Hometown reliever has new playoff view
McClellan is pitching for club he grew up idolizing
ST. LOUIS -- It's every Little Leaguer's dream -- playing in October for the team whose cap you wore as a boy -- and Cardinals reliever Kyle McClellan gets to live it. He's the hometown kid playing for the hometown team and don't think he doesn't realize how rare such a position is.
On Saturday, the Florissant, Mo., native and Hazelwood West High School grad will step onto the field at Busch Stadium for his first home postseason game. And "home," as it relates to McClellan, is in the most literal sense.
His parents were Cardinals season-ticket holders when he was young, so old Busch Stadium was as close to a second home as McClellan had. He would come on Opening Day. And in those years where the Cardinals' season extended into October, he'd be here then, too.
Flanked by his dad, McClellan was sitting in the upper deck on Oct. 20, 2004, when Jim Edmonds took an 0-1 pitch from Houston's Dan Miceli and sent it over the wall for a two-run, walk-off homer to force a Game 7 in the National League Championship Series.
And of course, McClellan was back the next night when St. Louis punched its ticket to the World Series with another win. So as bare as his postseason resume may be, he actually understands the experience quite well.
"I've been to a lot of playoff games here as a fan, so I know kind of what to expect," said McClellan, a 26th-round pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. "Really, all my thoughts are off that stuff and all about the game. But it's going to be great with the crowd, coming home to our friends."
McClellan made his postseason debut on Wednesday, pitching two-thirds of an inning in the Cardinals' 5-3 loss to the Dodgers. That came after a regular season in which McClellan surpassed the 60-appearance mark for the second time in as many big league seasons. He was one of four St. Louis pitchers to record at least 15 holds, and the right-hander finished the year with a 3.38 ERA.
"He's more mature than most kids his age," fellow reliever Ryan Franklin said. "He is able to handle better than I know I would have when I was 24, 25. He's impressive the way he handles himself."
His parents, who came to almost every home game this season, will be at Busch Stadium for Game 3 of the NL Division Series on Saturday night, along with his wife, Bridget, her parents and a close friend. Their seats will be a little closer than those in '04.
"It's just one of those perks of being real fortunate to play here in my hometown," McClellan joked.
Oh, and he'll have a seat reserved, too, this time in the bullpen out in right field.
"I know what it means to the fans here in St. Louis, and I know what the atmosphere is going to be like," McClellan said. "I know how intense it is for the fans, hanging on every pitch. Now I see it from a players' standpoint. It's pretty cool to see it from both sides."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.