Matt Holliday spent the first six games of the World Series in a slump and the seventh game on the bench.
A bizarre wrist injury forced the St. Louis slugger to watch the climax of an amazing late-season surge and an exciting postseason run from the dugout.
Not exactly the way he dreamed of winning his first World Series title.
“It was frustrating,” he said. “It was heartbreaking to get to a Game 7 of a World Series and to realize that I had no chance to play.”
So, how did the Stillwater native balance the disappointment and the delirium?
Holliday insists it wasn't that hard. Maybe he's being modest about that. Maybe celebrating on the field and smiling in the clubhouse and spraying teammates with champagne and riding through the streets of St. Louis during the victory parade were some of the most difficult things he's ever done.
Or maybe the way he handled all of that is further evidence of why he's known as one of the good guys in baseball.
“Personally, I was really upset,” Holliday said, “but at the same time, I realized it was about the team.”
In a week, he is returning to Stillwater for the inaugural All-Star Holliday Dinner and Auction benefiting student activities at his alma mater, Stillwater High, Holliday is a reminder that grace and class is not lost in sports.
Holliday entered the World Series riding a high. He hit .435 in the NLCS against Milwaukee, driving in five runs and posting a .652 slugging percentage.
But against Texas, his bat went cold.
Game 1: 1-for-4.
Game 2: 0-for-2.
Game 3: 1-for-5.
The next three games didn't get any better.
Then in the sixth inning of Game 6, he was picked off third base by Rangers catcher Mike Napoli. Holliday dove back trying to beat the tag, and when he did, he jammed his wrist into the bag.
At first, he was diagnosed with a severely bruised little finger on his right hand, but as the night went on, his wrist began bothering him to the point that he couldn't sleep.
Team trainers determined he had a sprained right wrist, an injury severe enough that it would've sidelined him three weeks had it happened during the regular season.
“It was kind of the last straw in what seemed like every couple months ... I had something come up that was costing me from being able to play,” Holliday said via phone from his home in St. Louis. “I had a bit of a weird season.”
No doubt about that. Less than a day after going 3-for-4 with a homer on Opening Day, Holliday had an appendectomy. Then in August, he had to leave a game when a moth flew in his ear and lodged itself there.
But he had teammates step up then. That's what they did again in Game 7. Allen Craig played left field in place of Holliday, hitting a homer and made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Nelson Cruz of a homer in the sixth inning.
“Ultimately, we achieved the ultimate team goal,” Holliday said, “and it took all of us to get there, and it took all of us to finish it. You're proud to be part of a team like that.”
That's why Holliday celebrated the Cardinals' World Series title like he was on the field for the final out — it was about more than what happened during that past three hours. It was about the team, the journey, the brotherhood.
“The celebration is a lot about the relationships, not really just winning the last game,” Holliday said. “It's the celebration of achieving something that a group of men really wanted to accomplish, and it took everybody to come together and all do the things that are best for the team.
“That's what you're celebrating.”
Holliday did it with class.
ALL-STAR HOLLIDAY DINNER AND AUCTION
When: 6 p.m. Dec. 2
Where: Wes Watkins Center, Stillwater
Tickets: $100 or $1,250 for a table of eight. Tickets will only be sold until Monday and can be purchased by contacting event chair Katie Rathkey, (405) 476-3097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Student Activity Foundation Endowment (S.A.F.E.) at Stillwater High School. Items in the auction include World Series memorabilia, baseball trips and tickets, and items autographed by Sam Bradford, Kevin Durant, Taylor Swift and others.