The next month, Mike Shildt took over as manager of the Cardinals. That September when they visited Detroit, we got the opportunity to meet him before a game. He couldn’t have been more kind, not just talking with Jack, but really listening to him. Just a few hours before his team was to take the field, battling for a wildcard spot, it was clear that he truly cared about the 18-year old Cardinals fan he had just met.
What Shildt did next amazed me. He gave Jack his personal phone number and told him that if Jack ever was having a particularly tough day, or if he was having a great day he wanted to celebrate with someone, he should give Mike a call. Then, to underscore the fact that he really meant it, and that Jack shouldn’t worry about bothering him, he said, “The only way I’ll be upset with you is if you don’t call.” Then, when Jack hadn’t called him for a week, Mike called Jack to check on him. He has since remained in touch with Jack, calling on occasion and texting back and forth with him as recently as yesterday.
Today, the news broke that the Cardinals fired Shildt. In two days, this Saturday, Jack will take his final dose of chemotherapy, his three-plus years of treatment almost perfectly overlapping with Mike’s tenure as the Redbirds’ manager. I am of course thrilled to see Jack’s treatment come to a conclusion. At the same time, I am saddened to see Mike’s time with the Cardinals end. I am sad because my favorite team is parting ways with a manager who won a National League Manager of the Year Award, overcame numerous obstacles to lead his team to the playoffs in three straight seasons, and just weeks ago led them to a franchise-record 17-game winning streak (the longest such streak in the NL in 85 years).
Even more than that though, I am sad for him. Having spent his entire eighteen years in professional baseball with the Cardinals organization, he must now look for a new employer, after holding the job he considered himself so blessed to have. I wish him the best. He’s a good manager. He’s an even better man. I will forever be a Cardinals fan, but I will definitely also root for any team that he leads. Godspeed, Mike Shildt.