Ozzie offers pointers, takes grounders with infielders
JUPITER, Fla. -- A guest instructor for the third straight spring, Ozzie Smith wasted no time Tuesday making himself available as a resource. In fact, he found his way straight into drills.
As infielders gathered to take ground balls on the first day of full-squad workouts, Ozzie grabbed his glove and made his way to third base. He and Matt Carpenter took turns fielding ground balls at the position, after which Smith made his way around the diamond to pass along pointers to various infielders.
He came, eager to be a resource.
"That's why we're here -- to be able to share with the young players and answer whatever questions they might have," said Smith, a 13-time Gold Glove winner and Hall of Fame shortstop. "It's my life and I spent most of my life doing this. To have the chance to come back and visit with the guys and enjoy the weather, being able to get away from that cold, is great. And it actually gives me a chance to exercise some muscles that I haven't exercised in a while."
Smith has talked hitting with Pete Kozma, who he encouraged not to pull the ball so much. He's talked defense with Jhonny Peralta, the newcomer at Smith's old position. He's talked baserunning and footwork and the Cardinal Way.
"I was thinking about it today as he was standing there talking to us, just how lucky we are to have an opportunity to have a guy like Ozzie Smith come out," Carpenter said. "Not only to hang out and be around him, but for him to teach us and impart some of his wisdom is a huge luxury of being in a great organization like the Cardinals. They not only have a lot of Hall of Famers, but they welcome them to teach so we can learn. It's just a real awesome thing."
Smith is working with an infield group that changed from a year ago. Carpenter is transitioning back to third after a spring of crash-course work at second. Peralta is in at short after signing as a free agent. Matt Adams and Kolten Wong are ready to make an impact as everyday players for the first time.
Smith said he expects this infield to be a stronger defensive unit than the one the Cardinals featured last season. The organization is simply pleased to have Smith put his fingerprints on the preparation.
"There are just some amazing things that he has been able to do in his career, but [he's] also just a great ambassador for the Cardinals," manager Mike Matheny said. "None of these guys have interest in coming just to be here and being a hood ornament for everyone to look at. We have work we have to do and things we have to accomplish to get better and what a resource having an Ozzie Smith around"