Cardinals heavy hitter Matt Carpenter on hard work, mental toughness, quirky superstitions and the transition to a promising major-league career.
ALIVE: You live in Texas during the off-season. Do you enjoy living in St. Louis the other part of the year?
MC: I love it. I love the big city-small town kind of feel, and obviously the baseball side of it is as good as you’re going to get. It reminds me a lot of the town I went to college in, Fort Worth. There are a lot of similarities. I could see myself living here someday.
ALIVE: Everyone jokes about baseball superstitions. Do you have any?
MC: I am superstitious, but they change so much. I just do weird stuff, like if I wear a certain cologne to the field and I have a good game, then I’ll wear it again. And if I don’t have a good game, then I won’t. [Or] if, before the game, I eat something and it ends up being a good game, I’ll probably eat that until it ends up not being a good game. If you’re going through a good stretch, you might end up eating turkey burgers for 12 days in a row.
ALIVE: Are you starting to have some favorite ballparks?
MC: Obviously I love it here [at Busch Stadium]. When you’re on the road for 15 days, it’s nice to come back home. I love the fact that you can see the retired numbers of all the Hall of FamersÛÓthe tradition that comes with the stadium. I like the Downtown skyline backdrop. But what makes this place so great is the fans.
ALIVE: What impact do the hometown fans have when you’re the opposing team?
MC: It definitely heightens all of your senses and your awareness. Having a crowd that’s into the game is a big deal from the player’s standpoint. You definitely have that adrenaline that runs through your blood and helps you get ready for any situation. And it’s just fun playing in that atmosphere, even if they’re ragging you and they’re on youÛÓand most of them are! It makes it that much more fun to go out and compete against that rival team. That’s what makes this game what it is.
ALIVE: When did you start to think you’d actually get a shot at the majors?
MC: I won the Cardinals Organization 2010 Minor League Player of the Year. That’s when it really started to sink in my head that I might be able to make it.
ALIVE: What is game day like for you?
MC: I’m usually one of the first guys to get here, around noon for an evening gameÛ_baseball players are creatures of habit. There are a lot of guys who try to do the same thing every day.
ALIVE: Do you have any favorite game memories?
MC: Game 3 of the NLCS in the post season this last year. I hit a game-winning home run versus Matt Cain, and that was a big one. It’s something you dream about as a kid, but to be able to live it is pretty special. It’s addicting. You want to experience that againÛÓplay in those kinds of moments.
ALIVE: What does it feel like now, being on the other side where young fans look up to you?
MC: It’s cool. I don’t know how to put it into words, but it’s a neat thing to see a kid with your jersey.
Photoshoot Assistants: Morgan Gillespie, Laura Guelker, Ruth Lee, Kalie Long, Abigail Newell and Grace Pettit.
Photo credit: Attilio D’Agostino; Shot on location at Busch Stadium. Special thanks to Matt Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals.