ST. LOUIS — In St. Louis, Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo almost committed a cardinal sin.
His fantasy baseball roster this year is dangerously low on St. Louis Cardinals. So low that, when asked, he initially forgets he has any.
"I can’t admit that — I have zero," Pietrangelo says in a panic, before gathering his thoughts and recollecting he has second baseman Kolten Wong and pitching ace Adam Wainwright. Crisis averted.
"I knew I was going to get Wong late, like later than he should have been picked, but I knew he was going to have a good year, so that one worked out perfectly," Pietrangelo says. "I had to take Waino early, ’cause I knew he was going to be gone early."
Pietrangelo, who is Canadian, loves baseball — as in, kid-on-Christmas-morning loves baseball. His eyes light up as soon as the sport is mentioned, though he played the game only a little growing up.
"Came from a small town, so we pretty much knew everybody," Pietrangelo says. "My parents coached, and then once hockey got serious, that was it."
He has liked baseball even more since coming to St. Louis, though balancing Cardinals fandom with his love for the Blue Jays creates an awkward dynamic.
"I’m a Cardinals fan here, I go back home, I’m a Blue Jays fan," Pietrangelo explains, then tries to defend himself. "They never play each other."
"Actually," he admits, "(four) years ago they came here, and we got to go down for batting practice."
Then comes the surprise twist.
"I think I wore a Cardinals hat," Pietrangelo says, but then clarifies, "well, we did batting practice with the Cardinals."
Such as it was. He admits his swings in the cage were mediocre, and then the following day brought more suffering.
"So sore the next day," he says.
When it comes to fantasy baseball, however, he’s much more proficient. He plays in a league with friends from back home, and usually trades off finishing either first or second with former Blue Carlo Colaiacovo.
"We’re the biggest geeks when it comes to that," Pietrangelo says cheerfully.
Meanwhile, he starts volunteering information about his current teammates’ MLB loyalties. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester roots for the Oakland Athletics — "You’ve got to make sure you write that down," Pietrangelo insists — while Patrik Berglund likes the Yankees. And though Pietrangelo is, technically, a Blue Jays fan, he doesn’t have to think when asked about his reaction to the Cardinals acquiring right fielder Jason Heyward.
"I think it was great. He obviously adds a lot to the lineup," he says. "Brings a lot of speed, another dimension to their guys who can get on base. If you look at the way their lineup is, they’re always known for guys who can get on base, and he just adds (to) that dimension."
Trying to figure out which of his current Blues teammates would make the best baseball player jump-starts more analysis.
"I think (Bouwmeester) would be a good baseball player," Pietrangelo says of the man sitting innocently in the next locker. "If he was a pitcher, he’s got that lanky frame, those long arms. But I don’t know if anybody actually played baseball. But I’d say Bouw, ’cause he likes baseball. And he can run like the wind — he’s (like) a gazelle."