These are the Top 10 moments of Yadi's career

October 1st, 2022

It’s not a question of if  Yadier Molina will one day get a statue outside Busch Stadium, have his number retired by the Cardinals and receive unending applause anytime he returns to St. Louis after his playing career ends, but when. That’s the recognition he’s earned himself after 19 seasons sporting the birds on the bat, with retirement approaching after 2022.

In a career that’s likely bound for Cooperstown, many moments are intertwined with his batterymate pitcher  Adam Wainwright. They rank first all-time among batterymates in most regular-season games started together. Sunday’s start -- their 328th as batterymates -- will be their last.

As the Cardinals celebrate Molina during the final regular-season homestand of his Cardinals career, here is a look back at some of his greatest moments:

1. The homer that started it all
Oct. 19, 2006

Baby-faced at 24 years old, there stood Molina, gridlocked at 1-1 in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS against the Mets in Queens. Molina was in his second year as the Cards’ full-time backstop, performing admirably in the 2005 postseason that saw St. Louis fall short of the World Series. But this two-run blast off Aaron Heilman that silenced Shea Stadium in the ninth inning from the bat of someone yet to prove himself at the plate is what truly birthed the legend of Molina. By the time he caught Wainwright’s curve to freeze Carlos Beltrán a half-inning later, and by the time he embraced Wainwright on the mound after Game 5 of the World Series, the legend merely grew -- and set the stage for years to come.

2. The Golden years
2008-18 seasons

It’s his longevity and his legend that will likely seal him a spot in the Hall of Fame, but it was this stretch of excellence that put him in the conversation in the first place. For a span of 11 seasons, Molina was one of the most consistent, important members to his team in baseball. The results: 10 Gold Gloves (including eight in a row), four Platinum Gloves and a Silver Slugger when he quelled doubts with his bat and came to full form in 2013. Molina hit his true peak from 2012-13, slashing .317/.366/.489 (133 OPS+) over the two seasons with a pair of Top 5 finishes in NL MVP voting. Along the way came highlight after highlight -- the cut-downs, the pickoffs, the clutch gene. When the legend of Molina is told, this stretch is what will define his playing days.

3. An enduring partnership
April 6, 2007 through Oct. 3, 2022

The careers of Molina and Wainwright are as tightly linked as any other duo. They’ll finish with 328 starts together, recently surpassing the long held AL/NL record of 324 set by Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan (1963-75). (Wainwright’s next-most popular batterymate is Tony Cruz, at just 17). From their first start together on April 6, 2007, to the many that have come since, the story of the 21st century Cardinals cannot be told unless it starts with Wainwright and Molina. They have become immortalized for the moments they shared, embraces on the mound to close out both the 2006 NLCS and World Series. The only question is if their statues outside Busch Stadium will stand 60 feet, six inches apart or closely together in a victorious embrace.

4. A franchise-altering Draft pick
June 5, 2000

“Give him anything he wants” was the advice now-president of baseball operations (then-scouting director) John Mozeliak received when he drafted a 17-year-old catcher out of Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Molina wanted more than the slot value of the 113th overall pick. Mozeliak, knowing the raw potential of the high schooler he selected, met Molina at the terms of a $325,000 signing bonus. The return on investment? Ten All-Star nods, nine Gold Gloves, four Platinum Gloves, one Silver Slugger Award and two World Series titles -- and counting.

5. Y2K (x2)
Sept. 24, 2020 and April 14, 2021

Paired up with Molina’s career peaks, though not the highest of highs among catchers, is that he’s produced at a solid rate for 18 seasons. Steady production resulted in career milestones along the way. Take the first, when Molina became just the ninth catcher to rack up 2,000 hits. And take the second, when Molina caught his 2,000th game, becoming the sixth to do so in AL/NL history but the only one to do so with just one franchise. Of course, Wainwright was on the mound.

6. Honoring an idol
Oct. 24, 2018 and Sept. 9, 2020

Central on the wall of Molina’s childhood home was a framed picture of Puerto Rican icon Roberto Clemente. Molina long looked up to one of the greatest players and philanthropists to play in the Majors. So when Molina won the 2018 Roberto Clemente Award for his charity work in his native Puerto Rico -- through his charity Fundación 4 and specifically for his work in rebuilding after Hurricane Maria -- it became an honor as meaningful as any accolade Molina has collected in his career. To make matters even more touching, Molina blasted a homer while donning No. 21 on Roberto Clemente Day in 2020, the first year it was recognized across baseball.

7. Another postseason moment
Oct. 7, 2019

An NL-record 102 postseason appearances are on Molina’s resume, with four home runs and 36 RBIs. While the 2006 postseason by far stands out as his most memorable, Molina proved 13 years later, at the age of 37, that he still has a penchant for the big moment. Down 2-1 in the National League Division Series to the Braves, Molina’s walk-off sacrifice fly in Game 4 lifted Busch Stadium to its feet and the Cardinals back into the series. In Game 5, famously, the Cards jumped in front with a 10-run first inning. The chance to do so was thanks to Molina’s heroics in Game 4.

8. A sticky situation
April 6, 2017

As much as the competitiveness has been central to Molina’s career, so too have some of the lighter moments. His equipment excites. His quotes entertain. His  first career pitching appearance  earlier this season inspired plenty of smiles. (He made two pitching appearances with even a strikeout to boot.)

He once left cheese crackers on home plate for his brother Jose when the latter was the Rays' catcher. When Nelson Cruz took that photo with umpire Joe West at the 2017 All-Star Game, it was Molina, clad in gold equipment head to toe, who took the photo.

But in this viral moment against the Cubs in 2017, Molina received a pitch in the dirt from Brett Cecil in the top of the seventh inning that Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur whiffed. It hit Molina square in the gut, but he couldn’t find it in order to throw Szczur out on the dropped third strike. That’s because the ball … stuck to his chest protector. Szczur reached first base safely and Molina could only put his hands on his hips and laugh.

9. You come at the king, you best not miss
March 7, 2021

Jose Siri dared him. The Astros' rookie toyed with Molina, begging him to try and nab him stealing second base in this Spring Training game. Of course, in a now viral moment, Molina threw out the would-be basestealer. But really, this moment is more a representation of the threat of Molina -- and the enduring arc of his career. From 2004, when Molina made his debut, through 2020, the Cards saw the fewest steal attempts against of any Major League team -- by a margin of more than 500. Molina doesn't just throw batters out, he scares opponents from even attempting to swipe a bag. He throws behind them, catching them sleeping, the trademark move of his career.

10. Catching royalty 
June 14, 2022

When Molina corralled the sky-high pop off the bat of Pirates’ star Ke’Bryan Hayes in the sixth inning, the 39-year-old catcher passed Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez for first in NL/AL history with his 14,865th putout as a catcher. Molina will finish his career among the all-time leaders in starts at catcher (2nd), defensive WAR (2nd), games caught (4th), wins in games caught (2nd) and fielding percentage (2nd). His 19 seasons catching for one team is an NL/AL record.