JUPITER, Fla. — Soaking up advice, suggestions and tips has been a goal for Adron Chambers this spring. Even if it’s about how to wear his uniform.
Hoping to make the Cardinals’ roster as a reserve outfielder, Chambers, 25, has been trying to pick anyone and everyone’s brain who is willing to talk.
And that includes guest instructor and former Cardinals fan favorite Willie McGee, who took one look at Chambers’ baggy pants last week and had seen enough.
“Willie McGee told him he wasn’t as aerodynamic,” manager Mike Matheny said.
So Chambers hurried back into the Cardinals clubhouse and requested a smaller, tighter pair of pants.
“Willie told him that early in the day, and by the end of the day, he’s already got leotards on,” Matheny said. “That’s respect.
“That’s Adron, though. That’s how he goes about it. He’s so respectful and realizes how valuable input from a guy like Willie is.”
McGee has been a fan favorite in St. Louis since he retired after the 1999 season. The switch-hitter spent 13 of his 18 seasons with the Cardinals, and he won the 1985 National League Most Valuable Player Award while with St. Louis.
The speedster ranks in the top 10 in five different offensive categories in Cardinals history, including sixth in stolen bases (301), seventh in triples (83), eighth in singles (1,282), ninth in games played (1,661) and 10th in at-bats (5,734).
Chambers appeared in 18 games with the Cardinals as a September call-up last year, scoring the winning run in a crucial 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs in the final week of the regular season.
In that game, Chambers began the ninth-inning rally by standing on atop the dugout steps and waving a white towel to pump up the crowd. Former manager Tony La Russa said the moment was one he would never forget.
Chambers is hoping his new look makes him unforgettable.
“I feel better,” he said of his new uniform. “I think I can run a little bit, and I don’t think they look that bad. They feel better, to tell you the truth. The baggy ones, I like the style, but I think this is for the game and I feel better, and as long as I feel good, that’s all that matters.”
The always-talkative Chambers quickly became a clubhouse hit, engaging several players in story time one Sunday morning late in the season that had veteran and rookies alike rolling on the floor in laughter.
Chambers was in that position because of an unlikely path to the big leagues. Invited to a Cardinals minor league tryout camp but unable to afford a flight, Chambers bought a bus ticket for $100 and rode 24 hours to Memphis from his home in Pensacola, Fla.
He was impressive enough in the tryout that the Cardinals selected him in the 38th round of the 2007 draft.
The left-handed Chambers worked his way through the system and made his big-league debut with the Cardinals last fall. He was on the roster for the Division Series and was a late addition as an injury replacement for Game 7 of the World Series.
Now he’s hoping to make the club out of spring training. Wednesday, he singled and scored a run to help his cause, and he followed that with three hits and a stolen base Thursday.
And he’s doing it while sporting a new, tighter looking pair of pants.
“My momma always told me to be a trend setter,” Chambers said. “We’ll see how that turns out this year.”