Cardinals Where Have You Gone? – Tom Pagnozzi

The fifth of seven reader-selected features on former Cardinal greats from author Rob Rains' new book.

Editor's note: As selected by you, the Birdhouse readers, this is the fifth highest-voted and therefore, fifth installment of Rob Rains' new book, Cardinals Where HaveYou Gone? to be featured at The Birdhouse. Two more player stories will be published here each Friday exclusively for Birdhouse subscribers, so join now!

The schedule:
May 6 Ted Simmons
May 13 Vince Coleman
May 20 John Tudor
May 27 Ernie Broglio
June 10 Garry Templeton
June 17 Todd Worrell

Purchase Cardinals Where Are You Now? from your local independent bookstore, the major chains such as Borders and Barnes and Noble, or from the publisher, for just $19.95. With Father's Day coming, what better gift could one select for their special Cardinals fan Dad? – Brian Walton

Tom Pagnozzi is one of the few players over the past two decades who spent his entire career—minors and majors—in one organization. Pagnozzi had been selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1982 draft but did not sign. He was then drafted by the Cardinals the following year and appeared in 927 games for St. Louis between 1987 and 1998.

Pagnozzi was named an All-Star in 1992 and was a three-time Gold Glove winner in 1991, 1992 and 1994. His best offensive season came in 1996, when he hit 13 homers and drove in 55 runs while posting a .270 average.

But when it came time to hang up his spikes in 1998, Pagnozzi did what a lot of people do when they retire—he moved to Arizona.

Pagnozzi, who had grown up in Tucson, moved to Paradise Valley, a suburb of Phoenix, and settled into what he thought would be a comfortable life of "not doing anything" except being involved in his kids' activities, playing golf and watching baseball on television. He also bought season tickets for Diamondbacks' games.

He found out, however, that reality was different that his expectations.

"We didn't like Phoenix as much as we thought we would," Pagnozzi said. "It was not a good environment for raising kids. We were living behind iron gates."

Three years was enough for Pagnozzi and his family, who moved two years ago to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he lived when he was going to school and playing baseball at the University of Arkansas. He and his family, including daughters Tiffany and Brittany, 14 and 13, and son Andy, 8, are all much happier now.

"We thought about moving back to St. Louis at one point," Pagnozzi said. "It was as hot as hell in Arizona. I don't remember it being that hot when I was a kid. I don't know how I played in it. We missed the four seasons and we missed the St. Louis type of people."

The move to Fayetteville came about when Dave Van Horn, a college teammate of Pagnozzi's, was hired as the Razorbacks' new baseball coach. He encouraged Pagnozzi to move back to the area and work with the team as a volunteer assistant.

Pagnozzi did that for the past two years, but since he was a volunteer and not officially on the coaching staff, there were many restrictions placed on what he could and could not legally do.

He spent a lot of time working with the players and letting them hang out at his house, but he just found he was putting in too much time for what he was able to get out of the work.

"I enjoyed it tremendously, and I still see the kids all the time," Pagnozzi said. "I could not be involved in recruiting off campus, and we could only work with four kids at a time out of season. I was helping out in the weight room, and I was there from six in the morning to four or six in the afternoon. They are only allowed to receive eight hours of instruction a week, so they had to come in between classes. That made for a long day."

The team did have success, earning a trip to the College World Series in Omaha in 2004. "It's different now than when I played," Pagnozzi said. "The pitching is not as deep. Players are bigger and stronger. I don't think they are better players; I think the players in my day were more fundamentally sound."

Pagnozzi is still keeping his eyes on the Arkansas squad while running a new business he formed a little more than a year ago, building homes in the Fayetteville area with his brother-in-law, Norm Wilcoxson, who had been working for another home builder in Arizona before moving to Arkansas.

"This is a growing area with a lot of money," Pagnozzi said. "It's a lot like the Scottsdale area was 20 years ago. Forbes Magazine ranked it as one of the top five places to live in America."

The business is off to a great start, he said.

"My job is more in the financial area of things," he said, "acquiring the land and things like that. I do go to a worksite almost every day and get on a tractor and do whatever they need me to do. I'm learning the business, but I really don't want to be doing it 40 to 60 hours a week. But it is giving me something to do and keeping me busy."

When he isn't working on watching the Razorbacks, Pagnozzi is closely following the Cardinals. He was glad the team had the success it did in 2004 and believes the future will be exciting for several years to come.

"My best memory there was going to the 1987 World Series," he said. "It was an incredible experience as a rookie. What was most incredible to me over the years was the commitment of the fans. There isn't a better baseball town anywhere. They really support their club.

"When they get a good team like they've got right now they really are something else. That team is going to be dangerous for the next three or four years."

When he lived in Arizona, Pagnozzi had one room in his house outfitted with five televisions, which often would be tuned to different baseball games, starting as early as 10 o'clock in the morning. He wants to have a similar setup in his new house he is building on four acres just outside of Fayetteville.

The 42-year-old Pagnozzi admits that in the next few years, he might be looking at baseball from a different perspective, from the dugout of a minor league franchise.

"Every year I inch closer and closer to getting back in it," he said. "I got a couple of offers while I was in Arizona, but I wasn't ready then. The only place I really want to work is for the Cardinals, so we will just have to see what happens."

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