ST. LOUIS — Harrison Bader’s 2021 Gold Glove Award will be presented to him in a pregame ceremony on Friday. His parents will be on hand at Busch Stadium, and the flashy center fielder has already picked out the spot where the shiny trophy will be displayed for all to see.
However, before he picks up the award that he has been eyeballing for years, Bader offered a reminder to everyone in Thursday’s 8-3 win over the D-backs why he was honored last year and might be poised to lock down the top fielding honor for years to come.
Reacting to a ball that left Pavin Smith’s bat at 104.1 mph, Bader started backing up, rotated his hips to the left and then back right before going high in the air to make an acrobatic catch as he slammed into the wall 401 feet away. Asked two hours earlier whether he prefers making diving catches or robbing homers, Bader uncharacteristically waffled before coming to a conclusion that shows how much of a team player he is.
“I’d rather make a diving catch, although, robbing a home run helps a pitcher out more,” said Bader, who led the National League in defensive runs saved last season among center fielders and is off to another strong start. “Maybe if I rob a home run, I’ll get a nice bottle of wine from my pitcher for doing something like that. But any time that I can make a play for my pitcher and my team — in whatever form that comes — I’d take that.”
Bader did a little bit of everything on Thursday in St. Louis’ throttling of Arizona. Bader had his fourth two-hit game of the young season with two singles, and he stole his fifth base of the season. His speedy baserunning allowed the Cardinals to push their streak of consecutive steals to 18. However, the Bader play that left teammates and coaches raving was the twirling and twisting catch he made before crashing into the wall.
“Oh my gosh, I honestly thought that was gone and he was right there on the wall for it,” said pitcher Dakota Hudson, who allowed just one hit over six innings thanks to some stellar defense. “I had my hands up because that was an incredible play.”
Added Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol: “We get used to seeing that from him, but that ball drops in other places. So that was a nice job.”
Bader was one of a record five Cardinals who won Gold Glove Awards last season and will be honored on Friday. Nolan Arenado won his ninth Gold Glove in nine MLB seasons, while Paul Goldschmidt nabbed his fourth top defensive honors for first basemen. Tyler O’Neill won a second straight Gold Glove in left field, and Tommy Edman beat out former Cardinals teammate Kolten Wong for the honor at second base. According to Baseball Savant, the Cardinals were far and away the best defensive team in the NL in 2021 in defensive runs saved (15) and outs above average (14).
As for Bader, he said he considered himself worthy of a Gold Glove even before he won the award, and last season’s recognition was something that he takes a tremendous amount of pride in getting.
“It’s really special, because I’ve wanted a Gold Glove for a long time,” said Bader, who has a gold-colored placard to honor his achievement on the wristband of the red and blue and the “Statue of Liberty-colored” gloves that he uses throughout the season. “I view myself as a team guy and someone who puts the team first, and I’m always trying to find one thing I can do a day to help the team win on either side of the ball. But selfishly, I want certain accolades and I’ve always wanted a Gold Glove.
“I pride myself on doing my best to control things that are easy to control and, in my opinion, that’s a lot of what defense is,” Bader added. “A lot of guys won the award before me, and won multiple awards, but just to be a part of that list is a testament to the work I’ve put in. So it’s nice to take a second to enjoy it. It will be a big moment for me and for my family, who has been there every step of the way. It’s so special to me.”
Bader said the true testament to his commitment to defense is continuing to make catches like the one snagged in front of the wall on a rainy Thursday. Keep doing that — and helping keep runs off the scoreboard — and Bader could be in position to reel off a string of Gold Gloves.
“I’ve got a space in my apartment in St. Louis, a nice table where I know exactly where it’s going,” said Bader, who grew up idolizing Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds. “I’m not going to harp on [the award], because it’s in the past now, but I want to repeat it.”