ST. LOUIS (AP) — Mike Matheny first encountered Stan Musial about two decades ago, watching the Hall of Famer draw a harmonica out of his jacket with an impish grin and captivate yet another crowd.
Whichever way the St. Louis Cardinals decide to remember Stan the Man, whether they wear armbands or a patch on their uniforms, their manager expects his team to adhere to Musial's work ethic. Matheny, who begins his second spring training in charge in about three weeks, believes Musial's passing will serve as perspective and motivation while reminding players that the window of opportunity is short.
"I think everybody around here, young and old, gets how important Mr. Musial was and still is — and will be — to this organization and this community. Just everything he stood for," Matheny said Monday at the end of the three-day Winter Warm-Up fan festival.
"Whether it's something we physically put on our sleeve or not, I'm sure there will be something that will memorialize Mr. Musial."
The 92-year-old Musial, a seven-time National League batting champion and three-time MVP, died on Saturday. A public visitation will be Thursday at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis, with a funeral Mass on Saturday.
"I think whether you grow up in St. Louis or not, if you're a fan of baseball you're going to hear Stan Musial's name repeatedly," said third baseman David Freese, who grew up suburban St. Louis. "He's going to be missed, I think everybody knows that.
"What a life he lived."
Matheny's on-field focus has been tested beyond the anguish of a blown a 3-1 NLCS lead against the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants last fall. He faces bankruptcy over a series of failed investments that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported have left him more than $4 million in debt.
Matheny told the newspaper he expects to liquidate all of his investments and real estate holdings, including his dream home, which has 17 rooms on 11 acres. From all accounts, Matheny was able to block out those issues when he put on the uniform.
"You just never know any situation how you're going to react until you get into it, but I was able to show up every day with an incredible ability to just focus and do my job," Matheny said. "Stuff on the outside I was able to compartmentalize and deal with that as I had to.