At 23, Carlson already with charitable voice

Cards rookie partners with UnitedHealthcare in doling out $15,000 worth of coats

November 22nd, 2021

At 5 p.m. CT on Nov. 15, was live nationally on MLB Network, answering questions about his first full big league season and waiting to see if he would be tabbed the National League Rookie of the Year.

At noon, Carlson was at Hickey Elementary School, having partnered with UnitedHealthcare to distribute $15,000 worth of winter coats to deserving children in the St. Louis area.

All in a day’s work -- at just 23 years old.

That’s been the quick, natural and in some ways expected progression of Carlson’s young career. In the past, he’s been part of charitable efforts, often in a supportive role and at times taking part in Adam Wainwright’s Big League Impact charity efforts. But this was the first time that Carlson was the main draw -- and the impetus -- for a day of giving back to a town he already feels embraced by.

“All the love and support we get out here from the fans in St. Louis, and all the people that come out to the games, that makes it hard for us not to give back,” Carlson said recently.

The nature of Carlson’s event just before Thanksgiving was meaningful. As temperatures in St. Louis continue to dip into the holiday season, he wanted to “help some children stay outside and stay active” as late as they can into the winter season.

“Just the fact that I was able to put some smiles on some kids’ faces, and a lot of them brought smiles to my faces just by being able to hang out with them and being able to do something like that,” Carlson said. “It was just a real unique and real awesome privilege just to be able to go over there and help out. Those kids were really excited and it was really awesome to see. Makes you want to do more.”

The Cardinals are doing their part as well as the holiday season continues. The club has partnered with American Red Cross, KMOV and Delaware North Sportservice for its 10th annual holiday gift drive on Dec. 1, with new unwrapped gifts being welcomed at Gate 4 of Busch Stadium between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. CT.

That’s been the ambiance Carlson has been surrounded by since he’s continued to rise up the Cardinals’ ranks. With the world returning closer to normal, he’s been able to see firsthand the charitable efforts of Wainwright and Yadier Molina -- a pair of Roberto Clemente Award winners -- and how they impact the St. Louis community.

Carlson can find inspiration in several more corners of the Cardinals’ clubhouse. Paul Goldschmidt is a six-time nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award in recognition of his efforts in supporting pediatric patients. Nolan Arenado, in his first season in St. Louis, already sponsors a community ticket program for deserving fans, as does Tommy Edman at just 26 years old.

Like Harrison Bader did earlier this year, donating batting gloves to youth baseball players at the Mathews Dickey Boys & Girls Club of Greater St. Louis in August, Carlson is finding his charitable voice as he gains comfortability in the field. As he continues to make dazzling defensive plays and etch his way into the bedrock of Cardinals baseball for what’s hoped to be years to come, he sees his efforts in the community following in lockstep.

“They give so much to us in our time here,” Carlson said. “It makes us want to give back as well.”

Carlson ultimately lost out on Rookie of the Year honors, finishing third as Jonathan India of the Reds took home the award. But it was his work accomplished in the morning -- making sure children around St. Louis have a source of warmth for the cold to come -- was his most valuable accolade of the day.

“It was a pretty easy decision to try and help out any way I could given the fact that, you know, I've experienced so much support here in just a short amount of time I’ve been here,” Carlson said. “With how I get treated here, I mean, I feel like it's only the right thing to do. No doubt about it.”