Dodgers trio has substantial ties to Cardinals
Schumaker, Punto grateful for time in St. Louis; Van Slyke grew up a Cards fan
ST. LOUIS -- Somewhere along the way in their respective careers, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Scott Van Slyke underwent successful transfusions of faith.
They currently bleed Dodger Blue, as they should. But Thursday, they easily summoned the days when Cardinal Red figuratively ran through their veins. The Dodgers' utility men have substantial ties to the Cardinals, whom they'll oppose in the National League Championship Series beginning Friday (5:30 p.m. PT on TBS and Postseason.TV).
Punto's Cardinals tenure may have been lacking in length but it overflowed with meaning. He spent the second half of the 2011 season with St. Louis and appeared in 15 postseason games as the Cardinals surged to a World Series triumph.
Schumaker spent his first 12 professional seasons with the Cardinals' organization before he was traded to Los Angeles for Minor League right-hander Jake Lemmerman in December.
Van Slyke has remained in the Dodgers' system since they drafted him in 2005, but he grew up in St. Louis after his father, Andy, made the city the family's permanent home after playing for the Cardinals from 1983-86.
The younger Van Slyke described himself as more of a general baseball enthusiast and not an aficionado of a particular team.
"I went to the games and enjoyed watching them, but I never wore my Cardinals jersey like my friends did," said Van Slyke, 27, whose father left St. Louis to become a three-time All-Star with Pittsburgh.
But Van Slyke acknowledged the rabid following that the Cardinals have inspired for decades.
"If you like having fans on your side," he said, "this is the place to come. ... People pay attention. They read the paper. There are so many sports radio shows. They're very well informed."
Van Slyke, a reserve who has had only six career plate appearances against the Cardinals, admitted that receiving a chance to contribute in this series would be a thrill.
"It'd be overflowing emotion, excitement and adrenaline going all at once," said Van Slyke, who hit .240 in 53 games this year. "You'd have to keep it in check."
As a nine-year veteran, Schumaker possessed enough common baseball sense to anticipate a postseason collision with his former team.
"I knew that we'd have to get through the Cardinals at some point this year," he said. "Whether it was the first [postseason] series or the second series, I knew they were going to be around."
The 33-year-old Schumaker harbors no hard feelings toward the Cardinals.
"I enjoyed my career here," he said. "I have a lot of good memories here. I won a World Series with these guys."
Punto echoed Schumaker, though he added a dash of playful combativeness.
"I have a lot of respect for a lot of those guys," Punto said, "but nothing would feel better than to beat them. I'd like to have that bragging right in 2013."
Punto observed that he felt like he had been in St. Louis just a few days ago, referring to an Aug. 5-8 series at Busch Stadium in which the Dodgers won three of four games.
"Those were big games," Punto said. "But there's nothing like the postseason."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.