Every kid grows up playing baseball for the love of the game and with major-league dreams. Chandler Redmond was no different in his native Maryland. Redmond took the next step of his journey on Thursday night as a new season began at Hammons Field.
Redmond and the Springfield Cardinals fell to the Wichita Wind Surge 4-1 in front of 4,259 fans. Redmond started at first base and went 1-for-3 with a walk.
Time will tell if this will be the season that Redmond, 26, realizes his goal of reaching the big show. But after what happened last week, he at least can afford to keep pursuing it a bit longer.
While many fans believe that professional baseball players are wealthy, no matter if they play in St. Louis or Springfield, that’s not the case. Far from it.
Major League Baseball reached an agreement with minor-league players on a new, five-year pay agreement. Double-A salaries jumped from $13,800 to $30,250. Not enough to buy a sports car or new pick-up truck, but for guys like Redmond the salary bump is priceless — financially and emotionally.
“It means everything,” Redmond said earlier this week, explaining that he and wife, Kristan, have an 8-month-old son. He admitted to stressing over the bank account.
“We’re living on her income,” Redmond said. “She’s a nurse and makes good money. We’re blessed enough that she can support us, but now with me making twice as much money, that eases our stress so much.”
Redmond said he wasn’t yet ready to search for a job in the real world, even before the pay increase. He has given private hitting lessons the last two offseasons to help make ends meet.
Now, the left-handed hitting first baseman is able to put his full focus on his baseball performance.
“I can take a step back from that and just focus on baseball. My days got really long at home. Training from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and giving lessons at night. It made my day longer, but it’s something that I had to do.”
Springfield opening-night starting pitcher Michael McGreevy is one of the few who doesn’t have to worry about minor-league salaries. McGreevy signed a $2.75 million signing bonus in 2021, when he was the 18th overall selection in the draft. But McGreevy seems just as excited as his teammate about the improvement.
McGreevy also offered praise to minor-leaguers of the past who fought for living wages, some of whom aren’t around to reap the reward.
“Props for those guys who have been arguing over that for years, the hard work of the minor leaguers of the past have gone through the gutter a little bit,” McGreevy said. “To see how MLB is caring about minor-leaguers more is a great sign for the players.”
With or without the pay increase, Redmond already was looking at 2023 as a pivotal season. While he gained some fame last August for becoming only the second player in professional baseball history to hit for the “home run cycle” (a solo, two-run, three-run and grand slam home run in the same game) he also gained weight.
After an offseason nutrition and workout program, Redmond went from 248 pounds last fall to an opening-day weight of 222. He hired a personal trainer while his wife, Kristan, cooked most of his meals and proportioned them into containers.
He’s already been grocery shopping since returning to Springfield, planning to cook healthy meals in his apartment instead of loading up on restaurant food each day. He’s sworn off his personal kryptonite from the Route 66 Steak ‘n Shake, a block away from the Hammons Field home clubhouse.
“A Western BBQ Steakburger and Butterfinger milkshake,” Chandler said of a combo with more calories in one sitting than he consumes now in two days.
These days, he’s going sugar-free. He eats yogurt and oatmeal (with honey added) in the mornings. Steak or chicken, with a baked potato and vegetables, comprise the day’s primary meal.
“Just real plain,” Redmond said. “It kind of sucks.”
The payoff is more energy, improved quickness and agility. He hopes those factors lead to more opportunities to add time at second base, third base and in the outfield to his repertoire.
It’s no secret that the St. Louis Cardinals love players with versatility — especially if they can hit. Despite a .239 batting average in 2022, Redmond hit 21 home runs with a team-best 79 RBIs.
“He’s such a hard worker. He slimmed down and got stronger,” Springfield manager Jose Leger said. “Now he’s focusing on his speed. When you look at a first baseman, that is something you don’t think about. He wants to get better in all aspects and that speaks volumes of him.”
If those bland meals and bringing extra gloves to the ballpark help him reach his big-league dream, it will all be worth it. So would that $720,000 major-league minimum salary.
Until then, he and others in his situation at least have a chance to make a living wage.
Springfield Cardinals’ opening homestand
- Thursday: Cardinals lose their home opener, 4-1, to Wichita Wind Surge
- Friday: 6:35 p.m. vs. Wichita Wind Surge
- Saturday: 6:05 p.m. vs. Wichita Wind Surge
Ticket info: SpringfieldCardinals.com