Why Arenado has a specific age in mind for retirement

March 5th, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Considering the white-hot intensity that Cardinals superstar brings to baseball -- affixing his focus and fire to even the most mundane of Spring Training drills -- it might come as a surprise to some that the perennial Gold Glover has given thought to when and how his career will end.

That kind of thinking, of course, runs totally counter to the manner that Arenado approaches his job and the relentless pursuit of perfection he grinds on daily. Even though he is likely a Hall of Fame shoo-in already and is universally regarded as one of the best-fielding third basemen in the game’s history, Arenado still pushes with the hunger and desperation of a journeyman fighting for a roster spot.

While that refusal to ever rest or relent in the slightest has helped make him great, that mindset also tends to take a toll on his 31-year-old body and his psyche. By his own admission, Arenado “burns hot” and his intensity usually has only one setting -- blast furnace heat that torches everything in its path. Even Arenado wonders how his continual pushing for more plays in the Cardinals clubhouse.

“Sometimes, I think [my intensity] can be too much, and I know sometimes I really wear myself down because of how serious I take everything,” said Arenado, who had a single in the Cardinals 7-1 loss to the Mets on Sunday.

“I actually need to relax more,” he added. “I’m not trying to show people anything, but I do want to show who I am. To get to the levels I want, I have to be that way. With young players, I tell them, ‘You don’t have to do what I did, but this is how I got here,’ and I’m going to continue to get after it."

While he’s constantly getting after it, Arenado has allowed himself to ponder the end of his career -- even though he’s still clearly very much in his prime after finishing third in the NL MVP race in 2022 with 30 home runs, 103 RBI and a 10th straight Gold Glove. Arenado -- who along with wife Laura welcomed their first child last August -- surprisingly has a specific age in mind when he thinks about dialing back his intensity and stepping away from baseball.

“I think 38 would be cool,” Arenado told MLB.com. “I would like to play until 38, but I definitely don’t want to do 40 like [Adam Wainwright] or Albert [Pujols]. I do want my daughter [Levi] to see me play, but my eyes are set on 38. That could change, but if I’m limping to the finish line I wouldn’t mind going home then. But my sights are set on 38.”

Word that Arenado has peeked ahead to the finish line would qualify as news to the Cardinals, a team that reveres the third baseman’s fiery persona. He and MVP winner Paul Goldschmidt are the team’s most accomplished players, but they are also the most driven, manager Oliver Marmol said. The reserved Goldschmidt and the fiery Arenado, best friends who locker next to one another in the clubhouse and sit side by side on the team plane, are opposites who attract the energy of those around them.

“People draw from [his] personality -- young guys and veterans, alike,” Marmol said of Arenado, who is signed with the Cardinals through 2027. “It was the first week of February, and [Arenado] is on a back field and taking ground balls … as if it’s Game 7. … Nolan approaches every area of his game that way."

Arenado said his work ethic stems from his father Fernando, a Cuban-American who worked multiple jobs to support the Southern California-based family. His intensity, however, comes from his mother Millie, who always made a habit of telling him this: “Do things right so no one ever has to correct you.”

Curiously, questions came early in Arenado’s career when some wondered if his production was simply a product of Colorado’s thin air. Back-to-back 30-home run, 100-RBI seasons in St. Louis seemed to have debunked that -- even if MLB Network ranked him as MLB’s fifth-best third baseman this offseason.

Before he’s done playing -- presumably at 38 -- Arenado desperately wants to win a World Series. The best way, he figures, is to keep pushing and keep grinding and not taking anything for granted. Even though he knows when the finish line will come, there will be no cooling of his torch-hot intensity, he promised.

“As you get older, you know you’re going to slow down, and I don’t want my ‘slow down’ to be early,” Arenado said. “I want it to come when I’m done playing. I’ve been around players who are still talented when they get older, but they don’t put in the same work, and it runs out quick on them. I don’t ever want to be that guy."