Matt Carpenter, whose career was hanging by a thread as recently as three months ago when the Rangers cut him from their Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock, made his emotional return to St. Louis Friday night, receiving a rousing ovation from Cardinals fans at Busch Stadium, where he spent 11 seasons from 2011-21.
Moved by his reception, the Yankees veteran took a moment to compose himself, tipping his cap before stepping into the batter’s box to face Dakota Hudson in the game’s opening frame. Watching from the opposite dugout, Adam Wainwright acknowledged Carpenter with a warm smile, appreciative of the many years they spent together as Cardinals teammates.
Selected in the 13th round of the 2009 MLB Draft, Carpenter debuted as a mid-season callup in 2011, graduating to an everyday role two years later. Carpenter’s breakout 2013 would end on a sour note—he made the final out of that year’s World Series—but the 6’4” slugger was still plenty successful throughout his decade-long stint in St. Louis, appearing in three All-Star Games while twice finishing among the top 10 in National League MVP voting.
Carpenter, who the Cardinals allowed to hit free agency after declining his team option for 2022, has enjoyed a career resurgence in New York, submitting an otherworldly .322/.435/.791 batting line with 15 homers in 115 at-bats since joining the Bombers in late May. A remarkable 26 of his 37 hits in that span have gone for extra bases.
If Carpenter was feeling any nerves returning to his old St. Louis stomping grounds, he certainly didn’t show it in his first at-bat, singling to right field for a base hit.