By Jeff Jones
Twitter – @jmjones
LAS VEGAS — He has a few new suits, but Mike Shildt still drives the same twelve-year-old truck. He ate at Waffle House last week. He talks to his mom most nights about the Cardinals, both St. Louis and Springfield, as well as the rest of the club’s minor league affiliates.
Mike Shildt – Shildty – is a baseball man who continues to insist that he’s not much of a social animal, but he’s growing into the public side of his job as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I do understand there’s a status,” Shildt admitted in Las Vegas on Wednesday morning. “I welcome it, and am blessed by it, the status of being the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.”
When he was named first the interim and then the full-time replacement manager this past summer, players and organizational staff raved about him. He was known throughout the system as a man with a deep and abiding love of the team’s tradition and history and is a keeper of one of very few hand-made volumes which keep the lore established by legendary coach and instructor George Kissell.
If anyone has earned the right to make a name for himself in the community as a result of his abiding ties to baseball, it’s Shildt. He’s progressed from area scout to minor league coach to minor league manager to major league coach to, finally, a job where success is measured not in development but in diamonds.
Sparkling ones. The ones that adorn championship rings. If you ask Shildt, though, he would tell you he’s merely a supporting member of a cast that ultimately determines the franchise’s fate.
“People in St. Louis aren’t coming to see me manage or sit on the bench and give a sign every now and again,” he said.
“They’re coming to watch our players, and my job’s to get the players in the best possible place they can…to compete and prepare and for us to compete for championships.”
Unlike some of his contemporaries, Shildt goes out of his way to remain understated. Joe Maddon strolled the hallways of Mandalay Bay on Tuesday resplendent in a Member’s Only jacket with a multi-colored painted portrait of a man in a catcher’s mask.
Shildt, on Wednesday, wore a navy blazer.
And yet to sit at a table and share a meal with Shildt, as members of the media were afforded the opportunity to do on Wednesday afternoon, highlights his best qualities and helps to make clear the reasons why those around him in St. Louis are certain he’s the right man to help the team reclaim its identity and focus and climb back up the standings in the National League Central.
Shildt recently purchased a home in St. Louis and said that he has “been fortunate to be asked to go to some banquets…like the Stan Musial Awards and really cool things.”
Maddon was asked about his winter reading list on Tuesday and mentioned the book “Managing Millennials For Dummies.” Shildt, as it turns out, didn’t need the extra instruction. He said that he respects the younger generation and enjoys the diversity of opinion and approach that comes with the gap in ages.
“They like transparency, which I do, as well,” he said. “They like inclusiveness, which I enjoy. And they just want to be treated well. I appreciate them and I embrace them.”
Still, he has limits. Shildt says he doesn’t monitor social media; he merely receives occasional reports from others in the organization. He joked that he’s not likely to jump on Facebook Live, and further sarcastically suggested he’s more of a Snapchat fan.
He wants to be – is – a part of the community. He’s just content with keeping it low key.
“As far as going out and walking in and saying ‘hey everybody, what’s up?’ That’s not my gig.”
His gig is the manager, and he executes it precisely as the Cardinals need.