joe signed as a Free Agent with the Colorado Rockies.  Since joining the Rockies, Joe has batted .346 with 5 home runs and .928 OPS in 36 games.

Matt didn't like the called 3rd strike over the weekend

Matt Pagnozzi (“Pags”)

Matt was drafted by the Cardinals in 2003 and made his first appearance with AAA, catching for Memphis in 2007.  In 2010 Matt hit .242 in AAA and during his service with the big club in 2010 (15 games) he batted .359 with his first Major League homerun.

Matt became a Free Agent in November 2010 and signed with the Colorado Rockies.

This season Matt is batting .262 with 3 homeruns while catching for the Sky Sox (44 games).

Wallace holds Mather on 1st

Brett Wallace (if he has a new nickname, I’d love to know what it is. For now, I’ll just say he is NOT the “Walrus”.)

Brett was drafted in 2008 by the Cardinals and was playing in AAA Memphis in 2009.  On July 24th, 2009 Wallace was part of the trade with the Oakland Athletics that brought us one of my personal favorites, Matt Holliday.

In December 2009, Brett was traded again, to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Then, in July 2010, Wallace was traded to Houston where he made his Major League debut July 31, 2010.  In 2011, he played 101 games with the Astros before his recent move back to AAA (OKC Redhawks).  His 2011 MLB batting average is .268 with 4 homeruns.

It was a great weekend of baseball.  And great to see Joe. 😉

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