The life of a professional baseball player is tough. With the season beginning at the start of April and running through September, players are forced to make baseball a way of life instead of just a hobby. The hours of travel and time spent around teammates in a clubhouse seem never-ending when the season comes to a close. The ups and down of a full year of baseball can bring tension to even the calmest athlete. But most players make sure not to let these things get in the way of having fun.
Fans hear of community visits, games, pranks and other ways that players enjoy their long season with one another. Some ballplayers follow a pre-game routine or make sure to wear a certain undershirt out of superstition. But what Redbirds infielder Greg Garcia has done has shaped the way his team and others in the St. Louis organization interact before every game.
Garcia, a seventh-round selection in 2010 out of the University of Hawaii, has recruited a majority of his fellow Redbirds to participate in something every player looks forward to: pre-game handshakes. And these hand-slapping, wing-flapping, chest-bumping moves have taken over the Redbirds’ dugout.
Originating in rookie-level Johnson City during the 2010 season, Garcia and then-teammate Travis Tartamella compiled a basic handshake that enlisted the whole team following a win. As the infielder progressed through the various levels of the Cardinals’ organization, so did the number of different routines. By 2012, when Garcia was stationed with the Springfield Cardinals in the Texas League, “everyone had a handshake with everyone.” It was something he made sure he carried over to Memphis during his first season with the Redbirds in 2013.
For the variety of handshakes that Garcia possesses, coming up with fresh material can be a challenge. It is something he relies on strange methods to produce.
“Usually the handshakes come to me in a dream so I see them before they happen,” Garcia jokingly said. “But honestly, guys will come up with ideas and run them by me. If I like the idea then we’ll go with it and if it works, it works.”
The second baseman prefers no particular order to perform the eight to nine pre-game handshakes. For him, it is whoever comes down off the field into the dugout from stretching first. Having no specific order helps keep Garcia on his toes, which he appreciates considering the depth and speed of each handshake.
“It’s like a dance routine honestly,” Garcia explained. “I just practice them enough that it becomes second nature to me. I see a guys face, just let my instincts go and the handshake comes out.”
Unfortunately, it is not always that simple. Garcia said that messing up a teammates’ individual handshake is “like stepping on a girls’ toes when dancing.” Forgetting a move can be embarrassing for both players involved, although the Redbirds’ leadoff hitter claims it to be rare.
Making a mistake is always in the back of his mind though and when he was promoted to St. Louis in May to make his Major League debut, Garcia was cautious about his pre-game routine.
“I only did it with Grich (referring to Randal Grichuk who was promoted to St. Louis at the same time as Garcia) when we were both there together,” Garcia hesitantly admitted, “but we did it in the corner where no one could see us. It wasn’t like it is here. I wasn’t as comfortable doing it up there.”
If fans get to the park early enough, they will witness a third base dugout full of players partaking in what has become series business. Garcia has enough handshakes with his Memphis teammates to fill a starting lineup. Of those recruited, Redbirds’ catcher Ed Easley confessed their handshake gets him ready for every game.
“I know when Greg comes to me for our handshake, it’s time to lock it in,” Easley stated.
When it comes down to it, Garcia’s easy-going attitude has translated something as simple as a handshake into a staple within the Redbirds’ clubhouse
“It’s just something we do to keep the clubhouse light and fun before the game and it kind of bonds you a little bit with the other guys,” Garcia said.
Xavier Scruggs (@Xavier_Scruggs) was drafted by St. Louis in 2008 out of UNLV and is in the midst of his seventh professional season. He grew up in California and attended Poway High School in San Diego. The infielder spent the past two seasons with the Cardinals’ Double-A affiliate, the Springfield Cardinals, where he is the all-time career home runs leader with 59.
“A few years ago I was blogging for Scout.com and had a great time doing it,” Scruggs said. “I wrote about winter ball and my season in Springfield. When the Redbirds Media team approached me about blogging, I immediately thought about how awesome it would be to give fans an inside look on a player’s thoughts and everyday experiences.”
The 2014 season is here and underway and I couldn’t be more excited about this year’s Memphis Redbirds team. It is another season to show improvement, strive for your dreams and to grind all 140 games. Triple A is a new experience for me.
I have never been to Memphis but I have heard so much about it. The first day we arrived I couldn’t help but be in awe of such an awesome stadium. I stared at the field just thinking how AutoZone Park will be my new playground for the next 6 months. It was three days before the season started but I already wanted to be on the field. I was visualizing myself in the batter’s box and hitting one over the fence. Redbirds fans showed up for one of our first practices and it only emphasized how awesome it is to have so many people that support you.
Needless to say I am very blessed to be here. Every day I remind myself to not take this for granted. When I think about it, all I’m really doing is playing the sport I have loved to play since I was five years old. What makes it even more special is that every year I get to play in front of so many Cardinal fans that truly love the game as much as I do. For that I will be forever thankful grateful.
There are two things that I have always associated with Memphis and I’m sure it is probably the same for others who aren’t from here: music and food. People warned me about the food here in Memphis. They told me there is a good chance I could get fat with all the wonderful food here in this city. It’s such a shame that all the hard work I put into shedding pounds this offseason will be put to waste with places like Rendezvous, Central BBQ, Gus’s, Blue Plate Cafe and Germantown Commissary surrounding me. I’m not complaining though because being from California it’s not too often I get options like this.
My first thought about the upcoming season is that we have a very talented team. It is not every day that a team has such a remarkable outstanding core of guys. I’m positive that our team will do very well this year. True baseball fans know that a team only goes as far as their pitching will take them. With that being said we could definitely lose pitchers to the big league team if they are pitching well. Actually that could be said for both position players and pitchers. That is one thing that I will have to get used to more of this year, seeing players get promoted to the big leagues. That’s the most exciting part though, knowing that you are only one step away from being in ‘the show’. That’s all the motivation I need.
I’m happy to call Memphis my new home for a little while, but hopefully not for too long because I would love to check out St. Louis as well. More blogging to come very soon, but for now you can find more of my thoughts on Twitter. Until next time!
The former Double-A Cardinals manager spent five years with the team in Springfield, MO. While with the S-Cards, Warner went 364-347 (.512) in the Texas League. This will be his first time as a manager in the Pacific Coast League but not his first time as part of the PCL. Pop was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1991 in the 17th round of the first-year player draft. Warner spent nine years in the Cardinals organization and played for Memphis from 1998-99 at Tim McCarver Stadium.
The 41-year-old hit .290 in 1999 at Tim McCarver Stadium while collecting 11 home runs and 33 RBI as a Redbird. In 2000, Warner made his transition to a coach when he served as the Cardinals batting practice pitcher. His previous coaching jobs include the New Haven Ravens (2001), New Jersey Cardinals (2002), Johnson City Cardinals (2003), Swing of Quad Cities (2004) and Palm Beach Cardinals (2005-06) before taking the job with the Springfield Cardinals in 2007.
Pop replaces previous manager, Hammer, who was promoted to first base coach with the St. Louis Cardinals. Maloney led the Redbirds to a 367-350 (.512) record in his five years as manager, becoming the club’s all-time winningest manager as he surpassed former skipper Gaylen Pitts (364 wins) this past season.
Pitching coach Blaise Ilsley and hitting coach Mark Budaska will both return to Memphis for their fifth season. Ilsley’s pitchers posted a 4.10 ERA, the lowest in the Pacific Coast League, while Budaska coached his hitters to a .270 average last season.
The Redbirds also say goodbye to long-time Athletic Trainer Christophe LaMonte Conroy. After seven years of service with the Memphis Redbirds, Conroy received his call up to the big leagues and will join the St. Louis Cardinals for the 2012 season as their Assistant Athletic Trainer. You will be missed CC, but we are more than proud of you!