Matt Holliday was down to his final out in the Home Run Derby Monday in Los Angeles. He had just a single home run, a disappointing performance for the Cardinals outfielder.
But then, he found his home run swing and hit four gold balls into the seats and finish his night respectably. Holliday did not completely whiff in his second derby performance.
With the lights shining brightly on Holliday, he turned in a solid showing bolstered by a strong finish.
His Home Run Derby showing was fitting for the slugger in his first full season with St. Louis. The spotlight has been hot since he signed a 7-year deal worth $120 million. With a big contract, comes great expectations. Holliday has been good for St. Louis, but there is always a need for more – more production, more home runs, more RBI. There is always a need to be better. […]
When Holliday reaches a certain level of play, the Cardinals and the fans want him to put his head down and reach higher. The pressure of expectations can be exhausting or it can be motivating. Holliday is a throwback ballplayer. He puts pressure on himself to be better and better every day. He wants to earn his money and more importantly, a championship and respect.
At first glance, it seems Holliday was earning his money and the respect that comes with being a great player. He has been solid all season with a batting average constantly hovering around .300 and steady home run and RBI totals.
He’s been good. But a closer look says he can be better. Watching him day in and day out, some of the little things were missing. Holliday wasn’t getting the job done in the clutch.
And money is supposed to be made in the clutch. The baseball-crazed city of St. Louis took notice of Holliday’s failures. The Cardinals have been stalling all summer, unable to put it into the next gear and take off. Holliday was supposed to make the engine go along with Albert Pujols who had problems of his own. Needless to say, St. Louis wasn’t happy with their newest star.
It was a new low for a great player who takes so much pride in his work. Holliday made his name in Colorado with his bat. He could do it all: hit for average, hit for power, and hit in the clutch. In 2007, he led the National League with a .340 batting average and drove in a league-best 137 runs.
Holliday looked like the RBI-man of the past again last summer in St. Louis. In 63 games with the Redbirds, he hit .353 and drove in 55 runs. Cardinals fans loved him. He was the epitome of a ballplayer and boy could he hit. The city adopted him as a son.
Like any parental relationship, St. Louis expected a lot from Holliday. And he wanted nothing more than to make the city proud and to win them games. And like any son, he wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes. He struck out with runners in scoring position. He didn’t get to every fly ball. But he also stood tall.
It’s not easy to have the weight of the world on your shoulders and to stumble and fall as everyone watches.
As a city watches with a look of disappointment in its eye.
Few forces are more powerful than the forces acting on a relationship between fans and professional athletes. Fans are some of the most passionate people in the world when they watch their team. They live and die with every at bat, every win and every loss. No, they’ll never get the feeling the athlete gets after failing in front of thousands. But that’s why they care so much. They wish they could feel the triumph and defeat in the batter’s box. And since they can’t, they make sure the athletes understand the responsibility that comes with being one of the few who get that chance.
The gift is a special thing and the city makes sure that gift is maximized. That the player grows the gift and then reaches for impossible heights.
The fans just wanted Matt Holliday to understand what it means to be a St. Louis Cardinal. The franchise has won 10 World Series championships, second only to the New York Yankees.
Matt Holliday does understand and he just wants their respect. He wants their understanding that he will never stop working and never stop hitting as long as he is lucky enough to play this game. He is one of the hardest-working players in the game and if he fails, it’s not for a lack of trying.
Holliday and St. Louis share a bond in baseball. It will change and develop over the next seven years with every game and every at bat. It’s a powerful bond – the bond between fan and player.
Matt Holliday is an All-Star representing the St. Louis Cardinals tonight. The city has to be proud.
With a strong finish to the year, the city will only be prouder. And the bond will only grow stronger.