There are plenty of stories about Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and the work his father did to turn him and his two brothers into major-league baseball players. Less spoken about is the influence his mother, Gladys Matta, had on his game.
“It’s amazing,” Molina said on Sunday afternoon. “We wouldn’t be here without her.
“She took care of us when my dad was working. She loved baseball. She managed every game, and every time I’d go home after the game and say, ‘Why did you call that?’ (Here Molina imitates two people arguing with each other.) She knows about baseball, she likes it. She’s part of us. Me, Bengie, Jose, we grew up with her. She was tough on us. She’s fun. She’s fun to have around and I’m glad she’s here with us.”
With his mother having made a trip to St. Louis to see her youngest son (as well as her oldest son, Cardinals broadcaster Bengie) on Mother’s Day, Molina did her proud.
Decked out in pink gear for Mother’s Day — a pink helmet, pink chest protector with the word ‘Mai,’ (how he refers to his mother) at the collar, light pink shin guards, and pink sleeves peaking out from under his jersey — he went two for four. He had two doubles, the first of which came in the fourth inning and drove in the run that put the Cardinals up 2-0 on Colorado, which turned out to be how the game ended.
He also doubled in the sixth, but both times he didn’t advance past second. Each time the innings played out the same way, with Justin Williams failing to advance him, Harrison Bader being intentionally walked and Adam Wainwright striking out to end the inning.
Molina also kept his mother happy by making contact in each at-bat, grounding out to short in each of his other two at-bats. Because if there’s one thing Molina’s mom doesn’t like, it’s a strikeout. Or a loss. Especially a loss. It turns out Yadier Molina is a lot like his mother in many ways. A successful game is not one in which you went two for four. It’s about the team, not any one person.
“She likes when we win,” he said. “When we win games, that’s what she likes. She hates losing, every time we lose. She doesn’t . . . like me to strike out. She doesn’t like that. She hates to lose a game. Every time we lose a game, she’s in a bad mood.”
Molina said it had been a long time since his mom last saw him play on Mother’s Day.
“I’m happy for her, I’m happy for my family that’s all here,” he said. “I’m glad that we got the win, I got two base hits for her. She was happy for us.”
Wainwright could have predicted that the day would play out like this with Molina’s mom in the stands.
“I didn’t know she was here,” he said, “but it doesn’t surprise me that she was here and he got a couple of hits. If any time he’s got family in town, you can sign him up for two hits, and it’s usually a home run, too. His mom’s a sweetie, just a great person, gives great hugs, I know he loves performing in front of his family and when she’s here, he’s gonna do great.”
Her timing was pretty good. Molina came off the injured list on Saturday after missing 11 games because of a right foot tendon strain. In his first game back, he went one for four with three runs batted in. Add in Sunday and in the two games he has played in since returning, he’s hitting .375 with four RBIs. For the season, he’s hitting .329 with a .630 slugging percentage, both of which are best on the team. And best of all for his mother, the Cardinals won both games.
If his mother got a thrill watching her son, her son got his usual good feelings watching Wainwright, who worked 8 1/3 innings and was the winner.
“He worked hard,” Molina said. “He wants to be there for us, for our team. This guy, every time he takes the mound. I’m happy for him.
“He’s proud in what he does and he worked hard for that. Right now he’s doing good. I’m happy for him because I know how hard he’s working to be in this place. I’m happy for him. It’s special for us to get that win, especially for ‘Waino’. . . . Today was all ‘Waino.’ I’m happy for that.”
So it turned out the day was special for everyone, from mothers down to pitchers and catchers. Molina’s mother even turned up on the videoboard at one point in the game, which brought a smile to her son’s face.
“It is (special),” he said. “I don’t have many more years to go, one or two more. To have her to see my game and to be here with us, it’s simply the best.”
Tom Timmermann • 314-340-8190
@tomtimm on Twitter