Cardinals manager Mike Matheny a ‘born leader’

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“That means he’s fired up,” Schumaker said.

Though only a few players in the Cardinals’ clubhouse — Berkman, Chris Carpenter, Carlos Beltran — could be considered contemporaries of Matheny, you sometimes get a sense that the four-time Gold Glove winner might be just one of the guys.

“We do have a veteran club and guys that have been around the club a little bit,” said first baseman Allen Craig, “but Mike definitely has his own voice and he’s done a good job of speaking up when things need to be said.”

Then again, that isn’t all that different from the role Matheny held as a player. He was considered instrumental in keeping the Cardinals together in 2002 after the sudden midseason death of pitcher Darryl Kile rocked the team. The following year, his teammates voted him the inaugural recipient of the Darryl Kile Award, which goes to the player who best exemplifies Kile’s humble, selfless demeanor.

“He’s a team guy,” Nationals infielder Mark DeRosa said. “He was a team guy when he played. He put the team before himself. He showed up every day. He was consistent in his approach at the plate, behind the plate, everything he did. That’s probably what he asks out of his players.”

And out of himself. Don’t think this season has been easy for Matheny; the on-the-job training involved has been considerable. Asked how he has changed as a manager since spring training, Matheny responded, “Besides less hair and ulcers?” before moving on to what amounted to a reiteration of his mission statement.

“I love this game,” he said. “I love the job. I enjoy getting to invest into these guys and then watching them turn and invest into each other. That’s really the culture we have created here, is us — this team — going out and having each other’s back all the time.”

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