ST. LOUIS — Jason Motte’s return from Tommy John surgery has not been easy. Pitching without his high-90-mph heat has led to inconsistency on the mound and an undefined role in the Cardinals’ bullpen.
With the postseason approaching, he could find himself without a spot on the roster. And with his contract expiring at season’s end, he could find himself spending the winter looking for a job.
A humbling season, indeed. But the next time you see Motte hanging his head will be the first. Throughout his uneven season, Motte has remained as upbeat and down to earth as he was when saving 42 games in 2012. He is someone who truly appreciates what the ability to throw a baseball very hard has done for him.
Motte also has learned how much someone in his position can do to help others. He’s helping more than ever, too, by raising awareness and money to support cancer patients and their families and research.
The Jason Motte Foundation that his wife, Caitlin, and he started with a charity dinner a few years ago has grown into a cause that now reaches across the major leagues. How much their cause has spread was seen Sept. 2 when Strikeout Cancer Day was held across the majors and the website (108stitches.com) that sells his K Cancer T-shirts crashed because of so much business. Motte said more than $50,000 was generated from sales that day.
For all of his local and national efforts, Motte’s season became much more memorable Tuesday when he was named the Cardinals’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, one of baseball’s most prestigious honors. Motte will be recognized before Wednesday night’s game at Busch Stadium as part of the annual Roberto Clemente Day across the majors.
The Cardinals’ nominee last year, Carlos Beltran, was named the winner of the award for the academy he established in his native Puerto Rico. Motte has said he often talked with Beltran about the importance of making time to give back.
"That’s something that is important to me," Motte said Tuesday. "You look at all the guys who were nominated, these guys do really great stuff. (The award) has to do with some of your on-the-field stuff — you obviously have to be here to be nominated — but it also has to do with stuff that doesn’t have to do with baseball. It shows there is stuff that is bigger than the game."
To be considered for the Clemente award is fitting for Motte, who includes a quote from the late Hall of Fame humanitarian on the inside of his K Cancer T-shirts: "Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth."
The Mottes are making the most of their time and their platform.
"They’ve been very committed to going out and trying to make a difference," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He should feel good about the difference he is making."
Motte earlier was voted by his teammates as the Cardinals’ representative for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award. Because both awards also consider on-the-field performance, Motte’s chances of winning are likely long. He already was passed over by Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo to represent the NL Central for the Miller award. All-Stars such as Clayton Kershaw, the 2012 winner, Paul Goldschmidt and Felix Hernandez are among the Clemente finalists. Just being nominated is rewarding enough for Mottle.
"You don’t do this for the recognition," Motte said. "You do this to help the people you can."