Post Content Cardinals News
March 8th, 2023
TAMPA, Fla. — Harrison Bader is the epitome of New York glitz, glamour and cool with his flashy gold chain, the “Statue of Liberty-colored” batting gloves, the strut in his walk and how confidence oozes out of his every pore.
Yet, when the topic turns to his five-plus seasons with the Cardinals, Bader, 28, flashes a nostalgic smile and morphs into something of a Hallmark card in cleats. His love for St. Louis and its baseball-obsessed fans — even after being traded away to his hometown Yankees last August — tends to turn him to mush.
“Experiences on the field, times with my teammates and the fan reactions,” Bader said while listing off his favorite memories in St. Louis from 2017-22. “The little things — you score a run, you get cheers; make a diving catch, the cheers. The support you feel — whether in coffee shops or going to breakfast — it was real. That city eats, sleeps and breathes St. Louis baseball, and I was so grateful for that.
“When I look back on it, I’m not sad that it ended; I’m happy it happened at all,” Bader added. “I have so much love for St. Louis.”
That love persists, Bader said, even though he was surprisingly dealt last August for pitcher Jordan Montgomery. That move left Bader — drafted by the Cardinals in 2015 — in pain, both physically from the plantar fasciitis he was still dealing with and emotionally from the shock of the trade. Before the Bronxville, N.Y., native could revel in being shipped to the team he grew up rooting for, he had to process his divorce from St. Louis.
“The first couple of days were a challenge, no doubt, walking in [the Cardinals’] clubhouse in a boot [to clean out his locker],” he said. “It was a hump to get over, but once I was ready to play, this [Yankees] clubhouse was really welcoming, and they made me feel comfortable.”
Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said he was a bit uncomfortable trading away a player who is credited for 46 defensive runs saved since 2016 — sixth most among all MLB outfielders, per FanGraphs. But Marmol said the Bader/Montgomery swap was the rare trade that worked for both teams.
“There are times when you give up a good player and get a good player back, and it’s just about what the team needs at that specific time,” Marmol said. “In this case, I think both teams will benefit beyond the season they acquired the player.”
Because they were traded for one another, Bader and Montgomery were witnesses to two of the most historic feats of the 2022 season. Star slugger Aaron Judge mashed an AL-record 62 home runs for the Yankees, while Albert Pujols returned to St. Louis and put on a second half for the ages to get to 703 home runs in his legendary career.
Bader, for one, was in awe of Pujols’ drive all season — even at the age of 42 while playing a 22nd MLB season.
Said Bader: “Albert is a guy who is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but his hunger and determination with the way he spoke, he still had all that. To see that as young player in his shadow, and feel his leadership and intention around every day, it was awesome.”
The power of Pujols might have rubbed off on Bader in New York considering his flourishing finish. Finally over the foot injury that kept him off the field in his final weeks in St. Louis and one that threatened to rob him of the elite closing speed that helped make him a Gold Glove Award winner in 2022, Bader’s healthy return allowed the Yankees to move the 6-foot-7 Judge out of center. In the playoffs, Bader surprisingly joined Reggie Jackson, Bernie Williams, Alex Rodriguez and Giancarlo Stanton as the only Yankees to hit five home runs in one postseason.
Bader hopes his good health carries through this season so he can trot out to center field at Busch Stadium from June 30 to July 2 when the Yankees visit the Cards. He has moved on from St. Louis, but clearly the city will always have a special place in his heart.
“It will be really special and there will definitely be some emotions, but I’m going to do my job,” he said. “The same way I kept my emotions in check when I played in St. Louis, I’ll do the same thing when I go back. It’ll be a nice homecoming, but I’m looking forward to getting after it and soaking it all up.”