The Springfield Cardinals Report – Week Eight

Our exclusive weekly report on the 2007 edition of the Double-A Springfield Cardinals of the Texas League focuses on the difference between making the majors or not as seen by three players – Cody Haerther, Joe Mather and Mike McCoy.

For some professional baseball players, the minor leagues are a stepping stone to the Big Show and a major league career. But, what about those who spend years in the minors and are never catapulted to that next plateau? A handful of Springfield Cardinals players have hung their jerseys in the Busch Stadium locker room - many more have not. What is it that sends one player to the majors and holds another back? I spoke with three of the Springfield Cardinals who have played for a number of years in the minor league system and asked them what that factor was.

"Discipline and experience," Cody Haerther, outfielder for the Springfield Cardinals said. "The guys in the majors are so much more experienced and have a lot more self discipline than the players at the minor league level. Take myself. An adjustment in my play might take me the entire game to make, but the major leaguers will make that adjustment in one at-bat. That is a hard goal to achieve and one I work on constantly."

Haerther, who was recently placed on the disabled list with a broken bone in his right hand, says that playing in Springfield has been a wonderful experience for him. "This has been the best time of my life," Haerther said. "I wouldn't trade it for the world. These guys that I play with are my family."

Haerther knows all too well that the numbers of players not to make it to the majors far outweigh the number that do and he is not diminishing the success he has had at the minor league level. "Making the majors is the ultimate goal of every baseball player," Haerther said. "If I don't get there, I will be disappointed, but I will still view my days of playing in the minors, including Springfield, as the greatest time of my life."

How do Haerther's injuries (he was placed on the St. Louis Cardinals 40-man roster for 2007, but was sent back to Springfield to rehab following an earlier injury) affect his chances at making it to the majors? "Injuries are also a part of life, it's the ability to work through them, recover, and go right back out and play that sets the major leaguers apart," Haerther said. "Right now, I feel I have a great shot to play in the majors. I have played in the minors for several years, but I am only 23-years-old, so I have a lot of good years ahead of me."

Joe Mather, Springfield Cardinals' first baseman and right fielder is another player who has been around for a number of years - seven to be exact. Mather, who resides in Phoenix, agrees with Haerther that discipline is a major factor in making it to the big leagues.

"All around discipline, day in and day out, is of utmost importance," Mather said. "You have to be focused, and sometimes, because of the abundance of travel time in the minor league schedule, it can be hard to maintain that focus. We spend a lot of time on long bus rides, like the one we just finished from San Antonio, Texas, and then go right out and play again that next day. I'm not making excuses; it's just a fact of playing in the minors."

Will Mather be disappointed in himself if he doesn't make it to the majors? "No, because based on what a person takes away from playing in Double-A and Triple-A baseball, you can apply that skill and knowledge to anything you do in your life," Mather said. "I have learned a lot of lessons in minor league baseball. I didn't go to college, so I have learned a lot about myself and others on the field and in the locker room. I think I have grown to the point personally where I have as good a chance to make it in the major leagues as anyone else, but I won't let worrying about it spoil my time here in Springfield."

Mike McCoy, who has played six years in the minors (three of those for Springfield) was recently called up to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds, but before he left he said that he too felt that consistency was important. "You need to be able to make the big plays every night you go out to play," McCoy said. "There are always going to be peaks and valleys in your career, but it's the ability to make the most of those peak times that makes the difference."

McCoy says that he is thrilled to have had the chance to play in Springfield and at Hammons Field. "I have had a great time in Springfield," McCoy said. "I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not many people even make it to this level of play, so I guess I should feel pretty good about that. One thing I will say—this is a great way to make a living."

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