Springfield, Mo. – Cardinals’ manager Jose Leger rested at his desk two hours before Friday night’s affair with the Tulsa Drillers – the fourth game of a six-game series at Hammons Field. Leger’s gameday schedule was busier than usual because out-of-town visitors – including minor league instructor Jose Qquendo – were on-hand to observe batting practice.

Something that didn’t occupy Leger’s time was deciding who to slot into the cleanup spot in the lineup: Moises Gomez, DH.

“I saw (Gomez) briefly in spring training – for only one game,” Leger said. “I can’t tell you what kind of player he was prior to what I’m seeing right now – right now I’m seeing the MVP of the league. If he continues this trend, I don’t know how much longer we’re going to have him.  That’s a decision we don’t get to make but he has been great to the club.”

On a night where 40-mph wind gusts carried innocent pop-flies over the left-field wall into the Drillers’ bullpen, Gomez’s eighth home run of the season required no such assistance.

With the Cardinals trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the third inning, the 23-year-old outfielder from Caracas, Venezuela and tattooed a 2-run shot over the 400-foot marker in dead centerfield to give Springfield the lead (Tulsa won the game, 10-7).

“We started off saying (to Moises) listen you’re going to be playing 3 or 4 games a week,” Leger said. “He’s playing every day because I don’t want to stop him. I don’t want to be the one to stop him – that good streak that he’s got going on.”

The one thing I’ll tell you about him. He always plays with a smile on his face – he seems to enjoy what he does,” Leger said.

Gomez is the hottest hitter in St. Louis’ minor league system, and he leads the Texas League in practically every offensive category – slashing .455 / .490 / 1.159 with nine home runs and 18 RBIs in 44 at-bats through April 25. The sample size is small, but the numbers are gaudy enough to belong in a video game. The noticeable bounce in Gomez’s step is an undeniable indication that he’s loose and enjoying himself.


“He’s hit everything – he hits everything hard,” teammate Jordan Walker said. “He’s one of those guys where, whether it’s a good or a bad day, you won’t be able to tell. Whether he’s having a bad day, he won’t switch everything up – he still has faith in his swing.”

That faith did not always come naturally.

Gomez signed as an international free agent with Tampa Bay in 2015 when he was 17 years old, and he spent seven seasons in the Rays organization. After a breakout year in 2018 raised his profile in the Rays deep and well-regarded prospect pool, Gomez struggled in Charlotte (Advanced-A, Florida State League) in 2019 and the 2020 season was lost due to COVID-19.

In 2021 he was promoted to the Montgomery Biscuits (Double-A) where he struck-out 115 times in 269 at-bats and hit for a dismal .171 batting average. On August 8, Gomez posted a picture on Twitter of himself in uniform giving the “hang loose” gesture with a caption that read: “One day at the time.”

The Biscuits released him in October and the Cardinals jumped on the opportunity. St. Louis was the first organization to make Gomez an offer and he signed a minor league contract in November.

One week into a furious start at the plate in 2022, Gomez again took to Twitter – posting on April 14: “One day at the time.”

“(Now) it’s always in my mind, thinking about it one day at a time”, Gomez said through a translator before the game Friday. “Baseball is a game; I want to enjoy it. Whatever happened yesterday has already happened yesterday. I want to move on to the next day – so just enjoying myself one day at a time.”

Gomez said earlier in his career he was rattled by disappointing results – something Leger knows is a common occurrence for teenage prospects from Latin American countries.

Leger played 116 minor league games in the Minnesota Twins system and later he managed in the New York Mets organization. Before he was named manager in Springfield, Leger was the Cardinals Latin American Field & Academy Development Coordinator from 2017-2020.

Before Friday’s game, he discussed the challenge Latinos face transitioning to professional baseball in the United States.

“The culture is number one – the language, the food,” Leger said. “There is so many things outside the playing field, even – well, you want to include the playing fields – yeah, even the playing fields are different here, the weather. You think about, when we start the season here and we’re playing in cold weather – you know, all those things affect a Latin player at such a young age. And you know, the whole pressure of trying to produce when they’re here in the States.”

“When they come here and they got to find a place to live, they have to cook their own food – and sometimes they don’t find the type of food they eat in their country – all of those things affect them, you know?” Leger said.

Gomez is no exception.

“My parents and arepas,” he said when asked what he misses most about home. Arepas are a traditional Venezuelan dish; a pocket of dough made from corn flour and stuffed with fillings that may include meat, cheese, avocadoes, beans, and plantains.

Gomez’s family watches him play winter ball in Venezuela in person, but they can only follow his games in the U.S. online.

“So that’s why you have to be patient with Latinos more than anything,” Leger continued. “Sometimes because of the language, they don’t communicate well, and they stay in their corner – all of that plays into their development.”

The 39-year-old Cardinals’ skipper feels at-home in his second year at the helm.

Leger’s office is well-appointed with a spacious bathroom, but he laments that it’s located at the end of a long, narrow hallway too far from the clubhouse for accessibility with players that he says is critical for their development.

Leger’s youth and communication skills – he’s upbeat but with a calming demeanor – are typical of an industry wide shift in management style.

“Players are different – you can’t have the same approach with every one of them. The communication is the key – knowing what motivates them, what kind of player they are,” Leger said. From my perspective, and coming from a Latin country myself, I tell them listen – don’t worry about the outcomes right now.”

“Think about speaking to other American guys to help with language and feel comfortable. I tell the same thing to the American players about the Latin kids – make sure you guys eat together and hang out together, you (American players) will get something out of it as well.

When you’re older, it’s a different story. When you get to Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues – you just have to produce. There is a time when you have to put up the numbers – it is more about the outcomes,” Leger said.

“But in the end, you can’t be worried about the outcomes all the time. When (players) are young, they do worry a lot about their batting average and this and that – along with the other things I mentioned earlier, it does affect you,” Leger said.

Randy Arozarena – the Cuban-born product of the Cardinals minor league system and 2020 ALCS MVP with Tampa Bay – played parts of three seasons in Springfield. In 2017, at age 22 and playing in the U.S. for the first time, Arozarena hit a respectable but unremarkable .266 batting average in 490 plate appearances between Palm Beach and Springfield.

Caught in a logjam on the organizations’ outfield depth chart, Arozarena bounced between Springfield and Memphis in 2018 and the first half of 2019 season. He went 3-for-4 against Northwest Arkansas on June 9, 2019, his final appearance in Double-A. Just 16 months later, Arozarena would give a historic October performance on the biggest stage while wearing – from a St. Louis fans’ perspective – the wrong uniform.

It’s too early to know if Gomez’s performance on the field portends a similar story is underway with the MLB organizations in reverse. But for all the success Gomez is having with his “one day at a time” mantra, his goal for the 2022 season remains the same.

“Big leagues,” he said.


Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll is a freelance sports writer living in the Ozarks with his wife and four great kids. He loves St. Louis, toasted ravioli and minor league baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @carroll_sgf and Instagram @andycarroll505