Benjamin Hochman: Managing Cardinals and life during coronavirus, Shildt anticipates ‘brightness ahead’ for team

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How is Mike Shildt managing?

Both these uncertain coronavirus times and the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Clearly a different way of going about things,” the Cardinals’ manager said by phone. “In a sense, we’re in an offseason, right? We’re in an offseason mode, getting ready for the season to crank up that we’re not sure, you know, when that will happen. And (our nation) is in a crisis. So in that regard, different variables. We’re unsure of when this crisis will be behind us, but I’m confident we’ve got the spirit and the people that will allow that to happen.”

Speaking to the skipper, he seemed to have a balanced attitude of caring, cautious optimism and carpe diem.

“We still have a lot of brightness ahead of us with the Cardinal organization …” said Shildt, who is based near the Cards’ complex in Jupiter, Fla.

He and his staff remain in constant contact with the players. John Mozeliak, the team’s president of baseball operations, called it “a very healthy communication tree. … I’m sure players, just like all of you, might find yourself feeling like you’re on a bit of an island during this period of isolation.”

Shildt said he makes sure players are in a good place “emotionally and physically,” but not just from a baseball standpoint, but also a real world standpoint. The manager and coaches, as well as performance department and medical staff, give guidance to the scattered players.

“When we do crank up,” Shildt said, “I got to think that we’re going to be playing a lot of baseball. And we want to make sure that physically guys are ready for when that call comes to start again.”

Life, this roller-coaster ride too intense and extreme for Six Flags, sure has Shildt strapped in. Consider what Shildt has experienced in just the past six months or so.

His Cardinals won the National League Central division over the Brewers and rival Cubs.

His Cardinals won the National League Division Series (in a Game 5 on the road).

His Cardinals were swept in the National League Championship Series.

His beloved mother passed away.

He won the National League’s Manager of the Year Award.

He proposed marriage.

He began a sunny spring training.

He got married.

The coronavirus shut down baseball and, really, the country.

“Gosh, I do think about it all,” Shildt shared. “I usually pretty much have a ‘take things as they come’ kind of (mindset). I appreciate the past, grow and enjoy and look for a pleasant future. I’m a pretty present guy, but I have allowed myself to stop and occasionally think about just all of it. Individually, they can all be life-changing events. Collectively, it’s pretty — I don’t even know the word to describe it, quite candidly. But that’s life, you know?

“There are a lot of blessings in there, and clearly there are some things with the passing of my mom and this pandemic that has taken place that are more than discouraging and frustrating. But also, it’s a time for me personally to appreciate what I have and be grateful for the opportunities to manage the St. Louis Cardinals. And I couldn’t be happier to find my soulmate and be married to Michelle. I’m just grateful and blessed for it and just try to make sure I’m doing the best I can to be a good steward for all of it.”

Shildt married Michelle Segrave on March 6, a Cardinals’ off day. The day before, in one of the neater baseball stories heard in a while, the Cardinals’ manager left the dugout during the game, took an elevator up and hung out in a stadium suite with his wife-to-be and loved ones.

The newlyweds knew that any honeymoon could occur, at its soonest, during the “brrrr” of the -ber months. But, suddenly, they began a quarantined honeymoon.

“That part has been a roundabout blessing,” Shildt said. “Clearly we wish it were in different terms, but nonetheless, have very, very much enjoyed.”

Michelle has two daughters, 14 and 9, from a previous marriage. The four have seized the Florida days.

“We take at least one, sometimes a couple different walks — we enjoy our walks together,” Shildt said. “We play Monopoly with the girls, we play a fair amount of Go Fish, which is fun. We’ve watched ‘Yellowstone,’ that’s been a show we kind of binge-watched and enjoyed quite a bit. We played tennis. We’re fortunate to have access to a tennis court close by that we can follow the guidelines of socially distanced, socially conscious and still enjoy some exercise. Michelle cooks. She’s an excellent cook. We have good conversations and we stay in prayer and we just enjoy each other’s company. …

“From a baseball standpoint, I miss just the relationships that we have, and the closeness that we have with our staff and our team. We have such a great group that enjoy immensely in every department. Obviously the players, I love them and miss them. But I just miss our interaction with our staff and the extended staff. And then, after that, I miss just the actual game, the competition of the game — and the interaction with our fans.”


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