By Rob Rains
The fact that the 2020 baseball season was unlike any previous year did not mean that there was a shortage of good stories to write.
The stories were still there – in some cases they were just harder to find in a year that featured a shortened major-league season, all interviews being done on zoom and no minor league games to watch.
Looking back over the last 12 months brought us back to some of our favorite stories of the year – about prospects who have yet to play a game in the Cardinals organization, about a player 10 years removed from his major-league career, about a scout who spent the last 40-plus years trying to find players for the Cardinals – and more.
In what has become a end-of-year tradition at STLSportsPage.com. we compiled a list of our favorite stories of the year, in case you missed having a chance to read any of them, presented in chronological order.
The year began with a trade between the Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays that sent outfielders Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena to the Rays in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore. Of course the storyline of the trade changed nine months later when Arozarena broke out on the national stage as a playoff star with the Rays.
Still, the final story on that trade has yet to be written, and many observers still are confident Liberatore will in time prove to be the true star to come out of the trade. We told his story, and his close childhood friendship with top prospect Nolan Gorman, a few days after the trade. To read the story, CLICK HERE
Before spring training was stopped because of the pandemic, we told the story of Adam Wainwright’s daily online Bible study, which attracted thousands of followers. HERE is the link to that story.
As regular readers of this website know, the baseball draft is always one of the personal highlights of the year and 2020 was no exception, leading to a couple of our favorite stories of the year. It probably wasn’t fun for Cardinal fans to take an in-depth look back at the first round of the 2015 draft, when the Cardinals could have selected Walker Buehler but instead picked a high school outfielder, Nick Plummer. Click HERE to read that story.
We also took a look to perhaps two Cardinals stars of the future, Masyn Winn and Tink Hence, a pair of high schoolers and former summer league teammates who get to continue their friendship as prospects in the St. Louis organization. CLICK HERE to read the story.
The story which attracted the most readers this season was a look back at former Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue on the 10th anniversary of a fight against the Reds that ended his career. A candid LaRue talked about that fight, and how he has lived with the consequences of it, every day for the past decade. To read the story CLICK HERE
One of the differences of this season was when the Cardinals played on the road, radio broadcasters John Rooney and Rick Horton stayed home – and called the game off large television monitors from the radio booth at Busch Stadium. HERE is that story
Because the pandemic wiped out minor-league baseball this season, we wanted to find out how some of the players who had no games to play got through the summer. We told their stories HERE
The fact the Cardinals fell short of the World Series did not mean there wasn’t a St. Louis connection to the fall classic. Coming out of the bullpen for the Rays was Josh Fleming, just three years after he was pitching for Webster University. HEREis what his success meant to his friends, former college teammates and coach.
The last story of the year which made this list came after the retirement of scout Mike Roberts at the age of 80, more than 40 years after his career with the Cardinals began. We talked about his legacy and the impact he is going to continue to have for years to come through his mentorship of other younger scouts. HERE is the story.
As in past years, we appreciated all of the comments and interaction with readers about our Cardinals coverage. Our New Year’s wish is for a return to a more normal season in 2021, and for the health and safety of all of our readers. No matter what happens with the pandemic we will keep looking for good stories to share.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports