Coming into a fresh season, Joe Mather offers a definite presence in the Memphis Redbirds’ clubhouse, and I’m not just talking about the presence linked to his size (the guy is 6’4”!)
Mather commanded the attention of the Cardinals’ organization when, after being stranded below Double-A for six seasons, he emerged as a possible Major Leaguer this Spring Training.
Joe made it onto the Cardinals’ radar after a stand-out season at Double-A Springfield where he hit .303 with 18 home runs and 46 RBI.
Mather was promoted to Triple-A Memphis on June 20 of last summer. After taking some time to adjust, Mather ended up with a Triple-A average of .241 with 13 home runs and 31 RBI.
He was added to the 40-man roster in November and knew coming into Spring Training that he would be working with the big league club.
“I mean I knew I was going to be going to camp by about mid-offseason, so I pretty much prepared myself to come out and try to do as good as I could early, and I remember Tony told me early in camp that he was going to try to get me some ABs in the first couple of weeks. It was kind of my opportunity to do something , luckily I got some pitches and some opportunities.”
With the release of Scott Spiezio at the beginning of Spring Training, there seemed to be a legitimate reason for the Cardinals to give Mather a chance.
In fact, on many forums and fan sites, it was argued who had more upside: Brendan Ryan or Mather. While they are two totally different players, I’d venture to say that Mather is the one with the upper hand, especially in the long run.
Mather’s versatility is a large reason why the guys up North might be interested.
Joe, currently an outfielder, was originally drafted as a SS and played short and third quite a bit his first couple of seasons. He also has significant experience playing first.
“I think I’ll probably take ground balls for the rest of my career whether I’m playing there or not on the team I’m at just knowing that people look at guys that can play more than one position, infield or outfield…the more positions I can play the more opportunities happen.”
That experience—the elevation of his career—seems to put Mather at ease in Memphis for the start of this season.
There is something different in the way Joe Mather carries himself around Autozone Park this year, and that something different is confidence.
“In Double-A I was one of the older guys, and I came up here and I was by far one of the younger guys…I didn’t really know what was acceptable because our team in Springfield was a bunch of kids and I was the older guy like ‘calm down a little bit.’ I feel a little bit more so in a leadership role, not a leader by any means, but more so in a leader role than some of the other guys because I was here last year…[I] probably [have] a lot more confidence.”
Joe points out that his improved confidence isn’t the only thing that has changed from last year’s team. The 2008 Redbirds are pretty different from last year, and Mather notes the potential in this years’ younger team.
“It’s different, we have more young guys…and the older guys seem to be taking a liking to that. It kind of takes them back to when they were younger, and it’s just a good atmosphere in the clubhouse. It’s just more fun. If you’re having more fun, you’re going to do better individually…if you do better individually, the team’s going to be better.”
I have no doubt that Joe’s theory is correct—that the success of the team is tied to the attitude of the players.
I look forward to watching the more energetic Redbirds bring some wins to Memphis this summer—especially if those wins are a result of Joe’s big bat.
Mather is currently on the DL with a sore back, and I know his teammates are just itching to have him back in the lineup—and matching last year's numbers.