Pete Kozma has a defining moment everyone brings up the first time they meet the Owasso product.
After the shortstop was called up by the St. Louis Cardinals near the end of his Triple-A season two years ago, Kozma produced a go-ahead, two-run single in the top of the ninth in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. Kozma’s hit helped St. Louis advance to the NL Championship Series.
“I’ve seen the moment hundreds of times, but I’ve never actually seen the game broadcast,” Kozma said before the Memphis Redbirds played the RedHawks Friday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. “This winter I plan to go back and watch the entire game.”
Kozma’s hit capped an improbable four-run, ninth-inning rally against Washington. St. Louis fell behind 6-0 in the winner-take-all game but rallied to win 9-7.
“We started chipping away, and then we have a huge rally in the ninth,” Kozma said. “The bases are loaded. Daniel Descalso squares one up, driving it up the middle to score two runs to tie it. I’m up next. It’s something people bring up all the time.”
Kozma, 26, said he was surprised by the promotion two years ago after the Cardinals lost shortstop Rafael Furcal to an elbow injury.
After the promotion on Aug. 31, Kozma hit .333 with a .569 slugging percentage in 75 September at bats to earn some post-season playing time.
“We were four days away from our Triple-A season ending,” Kozma said. “I had everything all packed up ready to go home, then I got the call to go up. That was so exciting. Everybody wants to be in the big leagues.”
Kozma, who was a first-round pick and the 18th overall selection in the 2007 draft, Kozma seized the momentum from his 2012 postseason heroics to open 2013 as St. Louis’ starting shortstop.
Kozma confirmed the Cardinals’ confidence in him by hitting .340 in spring training. He was with the Cardinals all season but ended up hitting .217 in 410 at-bats.
Eighteen months after his memorable two-run single, Kozma is back in Triple-A where he was Memphis’ starting third baseman Thursday night. His fate essentially was sealed during the offseason when the Cardinals signed veteran shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
“It’s out of my control,” Kozma said. “There’s really nothing I can do about it. I just have to keep grinding every day like I always have.”