STATE COLLEGE - Like many other situations in life, what goes around comes around.
The St. Louis Cardinals were affiliated for 16 years with the team that started in Erie and moved to State College from Augusta, N.J., in 2006.
After just one year, the Cards pulled up stakes and moved their team to Batavia, N.Y. Looking to get out of Batavia, the Cardinals took advantage of Pittsburgh and the Spikes being unable to agree on a new contract following the 2012 campaign so exit the Pittsburgh farmhands and enter the Cardinals when the 2013 season begins.
Spikes General Manager Jason Dambach is pleased and excited to see the Cardinals returning to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
"It is so nice to be able to have, on the first minute of free agency, the defending world champions and the standards by which player development is measured call you enthusiastically," Dambach said. "It wasn't a long conversation, it was simply a 'yes,' sign us up as soon as you can."
For Dambach to be able to say yes to the offer in such a short period of time was a no-brainer.
"The thing that makes the Cardinals so great is their people," he said. "Yeah, they have the tradition and they have won world series championships and that is obviously an added bonus, but it doesn't matter who the GM is, who the player development people are or who the players and coaches are, it is the Cardinal Way. You know the kind of person you are going to be dealing with. People of high character, high quality, open relationship and that is what we are really excited about."
Representing the Cardinals organization was Farm Director John Vuch.
"We are pleased to have reached agreement with the State College team and renew our relationship with an organization that we shared affiliation with in 2006," Vuch said. "The Spikes have a terrific facility at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park and I know their management team is as excited as we are to be partnered once again."
Although unavailable in person due to other business, Spikes Chairman and Managing Partner Chuck Greenberg is also happy with the reuniting with the Cardinals Organization.
"The State College Spikes are very pleased to re-kindle our partnership with one of the most well-respected and successful franchises in all of professional sports," he said in a statement. "The Cardinals were wonderful partners during our inaugural season and their players, coaches and other player development staff were instrumental in helping bring an outstanding brand of Minor League baseball to the Centre region. We are excited to bring the 'Cardinal Way' back to our loyal Spikes fans."
The Spikes are one of seven affiliates in the Cardinals' player development system, joining the Memphis Redbirds (AAA/Pacific Coast League), Springfield Cardinals (AA/Texas League), Palm Beach Cardinals (Advanced A/Florida State League), Johnson City Cardinals (Rookie Advanced/Appalachian League) and Gulf Coast League Cardinals (Rookie). St. Louis also plans to announce an affiliate at the Low Class-A level in the near future.
Also at the press conference was former Philipsburg-Osceola and Slippery Rock University standout Matt Adams, who was drafted by the Cardinals in 2009 and has gradually made his way up the ladder to a point where he saw action with the major league club this past season.
"We were out in Las Vegas playing the Blue Jays AAA team," Adams recalled. "I think it was in the fourth inning, I had just scored a run and I went over to get my glove and go out and warmup the infielders. My coach yelled at me to come back in and I was thinking that I did something wrong and that is when he shook my hand and told me that I was going to Los Angeles to meet up with the Cardinals that Sunday. For me it was a dream come true and it didn't really sink in until I stepped out of the clubhouse into Dodger Stadium. That is when I realized how many Hall of Famers played on the field and now I had the opportunity to play on the same field as they did."
Adams had faced top quality pitching at whatever level he was playing, but that was nothing like he was about to face for the next few weeks.
"I stepped into the (batter's) box against Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander and guys like that," he said. "I was happy that I was able to face those guys to find out where I needed to go with my career and how much more I needed to improve. It was just awesome to be in that batter's box and seeing the pitch delivered by those guys who have excelled in the major leagues for so many years."
Having spent a short time in the major leagues, Adams was able to learn from the Cardinal brass what he needed to do to keep moving up the ladder.
"They told me that I did well and that I held my own," he said.