'It’s all for her': Cards prospect honors mom's memory every game

September 25th, 2023

This story was excerpted from John Denton’s Cardinals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Just after rounding the bases following one of the longest home runs of his fledgling baseball career, Cardinals prospect Thomas Saggese glanced down at his left wrist, saw the block-lettered word inscribed on the tape and tapped it twice with his right fist.

“MORE,” which is written on the wrist before every game, is a tribute to the infielder’s late mother, Wendi, who died of breast cancer in 2020, when Saggese was just a senior in high school in Carlsbad, Calif. Any time Thomas would tell his mother -- his unabashed best friend in life -- that he loved her, Wendi would reply, “I love you … more.” More means quite a bit more to one of the fastest rising prospects in the Cardinals' system, and everything he does these days is to honor the most selfless human being he’s ever known.

“My mom was somebody who I was very close to, and she was my best friend -- something I would have told you when she was alive as well,” said Saggese, who ended his Minor League season with Triple-A Memphis on Sunday. “My mother was the absolute best. She was outgoing and always wanting to help others and putting them before herself, especially with her kids. She was always doing whatever she could to accelerate my baseball career. She would take a bullet for us in a heartbeat. She’s my favorite person, for sure.”

Wendi would certainly be pleased with the season that the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Saggese compiled after coming over to the Cardinals from the Rangers in the Jordan Montgomery trade. All Saggese did was win the Double-A batting crown with a .318 average, lead the league in RBIs (107) and finish second in home runs (25). He became the first Springfield player ever to win a batting crown and he joined the late Oscar Taveras (.321 in 2012) and Luke Voit (.297 in 2016) as the only Cardinals prospects to win a Texas League batting title.

That earned the infielder a promotion to Triple-A Memphis, where he had the expected bumps over 13 games as he transitioned. But there was the aforementioned 405-foot homer that left his bat at a scorching 104.4 mph on Sept. 15, per Statcast. A day prior, he also crafted a four-hit game that featured three doubles.

MLB Pipeline ranked Saggese as the Cardinals' No. 9 prospect, but that was before he nearly captured the Double-A Triple Crown and notched the second cycle of his pro career. Also, he is among the Cardinals youngest prospects in Triple-A. He is hoping that at some point next season, he can follow the path blazed by Cardinals prized rookies Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn, who reached the big leagues at age 21.

“That’s pretty cool to have guys from 2020 already up with the Cardinals,” said Saggese, who was a fifth-round pick by the Rangers in 2020. “It’s also pretty cool to know there’s a possibility to get moved up quickly in this organization.”

Saggese figured to be one of the top high school players in the nation after hitting .422 with 10 home runs as a junior in 2019. Then, his senior year was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and his world was rocked when he lost his mom following her battle with cancer. The Rangers were so sold on his talent that they offered him an $800,000 signing bonus -- nearly $425,000 above slot -- to sign him instead of him attending Pepperdine.

Regardless of whether Saggese hits his way to the Cardinals next season, or he spends a full year with Triple-A Memphis, he is blessed with a perspective given to him by his mother’s passing. The reminders of that are right there on his left wrist with the word, “MORE.”

“My mom’s death was something that was very difficult for me and my family,” Saggese said. “I think that with of all the pain and grief that comes from that, there is a perspective that comes, too. It makes you step back after an 0-for-4 and realize this is not the most important thing in life. Family and God come before the game. But everything I do -- whether I strike out or hit a homer -- it’s to honor God and to honor my mom. It’s all for her.”