New Cardinals catcher Willson Contreras honors Molina with Opening Day cleats
As the Cardinals gear up for their first Home Opener in nearly 20 years without beloved backstop Yadier Molina wearing the Birds on the Bat, his heir apparent, Willson Contreras, has a special tribute lined up for Opening Day:
The custom Nike cleats are outfitted in the colors of the flag of St. Louis with the Gateway Arch and "RESPECT 4" text.
When asked about how Contreras hopes to pay homage to Molina but also do his own thing for the Cardinals, the former Cubs Catcher said:
""...This is a really really special place for me to be. This is a huge responsibility because we all know what he did for the Cardinals and for baseball. I feel nothing but respect [for] Yadi...""- Willson Contreras, 3/29/2023
Contreras has been vocal about his admiration for Molina and the Cardinals organization since signing a 5-year $87.5m contract with the club in December. While no one expects Contreras to be Yadier Molina 2.0, it is refreshing to see a former rival show this level of respect for one of the greatest Catchers of all time.
When Contreras rides the perimeter of Busch Stadium in the pickup truck tomorrow afternoon for Opening Day festivities, it will mark a new era of Cardinals catchers.
Contreras has a career OPS+ of 115 (15% above league average) and will likely bat in the number 5 spot, behind reigning NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt and NL MVP Finalist Nolan Arenado. When he steps up to the plate tomorrow against the Toronto Blue Jays, expect the Best Fans in Baseball to properly coronate their one-time foe and new backstop with a raucous standing ovation.