As Cardinals manager, Mike Matheny embodies team traditions established by Stan Musial: excellence and class on the field, dignity and compassion off it.
Through 13 seasons as a major league catcher, Matheny won four gold gloves and set an MLB record for consecutive errorless games, 252. He spent five seasons playing for the Cardinals from 2000 to 2004, logging 4,938.1 innings while committing just 14 errors.
Since taking the reins as manager before the 2012 season, Matheny has amassed a regular-season record of 375-273 and has led the Cardinals to the postseason in each of his four seasons, appearing in the 2013 World Series.
But perhaps his devotion to playing the right way, with class and excellence, is most significant in his outlook on youth sports. Following his retirement as a player, Matheny was asked to coach a little league team but was reluctant. So, he put his thoughts in a letter intended for the eyes of 13 families only, which he initially read aloud in his home to parents of prospective players for his team in 2009.
It became known as the Matheny Manifesto.
Matheny started by setting three goals for the season:
“We may not win every game, but we will be the classiest coaches, players, and parents in every game we play,” he wrote.
Perhaps because the message was intended for a small audience, Matheny felt he could be brutally honest about the role of parents in youth sports.
“I will be putting plenty of pressure on these boys to play the game the right way with class, and respect, and they will put too much pressure on themselves and each other already,” he wrote. “You as parents need to be the silent, constant, source of support… I have taken out any work at all for you except to get them there on time, and enjoy.
“I know that right now you are asking yourself if this is what you want to get yourself into and I understand that for some of you it may not be the right fit. I also think that there is a great opportunity for these boys to grow together and learn some lessons that will go beyond their baseball experience.”
Matheny’s honesty struck a chord. The speech hit the internet and a national audience, eventually leading to a book that was published in February.
Matheny also shows his compassion through the Catch 22 Foundation, which he started in 2003. The foundation has raised money to build three baseball fields, in Chesterfield, Fairview Heights and at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Hospital. It also supports the work of the Fanconi Anemia Foundation and has provided rehabilitation equipment for Mercy Hospital and its pediatric cancer facility.