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Yadi admired, including by opposing pitcher

MIAMI -- Yadier Molina is one of the most recognizable players in baseball.

A four-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove Award winner, Molina has become a fan favorite throughout the world. He came across one of his biggest fans in the second inning of Friday's 5-4 loss to the Marlins when rookie Jose Fernandez stepped up to the plate.

"One of the special moments during the game was the first time I went up to hit," Fernandez said. "Molina was catching. I look up to that guy. When they won the World Series and I saw him catch, I said, 'Man, I wish one day I could shake his hand.' I was in high school back then.

"I told him, 'Hey, it's a pleasure to be playing against you.' He said, 'No, it's my pleasure.' That was pretty great."

Molina had never met Fernandez before the at-bat, but he was sure to tell the 20-year-old that he had been following him.

"Jose has tremendous talent, and what I have seen from him has been really impressive," Molina said. "He shows that he wants to win and wants to get better. I let him know that I admire his game and enjoy watching him pitch. I told him to keep working hard and making the most of his talent. It's great to see another Latin player having success in the big leagues. I am really happy for him."

The Cardinals backstop has made the most of his talent this season, batting an NL-best .351 heading into Saturday's game against the Marlins. He has delivered numerous big hits, including a two-run single in the first inning Saturday to drive in the Cards' first runs of the day.

"With catching everyday, there is an added component that other guys don't have to go through," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's a grind physically and mentally, but he does a nice job of separating his offense from his defense and maintaining a good approach at the plate."

Molina is doing something few catchers have achieved. Only three catchers have ever led their league in hitting -- Eugene "Bubbles" Hargrave (1926), Ernie Lombardi (1938, '42) and Joe Mauer (2006, 2008-09). But Matheny believes Molina is capable of achieving anything on a baseball field.

"I really stopped putting any limitation on what he can and can't do," Matheny said. "He just wills it to happen. Obviously you have to have the skill to make it happen, as well. If there is something that he thinks he can be better at, he's not going to stop until he can do it."

David Villavicencio is a contributor to
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