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Q&A: Espinoza and the ‘Cardinal way’

Joe Avento • Updated Jun 18, 2018 at 8:19 PM

Robert Espinoza is back for his second season as manager of the Johnson City Cardinals. The 29-year-old played six seasons in the minors for the Cardinals as a catcher. It’s the only organization he’s ever known as a professional and he’s grateful for that.

What was your favorite team growing up?

“For the American League it was the Yankees and in the National League it was the Cardinals and I have to tell you the reason why. When I Google it, they were the teams that have the most World Series. When I started watching McGwire hitting home runs in 1998, I started following the Cardinals.”

With that in mind, how did it feel when you started playing for the Cardinals organization?

“That was really exciting when I got a phone call from the scout back in Venezuela. So when he called telling they’re going to sign me for the Cardinals, I remember saying ‘Wow! I’m going to be part of those guys.’ ”

Did you ever think you’d still be with the organization six years after retiring as a player?

“No, but that’s an opportunity they provided me and now I am here helping with the newest Cardinals.”

You’ve been with the Cardinals organization for 12 years, six as a coach or manager, so they must like what you are doing. How have you taken what you learned as a player and used it as a coach?

“The Cardinals’ core values we preach is not different than when I used to be a player. I just translate that from 12 years ago until now.”

What are those core values?

“Respect for the game, respect for the teammates, respect of the fans, respect of the city. That’s what we call the Cardinal way, on the field and off the field. The discipline part … just be on time, small things. We are in the rookie level and most of them don’t really know how to be a professional on the field and off the field so that’s why we teach them. Develop good players, better people.”

Last year, the team finished on a seven-game losing streak when winning one of those games would have gotten you into the playoffs. Was that tough to think about during the offseason?

“Ending the season knowing we needed one more game to make the playoffs is kind of a heartbreak. But I have a lot of people who have experience, a lot of guys that taught me, say ‘OK, that’s a way to learn. Think about it. Learn from that and it’s experience.’

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