A baseball player in a white uniform and red helmet prepares to swing his bat
After his stellar season at Double-A Springfield in 2022, Jordan Walker skipped Triple-A when he made the St. Louis Cardinals’ opening-day roster this spring. (Photo: Springfield Cardinals)


The second pitch Jordan Walker saw in his major-league career, he lined a single up the middle off Toronto pitcher Alek Manoah with an exit velocity of 103 miles-per-hour.

A full house at Busch Stadium cheered. They witnessed what we saw time and again during the 2022 season at Hammons Field.

Walker’s debut added to the always-electric atmosphere of opening day in downtown St. Louis. Even those of us 211 miles away felt goosebumps after the annual pre-game parade of Clydesdale horses and Cardinals’ Hall of Famers in red coats, followed by Walker’s first big-league hit.

It’s part of the beauty of top-notch minor-league baseball, where we are able to see the stars of tomorrow, today. While it seems a week ago, it was a year ago when Walker met the media for the first time prior to his Springfield Cardinals debut. Not yet 20, he already had the presence of a star with a maturity beyond his age.

“Baseball is fun. This is my dream to do this and has been ever since I started playing at four years old,” Walker said at the time. “All I can say is that the excitement is here and I’m ready to get going.”

That he did. Walker hit .306 with 19 home runs, 31 doubles and 22 stolen bases in Double-A. It laid the foundation for spring training this season, when he not only won a roster spot but a position in the opening-day lineup to become the rare prospect to skip Triple-A.

At 20 years and 312 days old, Walker is the 127th former Springfield Cardinal promoted to St. Louis. He’s the youngest Cardinal to make his major-league debut since Rick Ankiel (20 years, 35 days) in August of 1999 and the youngest position player to debut with the Redbirds since outfielder Davis Green (20 years, 274 days) in September of 1981.

Joining Walker in the opening-day lineup in St. Louis were four other former Springfield Cardinals — Brendan Donovan, Lars Nootbar, Nolan Gorman and Tommy Edman. It will be fascinating to watch how all of them — with Walker at the top of the list — contribute to the Cardinals not only this season, but in years to come.

This year’s Springfield Cardinals’ roster won’t be known until early next week, prior to the team’s opener on April 6 at Hammons Field. But to celebrate the opening of the baseball season, I’m taking a look at my list of the top 10 Springfield Cardinals to make an impact since the franchise arrived in 2005:

10 — Centerfielder Colby Rasmus. The highly touted outfield prospect had a memorable 2007 season at Springfield, hitting .275 with 29 home runs at the age of 20. Rasmus arrived in St. Louis in 2009, but never became the star many thought he would. Rasmus was traded to Toronto in 2011 and went on to hit 166 home runs over 10 major-league seasons for five teams.

9 — Second baseman Kolten Wong. Making a rapid ascent through the minor leagues, Wong hit .287 with 21 stolen bases in helping Springfield win the 2012 Texas League championship. He went on to play nine seasons in St. Louis and became a fan favorite for his Gold Glove defense. 

8 — First baseman Matt Adams. The burly left-handed slugger hit 32 home runs with 101 RBIs in 115 games in 2011, when he was voted Texas League Player of the Year. Adams went on to become a popular player in St. Louis in helping the Cardinals win the 2013 National League pennant. 

7 — 2017 Pitching Staff. Little did we know how superb this group was at the time. The starting pitchers included future big-leaguers Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Zac Gallen, Sandy Alcantara and Ryan Helsley (now St. Louis’ closer). Gallen and Alcantara were later traded to Miami for outfielder Marcel Ozuna, a regrettable deal after Alcantara became a star and won the 2022 National League Cy Young Award.

6 — Pitcher Jason Motte. Before becoming St. Louis’ closer, with 42 saves in 2012 after getting the final out in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, the bushy-bearded Motte (after converting from catcher) pitched 69 games in 2009 for Springfield. Motte also was popular for his Jason Motte Foundation to Strike Out Cancer, which started in 2010.

5 — Pitcher Lance Lynn. With an 11-4 record in 22 starts for the 2009 Springfield Cardinals, Lynn is still going strong as one of baseball’s most-dependable starting pitchers. Lynn is 123-84 entering his 12th major-league season, with the first 71 of his pitching wins coming with the St. Louis Cardinals. 

A baseball player in a white uniform and red hat pitches the ball
Before he started a long major-league career that’s still going, Lance Lynn established himself as a durable starting pitcher with the Springfield Cardinals in 2009. (Photo: Springfield Cardinals)

4 — Infielder Tommy Edman. Everyone knows Edman as a Gold Glove fielder and offensive spark for the St. Louis Cardinals, but before that he made a big career leap at Hammons Field. Edman hit only .247 in 63 games for the 2017 Springfield Cardinals before improving to .299 with 27 stolen bases and 23 doubles in 2018. He arrived in St. Louis in 2019.

A baseball player in a white uniform and red helmet runs to third base
Tommy Edman made a big leap in his pro career at Springfield, going from a .247 batting average in 63 games during the 2017 season to .299 in 2018. He debuted in St. Louis a year later. (Photo: Springfield Cardinals)

3 — Outfielder Oscar Tavares. Such a sad story here about a rising star who was killed in an automobile accident in his native Dominican Republic in November of 2014. Taveras was 20 when he dominated the Texas League in 2012, leading the Cardinals to the league championship with 23 home runs and 94 RBIs. Taveras hit a playoff home run for St. Louis in 2014, a few weeks before his tragic accident.

2 — Third baseman Matt Carpenter. A relatively unknown prospect after being selected in the 13th round of the 2009 draft, Carpenter used the 2010 season in Springfield as a springboard to the big leagues. He hit .316 with 12 home runs and 26 doubles in Double-A that season. Carpenter went on to become a fan favorite in St. Louis for several years and is now with the San Diego Padres as a designated hitter. 

A baseball player in a white uniform and red helmet swings his bat
Matt Carpenter was a relatively unheralded prospect when he arrived at Springfield in 2009. He put himself on the Cardinals’ map by hitting .316 at Double-A. (Photo: Springfield Cardinals)

1 — Relief pitcher Josh Kinney. There will never be another to match Kinney’s distinction of first Springfield Cardinal to earn a promotion to the St. Louis Cardinals. The right-handed Kinney was stellar in a half-season in Springfield in 2005, with a 5-2 record, 11 saves and a 1.29 earned run average. He was promoted to Triple-A Memphis at midseason and, eventually, to St. Louis in 2006, where he played a key bullpen role in helping the Cardinals win the World Series. Kinney remains a resident of the Springfield area and often frequents Hammons Field.

A baseball player in a white uniform and red hat pitches the ball
Relief pitcher Josh Kinney pitched for the inaugural Springfield Cardinals’ team in 2005 and became the first to be promoted to the St. Louis Cardinals. He helped the big-league team win the 2006 World Series. (Photo: Springfield Cardinals)

Lyndal Scranton

Lyndal Scranton is a Springfield native who has covered sports in the Ozarks for more than 35 years, witnessing nearly every big sports moment in the region during the last 50 years. The Springfield Area Sports Hall of Famer and live-fire cooking enthusiast also serves as PR Director for Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri and is co-host of the Tailgate Guys BBQ Podcast. Contact him at Lscranton755@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @LyndalScranton. More by Lyndal Scranton