Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

‘It’s going to be weird’: Yanks’ Carpenter back in St. Louis

Cards legend returns to Busch Stadium for 1st time since playing 11 seasons with club.

Matt Carpenter was trying his best to separate his emotions from the games to be played over the next three days, and he was mostly succeeding until he was asked about his family’s excitement to be back in St. Louis — the city where he enjoyed so much success over the first 11 years of his MLB career.

After telling a funny story about his 5-year-old son’s confusion about whether his dad is still a Cardinal or a Yankee, Carpenter’s strong feelings for St. Louis overwhelmed his best efforts and he had to place his hand over his mouth to avoid more raw emotions oozing out his every pore. Twice during his pregame media availability, Carpenter stopped mid-thought, tried swallowing that lump in his throat and composed himself to keep the tears welling in his eyes from streaming down his cheeks.

With the 36-year-old Carpenter being back in a place he never wanted to leave, there was no tough-guy routine or someone casually brushing off the stir of emotions inside him. As someone Cardinals fans fell hard for because of his grinder mentality and his outward emotions, Carpenter admitted that his attempts to contain those emotions likely will fail several times this weekend at Busch Stadium.

Carpenter returns to St. Louis

Carpenter returns to St. Louis

“Just stepping off the plane [Thursday] night and being back in St. Louis, that started it all for me,” said Carpenter, now a Yankee in St. Louis for a three-game series this weekend. “My family will be here, and I haven’t seen many of the [Cardinals players] yet, but that will make it hard, for sure. A lot of special memories.

“I was telling somebody earlier that this will be the first three games since 2009 I have not pulled for the St. Louis Cardinals to win. All season, anytime that we’re not playing, and our schedule matches up, I’m watching the guys, checking every box score and legitimately wanting them to win every game. This will be the first three where that’s not the case, but as soon as we leave town, I’ll go right back to being [a Cardinals fan]. It’s going to be weird to compete against them, but being able to separate the emotions will be a challenge.”

Carpenter’s time in St. Louis ended with plenty of challenges, with him hitting .186 and .169 over his final two seasons with the Cardinals. That lack of production was in stark contrast to the first nine years in a Cardinals uniform, when he hit 148 of his 155 home runs with the team, compiled an .835 OPS and came through in the clutch time and again in the playoffs.

Remarkably, Carpenter rediscovered his swing — but not before being signed to a Minor League free-agent deal by the Rangers, then briefly being out of baseball before landing with the Yankees. With New York, he has somehow shed his struggles of the past two years and feasted on pitching to the tune of a .322 batting average, 15 home runs, 36 RBIs, nine doubles and a ridiculous 1.226 OPS.

By Chala Dandessa

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