These Carpenters Know How to Build
By Bo Carter
College Correspondent, sportsandoutdoors.guru
There will be no 587-mile, nine-hour drive from Prosper, Texas, to St. Louis, not this time. Not for the family of Cardinals All-Star and TCU baseball alumnus Matt Carpenter.
Such was the case in 2012 when a young Carpenter was called up to replace an injured Redbird, and delivered a two-run homer to give the Redbirds an National League playoff series win over the San Francisco Giants.
Was it worth the trip?
“Every minute,” said Rick Carpenter, Matt’s father and legendary Texas high school baseball coach. “This year, though, we definitely will go by plane to Los Angeles for the first two divisional championship games against the Dodgers. That is just too long a road trip.”
The Carpenter family has diamond dust running through its veins, watching Matt’s third consecutive trip to MLB postseason play with the Cardinals. They “suffered” through a non-fatal case of Frog Fever earlier this week when TCU rookie Brandon Finnegan – only months removed from the NCAA playoffs — got the postseason started with three innings of clutch relief in the Kansas City Royals’ 9-8 thriller in 12 innings over the Oakland A’s.
“It has been a great year for all the Horned Frogs,” Rick Carpenter said with a grin. ”Wasn’t that something about Brandon pitching in the NCAA World Series for TCU and in the playoffs for the Royals in the same year?”
It leads to even more excitement as Matt Carpenter prepares for a tough battle with Dodgers’ pitching after coming off a career year in 2013, coupled with a team-wide outbreak of stomach flu. The somewhat-weakened Birds muddled through tough road trips to win the Central Division over Pittsburgh by one game, advancing to face LA.
Though it was hard to top 2013’s club record 55 doubles that broke a hallowed mark by Hall of Famer Stan Musial with 53 set in 1953, Carpenter’s .318 batting average with 11 home runs and 78 runs-batted-in as the leadoff hitter rank as one the top performances by a second-full-season player in St. Louis baseball history.
The numbers dipped a bit this year as the Cardinals suffered through a rash of team injuries, and aces were able to pitch around the leadoff second baseman and some of the other key hitters. Still, he posted all-star numbers with 158 games (he might have played in all 162 but for catching the virus), 8 home runs, 59 RBI, and a .272 season average.
His 1,221 at-bats and 225 runs since ’13 along with a career batting average of .293 in just over three complete seasons (he was called up in September 2011 and batted 15 times) also rank among the top in each category during the past two years in Major League Baseball.
So what follows for the South Texas native (born in Galveston while his father was in midst of serving as head baseball coach at LaMarque and Missouri City Elkins HS)?
The former standout for TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle would like nothing better than to play in a second consecutive World Series. When he graduated from TCU in 2009, Carpenter held school career records for games (241) and at-bats (843) and was second in hits (263), doubles (57) and walks (150).
His father, meanwhile, continues to make headlines at baseball-notable Prosper, located north of Dallas. The Carpenters hope their autumn travel schedule does not call for too many 3:30 a.m. out-the-door treks to Busch Stadium, but if the Cardinals keep winning, Rick and Tammie Carpente (longtime school administrator) they stand willing, even eager, to make more trips.
If it’s in the Cards, the Carpenters are ready.
Bo Carter, former sports information director of the Big 12, follows college athletics for this site, with a focus on trends, players, coaches and traditions of the Southwest. A member of the Collegiate Baseball Writers Association of America, Bo knows baseball.