Cards remove interim tag, name Shildt manager

August 28th, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- Having watched Mike Shildt ace his on-the-job interview, the Cardinals announced on Tuesday that their search for the club's next manager would end before it officially started.

Rather than wait until the season finished to name a permanent manager, the Cardinals officially removed Shildt's interim title 45 days after installing him as Mike Matheny's in-season replacement. Shildt's contract extension runs through 2020.

"To think about when we were here six weeks ago, we talked about what we thought Mike could do as a new voice and … really everything we could've hoped for has occurred," chairman and principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said. "He's just, in our view, done an excellent job, and it's not surprising."

The organization was prepared to conduct a formal managerial search process at the end of the season. In fact, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak had already outlined a list of internal and external candidates he planned to consider.

But what he and DeWitt saw over the team's last 38 games was enough to convince them that any search process would simply lead them back to a man whom they watched rise through the organization after being hired by as an area scout in '04.

Discussions about introducing Shildt as their permanent manager began last week and wrapped up relatively quickly. Mozeliak called Shildt on Monday to inform him of the club's decision.

"We just felt like we could not do better," Mozeliak said. "Clearly the relationship he has with our players and coaching staff and front office and ownership, it just made this very seamless decision. We didn't agonize too much over it because we have a lot of confidence in him."

While organizations have recently trended toward hiring data-driven managers with little or no managerial experience, the Cardinals groomed Shildt, 50, for this position in the same way they do so many of their players. That is, he's a homegrown talent.

After getting his feet wet in the scouting department, Shildt came to Mozeliak asking if he could try his hand as an on-field instructor. Initially hesitant about that fit -- "My first thought was, 'Hmm, not sure if that's a great idea'" -- Mozeliak eventually obliged.

Shildt earned his first managerial opportunity in 2009 and went on to manage eight seasons for Johnson City (Rookie), Springfield (AA) and Memphis (AAA). He joined the Major League coaching staff as a quality control coach in 2017 and was serving as bench coach before being handed the managerial reins. It completes a baseball journey that began when he was a teenager working for the Orioles' Double-A affiliate as clubhouse attendant and scoreboard operator.

"What an honor, privilege and blessing it is to be a field manager on a permanent basis moving forward for the St. Louis Cardinals," Shildt said. "It's not something I take lightly, and it's something that I have great gratitude for."

That rise through the organization afforded Shildt the chance to work and learn alongside a number of men who went on to become mentors. His first phone call after hanging up with Mozeliak on Monday was to field coordinator, Mark DeJohn. Legendary coach George Kissell and Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa are among the others who had a hand in molding the franchise's 50th manager.

Though he's the only current big league manager not to have played professionally, Shildt garnered instant credibility within the clubhouse. The fact that he had managed several of these players previously helped the transition. But his strong communication skills and in-game tactical decisions have been lauded even by those who didn't have a longstanding history with Shildt.

described him as having "good energy." lauded his ability "to make you believe in yourself." asserted that "this is what he was born to do."

"It's pure excitement," added , one of several rookies to thrive under Shildt. "We've been out there playing behind him and having a lot of fun. So for him to be our guy now, and it to be official, it's awesome."

Since taking over a team that was one game over .500 on July 15, Shildt has led the Cardinals to a Major League-best 26-12 record. The club is riding a streak of nine consecutive winning series, during which the Cards have separated themselves from a crowded National League Wild Card race, put pressure on the Cubs in the NL Central and ushered in a new group of young prospects who have shown a readiness to contribute immediately.

Over that stretch, the Cardinals came into Tuesday's game ranked fourth in the Majors with a 3.36 ERA and sixth with an average of 5.13 runs per game. The clubhouse has been reenergized, and those inside it have been effusive in their praise of a man who aptly fits the descriptor: baseball lifer.

"I've been given credit, on some level, for what we've been able to do in the last six weeks," Shildt said. "While appreciative of it, I can't accept it. The group that's in the clubhouse is the one pouring in the effort, the one throwing the pitches, making the plays, running the bases and putting the time and energy into their talent. So it's a special group and I'm fortunate to be a part of it."