BALLWIN, Mo. — If you saw Matt Holliday’s recent TV spot promoting his charity golf tournament, you saw him hitting a baseball on the golf course. Besides making for a funny moment in the commercial, there’s another reason Holliday wasn’t hitting a golf ball.
“I don’t play,” Holliday said Monday at Meadowbrook Country Club before his tournament teed off with him as a spectator.
Holliday doesn’t have anything against the game. He’s just played enough to know how difficult it is. For Holliday, hitting a small dimpled ball in the right direction is more challenging than connecting with a 95-mph fastball.
“It seems as though the stationary ball would be easier, but from what I’ve experienced, it’s really not the case for me,” he said.
As someone who doesn’t do anything halfway, Holliday would rather devote his efforts to more important endeavors, such as his family and his job as the Cardinals’ left fielder. There isn’t enough time for golf.
“You can’t just casually pick it up,” he said. “You have to practice it. At some point, I think I’ll have time to practice it and take a lesson or two — probably not in the next five-10 years.”
Not playing the game doesn’t prevent him from fulfilling his duties as namesake of the Matt Holliday Celebrity Golf Tournament, which benefits the Pujols Family Foundation. By not playing Monday, Holliday had more time to tool around in a golf cart and glad-hand the paying customers.
This was the kind of day that Holliday likely envisioned when he and his wife, Leslee, were deciding where to sign a long-term contract. The Hollidays sought a team that played in a place where they could be comfortable year-round. Unlike the majority of professional athletes in any sport, Holliday wanted to put down roots in the community where he was earning his paychecks.
“They want to be involved and have that connection to the community. Matt really enjoys that,” said Kathy Holliday, Matt’s mom. “It’s a hard thing to do sometimes, like it could be easier to raise your kids somewhere else. Matt lived in such a small town and grew up in such a different atmosphere. But Matt and Leslee did a lot of discussing about what was best for them and their family.”
Three-and-a-half years later, Holliday says he’s happy with the decision. “It’s gone great,” he said. “This is where we live. We enjoy it. We’re trying to do things in the community.”
Besides hosting his golf tournament, Holliday and his mom were featured in a colon cancer awareness program earlier this year, and he also works with Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. His mom says he does more that the public isn’t made aware of, too.
”He’s quiet about what he does,” Kathy Holliday said in an interview earlier this year. “He’s done a lot of great things on the baseball field, but the things he does off the field are incredible, too.”
Ironically, the man who asked Holliday to take over the golf tournament has kept his home in St. Louis even though his new job took him to Southern California. Though Pujols and the Angels played a game in Anaheim on Sunday night that didn’t end until after midnight, St. Louis time, he and five teammates made it to Meadowbrook bright and early.
“I was watching him (on TV) at 9:30, and to still be here is impressive,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said at the tournament. “A lot of people wouldn’t do it.”
Pujols and his contingent would not be in St. Louis for long. The Angels were off Monday but play the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday. Still, he did not pass up the opportunity to visit home and promote his foundation.
“It’s always good to be back,” he said. “This is home for us. Just because we went out to Southern California, we’re still going to do our event here.”
The foundation stages far more than one event in St. Louis. Of the 100 or so charity events the Pujols Family Foundation will host in Southern California, Kansas City, Nashville and St. Louis, “most of them will be here,” said Todd Perry, the foundation’s CEO.
Like Holliday, Pujols didn’t play in the event, either. But he had a different reason. Pujols says his golf game is “pretty good” but he “needs to take it easy with my (ailing) knee and heel.”
Another non-participant was Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who was advised to stay away from golfing after he underwent back surgery earlier this year. Never much for the game anyway, Matheny said he wasn’t disappointed by the doctor’s orders.
“I really don’t need the aggravation,” he said. “It’s a beautiful day; why ruin that with a golf ball?”
Matheny attended the tournament as a show of support to Holliday and Pujols. While many in St. Louis still resent Pujols for leaving the Cardinals, Matheny wishes they would look past the business part of the game. When people see what Pujols still does here and elsewhere, maybe they will.
“I hope so,” Matheny said. “I do believe time will heal all this. People will realize these are good people. The business side of baseball clouds things up sometimes for everybody, but you can’t get away from the fact that these are people that are investing their time, their resources and their platform to making a difference in our community.”
It’s Pujols’ and Holliday’s community, too, no matter where they work.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.