Cardinals manager Mike Shildt and former manager Tony La Russa.

(Jeff Curry / David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT/Sipa USA)

Mike Shildt Tells the Story of His First Encounter With Tony La Russa

The current Cardinals manager called it "the most gracious back-handed compliment I've heard in my life." 

August 24, 2018 - 10:37 am

Mike Shildt is in his 10th year of coaching in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Currently the big league manager, he was previously a bench coach in St. Louis, manager at Triple-A, Double-A, Rookie Ball and a minor league hitting coach. 

His first season of coaching in professional baseball was 2008, when he was named hitting coach of the Johnson City Cardinals (Rookie Ball). That year was also when Shildt had his first encounter with four-time MLB manager of the year, Tony La Russa. 

Shildt was asked to "run" minor league spring training in 2008, which is not a measly task. It involves scheduling the daily drills of every player invited to the minor league camp. That year was the largest minor league camp in Cardinals history. But the minor leaguers are only able to use the fields when they are not taken by the big league campers. 

So, that's where Shildt had to work with the future Hall of Famer, La Russa. He got to in Jupiter, Fl. a week earlier than expected because he had never been to the complex before, or even seen a spring training. 

Through the first couple days, Shildt explained, he would walk by a room of La Russa and the other Cardinals coaches each day, but never had the courage to go in and introduce himself. 

"I was candidly, intimidated," Shildt says. "And so finally on the third day I get the gumption to go in and of course, at the time, I felt like it was the most inappropriate time because I walk in and it's the Mount Rushmore of St. Louis Cardinal coaching staff. There's Tony right across from me and Dave McKay and Joe Pettini and (Jose) Oquendo and (Dave) Duncan. And so you're sitting there with 200-years of baseball experience and 15-20 World Series shared experience among that room. 

"And here I walk in, hadn't played professional baseball and been scouting the last four years, and now I'm gonna run minor league camp." 

Then La Russa asked Shildt what he would need to run a succesful minor league camp. Shildt, confused by the question, said he would rather know what La Russa would need from him. 

"So he said, 'Listen, this isn't meant to be insulting by any stretch of the imagination, I really want to help you. I'm not sure exaclty if you quite know what you're doing and we'll figure it out around you.'" Shildt says. "And it was the most gracious back-handed compliment I've heard in my life." 

Shildt was a guest on Cardinals Insider with Dan McLaughlin on KMOX this week, you can listen to their full conversation below. Shildt describes this moment with La Russa at the 21:00 mark: