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Long path leads Huffman back to Majors

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

CINCINNATI -- Fourteen months after taking in a Cardinals game from the PNC Park stands, Chad Huffman showed up at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday to watch them again. This time, he enjoyed the view offered from the dugout.

A circuitous professional path that has covered 1,014 Minor League games and another 94 in Japan brought Huffman back to the Majors this week for the first time since 2010. That season, he logged 18 at-bats for the Yankees, the only at-bats he's taken in the big leagues since being drafted in 2006.

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CINCINNATI -- Fourteen months after taking in a Cardinals game from the PNC Park stands, Chad Huffman showed up at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday to watch them again. This time, he enjoyed the view offered from the dugout.

A circuitous professional path that has covered 1,014 Minor League games and another 94 in Japan brought Huffman back to the Majors this week for the first time since 2010. That season, he logged 18 at-bats for the Yankees, the only at-bats he's taken in the big leagues since being drafted in 2006.

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"It's surreal," Huffman said upon joining the Cardinals. "It's one of those things that you work so hard for. The negative times, the bad times, the good times, going to Japan, coming back, it really means a lot to be here."

Huffman will likely have little control over the length of his Major League stay this time around, as the Cardinals are expected to tinker with their roster some more in the coming days. Just getting here, however, was momentous for a 32-year-old player who nearly stepped away from the game multiple times along the way.

The most recent crossroads came just over a year ago. Huffman had re-enrolled in school to continue pursuing a degree in business communications when the Tigers called to offer him a Minor League deal. He took it, and he went on to hit .286/.387/.505 with 17 homers and 70 RBIs in 122 games for Triple-A Toledo.

It was on his drive to Toledo for the start of that 2016 season that he passed through Pittsburgh, coincidentally at the same time the Cardinals were opening their season there. He went to the game.

"It's kind of hard to walk away because I felt like I had a lot more in me," Huffman said. "I knew when I got out of Japan that I still could do it. And I decided once I had the good year last year [to continue]."

Huffman had a .292/.407/.508 slash line in 43 games with Triple-A Memphis this season when he received the unexpected promotion.

"I think every time you bring in a Jose Martinez or a Chad Huffman, you realize how big a deal this is to get here for a day," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think sometimes you get so caught up in the atmosphere and the results that we miss a lot of the little pleasures and benefits of doing what we do."

Worth noting

Dexter Fowler returned to the lineup on Thursday, but Matt Carpenter remained in the leadoff spot for the second straight game. That snapped Fowler's streak of 240 consecutive starts as a leadoff hitter. He last hit elsewhere in the lineup on July 6, 2015.

• Second baseman Kolten Wong is expected to be back in the lineup for Class A Peoria on Thursday to continue his rehab assignment. Wong was pulled from Wednesday's game after one at-bat due to soreness around his right forearm. He has been on the disabled list since May 28 with a left elbow strain.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, and Facebook.

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