Leadership

It was the moment that no baseball fan wants to see. Watching on live TV, as a favorite rookie gets hurt. Not just hurt in a “Oh great, another one might have to go on the DL, and we’re going to have to seriously think about playing Oquendo, and Kozma may actually have to catch,” way, but in a “That man is not moving, I hope this isn’t a life-threatening situation” way.

But, that was the Cardinals game last night, after Stephen Piscotty and Peter Bourjos collided in the outfield, with Bourjos’ knee making contact with Piscotty’s head. It looked awful, especially as you watched Piscotty crumple to the ground and lie motionless, while Bourjos waved frantically for help.

The players were stunned. Many of them dropped to their knees, and I imagine more than a few were offering a quick prayer. The crowd was stunned. Bourjos looked stricken. Can you imagine what must have been going through his head?

But there was an unsung hero as the drama on the field unfolded, someone who, after only playing with us for a single season, already clearly exemplifies everything the Cardinals organization holds dear. Someone I hope gets a nice, long contract in the off-season that will have him staying with us for a good, long time.

Jason Heyward.

We all know him for his amazing defensive plays. He’s not the current Golden Glove winner for nothing. And we know he can come through at clutch moments with the bat, as well.

But what I saw on the field last night was the type of leadership you always hope to see from professional athletes, but in reality, you don’t get to witness often.

You might have missed it. The focus was totally on Piscotty, as was right. But, if you were paying attention, off to the side, came Heyward. Bourjos was clearly agitated, and Heyward began talking to him, and casually led him away from the frightening scene. I don’t know what was said. I don’t even know if Heyward was really thinking about what he was doing, or if it was just an instinct to help out his teammate, and try to get his mind off of what happened. But, it was a much-needed action…one look at Bourjos’ face made it clear that he was upset, and probably feeling some guilt, and possibly also in physical pain himself. So Heyward stepped up. He couldn’t do anything for Piscotty…that was left to the trainers and doctors. But he could do something to help the man still standing, and he did.

At the major league level, you expect to see highly skilled players. But true leadership is rarer. The guys that smooth out a bad situation, or light a fire under their teammates’ tails when necessary. The guys that can lighten up the mood in the clubhouse, or tell their teammates that it’s time to get serious. Heyward himself is still a young player, and still new to the Cardinals organization, yet he’s already showing the ability to take on that kind of leadership role.

We acquired Heyward for his known skill in the outfield. We need to keep him because he’s the kind of leader our team needs. Get that man a contract, and sign Heyward!

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