JUPITER, Fla. -- Two weeks after celebrating his 93rd birthday, Red Schoendienst reported to Florida, a ritual the Hall of Famer has now kept for more than seven decades.Schoendienst, who debuted with the Cardinals in 1945, hadn't missed a Spring Training since -- until last year, when an intestinal illness
JUPITER, Fla. -- Two weeks after celebrating his 93rd birthday, Red Schoendienst reported to Florida, a ritual the Hall of Famer has now kept for more than seven decades.
Schoendienst, who debuted with the Cardinals in 1945, hadn't missed a Spring Training since -- until last year, when an intestinal illness left him unable to travel south. Now he is back where he feels he belongs and donning the No. 2 uniform that will forever be associated with his legacy.
"Never take it for granted," general manager John Mozeliak said of Schoendienst's presence. "He always has that pearl of wisdom or insightful story, and it's wonderful. He wants to be a part of things. I think we're a very lucky organization to have that."
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Schoendienst is not the only former Cardinal to return to camp as a guest instructor. But he's the longest tenured and perhaps the most beloved. The Redhead, as he's affectionately called, exudes humility and is ever ready with advice gleaned from having had so many unique experiences in this game.
"It was priceless," manager Mike Matheny said of sharing stories with Schoendienst over dinner on Thursday. "He's special. He's a great story, but an even better person. Think about that as a resource for me to have around. I'm very, very fortunate."
Schoendienst dresses in full uniform most spring days and then ventures from field to field in his golf cart. He'll stop for conversations and often huddle with the coaching staff when he has something to say. On Friday, Schoendienst joined Matheny behind the bullpen mound as a quartet of players threw. Together, they watched and dissected.
"I always like coming down," Schoendienst said. "Baseball is a lot of fun for me. It always was when I was a little kid, and it still is that way to watch all these young guys play, how they work out, how they progress."
Schoendienst appeared in 2,216 Major League games over 19 seasons before moving into a managerial role for the Cardinals. He held that for parts of 14 seasons, and has otherwise remained tied to the organization as a coach or special assistant to the general manager.
"You wonder how much longer I'm going to do it," Schoendienst said. "But it's fun."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast.