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Mom knew it first: Shildt named Manager of the Year

Mike Shildt’s late mother, “Lib,” used to be in professional baseball as an administrative assistant for Baltimore’s Charlotte Class AA franchise. So, she not only was familiar with the season but the offseason, too.

The National League Manager of the Year award, as voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, was announced Tuesday night and Cardinals manager Shildt was the winner. But he insists he was not the first to know.

Mrs. Shildt, 85, went into a Charlotte hospital about 10 days ago and would not be leaving. She died on Wednesday, six days ahead of the awards announcement but Shildt said Tuesday night on a call with reporters, “She had a pretty good idea of what was going on before I did.”

Toward the end of her life, Lib (short for Elizabeth) Shildt was having trouble with voice communication but, as she was moved from room to room, she wanted to make sure Tuesday the 12th would be noted on the boards where all her vital information was also posted.

“She couldn’t get out ’12,’” said Shildt. “And she didn’t have 12 fingers.

“So she looks at the nurse and (flashes) five, five, two. The nurse said, ‘Are we playing charades?”

Finally, the nursing staff and, ultimately, Shildt himself, ascertained that those numbers collectively meant something, such as Tuesday’s date.

“She was aware,” said Shildt. “She was emotional about knowing that likely she wasn’t going to be here. I said, ‘You know what?’ You’re going to know before I am. She knew—and that meant a lot to me.”

Shildt the first manager to win such an award without having played professionally, received 10 first-place votes to 13 for Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell, but received eight more second-place votes than did Counsell. Shildt had 95 total points to 88 for Counsell.

Atlanta’s Brian Snitker, the NL Manager of the Year last season, finished third. World Series champion manager Dave Martinez of Washington was fifth. Voting was done before the postseason, and Houston’s A.J. Hinch, who also took his team to the World Series, likewise finished fifth.

At the All-Star break, Shildt’s Cardinals were 44-44 but they went 47-27 the rest of the way to finish 91-71 and to bring home their first Central Division title since 2015. In Shildt’s first full year as manager — he took over in July 2018 — the Cardinals went from committing the most errors in the majors at 133 to the fewest at 66.

Shildt received in the news in Jupiter, Fla., at the home of the twin sister of Shildt’s girlfriend, Michelle, where he was surrounded by members of the Cardinals’ coaching staff, who were at Cardinals camp for offseason meetings.

Shildt was captured by MLB TV cameras receiving a peck on the cheek from one of the women. “It was not (Michelle’s) twin sister,” said Shildt, who, laughing, added, “I’m pretty sure.

“Whether I won it or didn’t win, we were going to celebrate that this staff did a great job.”

The last Cardinals manager to win the BBWAA’s Manager of the Year in the National League was Tony La Russa in 2002 and before that, the only other Cardinals winner was Whitey Herzog in 1985.

“There are so many (Cardinal) Hall of Fame managers,” said Shildt. “Just an amazing lineage of managers and to think I’m a part of that group. . . and to share this award with two people like Tony and Whitey. . . quite honestly, I haven’t got my head around (it), but it’s very special, that’s for sure.”

Shildt received a new, three-year contract last week, even before he had been honored officially. “We are extremely happy for ‘Shildty’ for having been voted the recipient of this well-deserved honor,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said in a statement.

The buzzword this past season for the Cardinals was “cohesiveness,” said Shildt.

“That’s a broad way of saying our players, our staff, all our support systems from a medical standpoint, from an analytics standpoint to a video standpoint, from a performance and weight standpoint. . . everybody pulling on the same rope was really a big part of how we were able to accomplish what we were able to accomplish,” said Shildt.

Shildt said that the Nov. 12 date didn’t mean as much to him as it did to his mother. “My mom was remarkable,” he said. “It still hasn’t sunk in in total and I don’t know ultimately what that loss is going to feel like.

“She had the date circled. The fact of the matter is that this isn’t a date I circled. Dealing with my mom (and her illness) clearly has been an unpleasant part of the last week or so. But, irrespective of that, my focus has always been on ‘how do we get get our guys to get the most out of their God-given ability?’ It’s not about me. It never has been.”

Minnesota’s Rocco Baldelli, also managing his first full season in the majors, won the AL Manager of the Year award, edging Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees by 10 points.

Rick Hummel

@cmshhummel on Twitter

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