NEW YORK -- As his first-inning home run on his first Father’s Day as a dad was sailing through the air, Cardinals superstar Nolan Arenado said he was almost instantly hit with a swirl of emotions surrounding his own father, Fernando, and his 10-month-old daughter, Levi.
It wasn’t until his second home run of the day -- a solo shot in the top of the ninth inning that propelled the Cardinals to an 8-7 win and a series victory over the Mets on Sunday at Citi Field -- that Arenado thought about the magnitude of what he had just done, again, on Father’s Day.
Back in June of 2018, Arenado famously hit for the cycle on Father’s Day, capped it with a thrilling walk-off home run and dedicated the moment to Fernando. This one, however, produced all sorts of proud dad feelings for Arenado and he couldn’t wait to FaceTime with his infant daughter to tell her about a moment he wants to be hers forever.
“I thought about [Father’s Day] after I hit it -- obviously, my first Father’s Day,” said Arenado, whose 14th and 15th home runs in the season plated three runs in one of the Cardinals’ most exhilarating victories. “Then, I hit two [home runs], it made it [better]. I think about my dad, too, but he’s had a good gift already with the cycle I hit on Father’s Day in Colorado. He can have that one, but this one I’ll keep for me and my baby.”
Baby Levi, whose name is tattooed on dad’s biceps, might have been able to hear the primal scream let out by her father as he rounded first in the ninth inning, after clobbering a 390-foot home run that left the bat at 104.8 mph, per Statcast.
It was Arenado’s 23rd career multi-homer game, but more importantly to him, it was the kind of emotionally charged game that could potentially slingshot St. Louis into another much-needed hot stretch. Losers of six straight after being clobbered 6-1 on Friday by the Mets, the Cardinals rallied to win on Saturday and Sunday, recording their first series win since beating the Dodgers on May 18-21.
Since then, St. Louis had gone 0-5-2 in seven series, and the club needed something to reverse a season slipping away.
“It was a battle today, and we could have folded and said, ‘Well, we’re going to lose another game,’ but we know that’s not the mindset to have,” Arenado said after the Mets climbed back from 5-1 and 7-5 deficits. “Could [Sunday’s win] be [a momentum-builder]? Yeah, but I try not to think about it like that. We’re not in a position where we can start thinking far ahead. We literally have to do it one game at a time and inch our way back. But there is an opportunity there.”
Arenado saw an opportunity against Mets reliever Adam Ottavino, his former teammate with the Rockies and a close friend he has vacationed with in years past. Prior to stepping to the plate, Cardinals stars Paul Goldschmidt and Arenado talked in the on-deck circle about what pitches they might see, and they formulated a strategy.
“If [Ottavino] is throwing those sliders for strikes, I probably don’t get a hit,” Arenado said. “Me and Goldy were talking about being aggressive and not letting him be too comfortable, because when you get two strikes, he has three or four pitches and you’re in trouble.”
If Arenado sounds slightly obsessed with hitting, it’s because he totally is. Manager Oliver Marmol said he occasionally catches Arenado practicing swings on the plane, and Paul DeJong has seen him using his glove as a bat while he practices swinging at third base. Arenado occasionally even takes a bat to the hotel to watch himself swing in the mirror. He joked that his wife scolds him about drifting off in a conversation while thinking about hitting or practicing his swing on elevators.
Said Cardinals top rookie Jordan Walker, who also homered on Father’s Day with his parents, Derek and Katrina, in the stands: “Arenado is the one of the most dedicated guys I have ever seen in this game. He goes about his work better than anybody I’ve seen. He’s so serious about it and he knows exactly what he needs.”
What Arenado needed most on Sunday, he said, was to see his baby daughter. He couldn’t wait to tell her about the home runs dedicated to her.
“I FaceTimed her this morning and I’ll FaceTime her again tonight when I’m done,” he said. “It’s tough, because I won’t get to see her, because we’re going on the road for about two weeks, but I’ll be excited to get home and see her.”