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GODFREY – St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny understands what leadership is all about.

Matheny talked about what leadership means to him in a fund-raising appearance for OSF Saint Anthony's Health Center in Alton at Lewis and Clark Community College's Olin Theatre at Hatheway Cultural Center on campus. The event was to raise funds for a new cancer center for Saint Anthony's campus in Alton to bring, as Saint Anthony's President/CEO Ajay Pathak said, “to bring state-of-the-art oncology services here under one unified building.”

“When I get in front of these guys (the Cardinal players), I need to have a message,” Matheny said at the start of his talk on the eve of Spring Training for the Cards in Jupiter, Fla. “I need to have an idea for them of what's different and how can we improve; as I told you, that's kind of what I'm doing all winter long, figuring out how to get better – how can I get better individually, how can we get each of the guys get better individually and how collectively, how can we come together and be even better than the sum of our parts.

“I think that's something the St. Louis Cardinals have done very well for a long period of time.”

Matheny talked about his first spring training with the Cardinals in 1999 and how legendary Cardinals coach George Kissell came up to him during a spring training game and began talking to him. “George is a legendary teacher and coach in our game,” Matheny said. “I knew George's reputation; he was almost 80 years old at the time and George never played one day in the big leagues, but it was widely known he was one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game.

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“I knew his reputation and he comes down and sits next to me, and I'm trying to figure out if this is going to be a situation where he's going to put me to the test, and he did. He started asking me question after question; I kind of thought it was kind of a pop quiz kind of deal, but then I realized every question he was asking me, he was absorbing the answer, then he'd follow with another question. It struck me really odd at that point that this guy was trying to learn from me, so 60 years inside a Cardinals jersey, George Kissel was – he spent time with Stan (Musial), Red (Schoendienst), with Lou (Brock), with Gibby (Bob Gibson) and with Ozzie (Smith) and Tony (La Russa) and Whitey (Herzog) and I knew they'd have these conversations before, but he was asking some snot-nosed kid who had no chance of making the team at the time because he thought there was a tiny chance he was going to gain something.

“I thought 'wow, that is amazing', and that's how we continue to go about this business and that is why he was so revered, he was such a great coach because he was always asking anybody – if anyone in uniform that day had the opportunity say 'I've got this figured out', it was this guy, and he was trying to push people, ask more questions, and it was unbelievable. That's a cultural issue, and that's something that has to happen for an organization to grow.”

Matheny also talked about talking with La Russa after he was appointed manager following the 2011 World Series about how to approach the job; his advice to Matheny was simple: “learn something new every day; you get this one right, you'll be just fine.” Matheny then talked about being disciplined - “do the right thing,” he said as his definition. “It sounds easy, but the right thing is very seldom easy; as I head into spring training, we'll have this room full of 60 guys – we're right at 64 for spring training – and about half of them have no big-league experience and never have been in spring training with us.

“I'll take that group and take them into a back room and I'll tell them that the best thing I can do is tell you what's expected – we have six weeks here, that's it...you would not be in a big-league camp right now if we did not think that you had big-league potential and that you have big-league talent; in this room, every single guy has that shot. We have six weeks for you to prove it to us – myself, staff and our front office – that you are the piece that's going to help us do what we need to do to carry on the great tradition of the St. Louis Cardinals.”

Matheny about how important discipline is and how important doing the right thing is in not only careers and life in general and how important a positive attitude can be in the game and in life.

“We had a great turnout and support from the entire community for a great cause,” Pathak said of the evening. “Mike serves as a great example in terms of leadership and his messages and nuggets tonight were really impactful; there were so many I could hold on to; the message, you could tell, was really impactful for everyone in the community.”

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