FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny always takes the road trip when his team plays split-squad games in Spring Training. But this time, there was a sweet reward for his near three-hour journey across the state of Florida.Red Sox manager John Farrell selected Tate Matheny (Mike's son) as
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny always takes the road trip when his team plays split-squad games in Spring Training. But this time, there was a sweet reward for his near three-hour journey across the state of Florida.
Red Sox manager John Farrell selected Tate Matheny (Mike's son) as one of the Minor League extras to come off the bench for Monday's Grapefruit League game, a 7-2 win by the split-squad Cardinals.
"That's pretty special stuff," said Mike Matheny, who didn't know his son would play until he arrived in Fort Myers.
Tate Matheny came on as a pinch-runner for Xander Bogaerts in the bottom of the fifth inning. With his son on first base, Mike Matheny called for a throw over by right-hander Daniel Poncedeleon in an attempt to pick him off. Tate Matheny got back to the bag in time and played right field the rest of the way. He was struck out by right-hander Arturo Reyes in his only at-bat in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Gif: Red Sox's Matheny almost gets picked off (with his father managing Cardinals)
The results were beside the point. The joy was in the father-son reunion.
"I got to watch him play one game in his college career and that was his junior year at a game in Jacksonville," said Mike Matheny. "It just happened that we were in Orlando so I made the trek over. It's amazing, you'd think I'd get a chance to see him more, but we have conflicting schedules."
If anyone can relate, it is Farrell, who has three sons who have played professional baseball.
"I think it's something where you pay respect to a guy who maybe hasn't seen his kid play all that often over the last few years because of the schedules," said Farrell. "This was just an opportunity to do so."
This was the first time the outfielder played on the big league side in Spring Training and also the first time his father has seen him in uniform since the Red Sox made him a fourth-round selection in the 2015 Draft.
"It was a surprise," said Mike Matheny, who did try to have his son picked off with a throw over to first base immediately after he entered the game. "It was cool. I let his mom know just in case she could find the game online somewhere."
During Cardinals batting practice, Tate Matheny came on to the field to see his father. Mike Matheny spotted his son and walked across the field, where they had a brief conversation and a hug.
"He's been around helping me do this thing since I was a kid," said Tate Matheny. "He's known my swing inside and out since I was a baby. He's been a big influence in my baseball career. He's always pushed me to be better every day but never pushed me out of this game. He's pushed me the right amount to figure out how much I love this sport and how to play the game the right way."
Baseball has been the thing that has bonded them, well, forever.
"We've had a fun relationship," said Mike Matheny. "He is a kid who loves to talk about the game and he always has. We have five kids, but he's the one who has always been a baseball rat since Day One. There's been a lot of conversations."
Playing for Class A Greenville last year, Tate Matheny hit .277 with 20 doubles, four triples, five homers and 52 RBIs. He stole 21 bases but struck out 104 times.
Growing up in baseball his entire life, Matheny knows how hard he will have to work to become more than an extra at Major League camp.
"There's a lot more work that went into this offseason to get my body in shape to be able to last a full 140 games," said Matheny. "I feel a lot stronger. I feel my endurance is a lot better so hopefully I'll get through these first few grinding months and feel a lot better."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.