Mike Shildt sees his new role as the Cardinals' "quality-control" coach as one which will offer assistance in any area where it's needed. (File) 

By Rob Rains

The best part of Mike Shildt’s job as a manager in the minor leagues was getting to tell players that they were being called up to the Cardinals.

Now he knows what it feels like to be on the other end of that conversation.

Shildt learned he was being promoted from managing Triple A Memphis to the Cardinals’ major-league coaching staff for next season during a phone call with general manager John Mozeliak.

“It was very surreal,” Shildt said. “Mo called and presented the opportunity to me. It was almost beyond belief. What a blessing.”

Shildt was given the title of “quality control” coach, a new position which is more vague than being a pitching coach, hitting coach or base coach. It is intentionally that way because it is a job which could change frequently.

Primarily, Shildt sees his role as one of being available and offering assistance to manager Mike Matheny, bench coach David Bell, other members of the staff and players.

“We are going to look at how we do things, continuing to work on what we’ve done well and looking for areas we can improve on and figuring out strategies to make that happen,” Shildt said.

Shildt has spent the last eight years managing in the Cardinals’ farm system, including the last two years at Memphis. As part of his duties he has been involved with the major-league team during spring training and four times has spent a week in September with the Cardinals.

He believes that experience will be invaluable as he settles into a full-time position at the major-league level.

“I’ve done it three times with Mike and once under Tony (La Russa),” Shildt said. “What I know is that at the big league level, it’s all about winning that day. There’s a sense of urgency about being prepared and executing. I am going to appreciate that, and figure out ways to be better that day.

“It was a beautiful opportunity with no real responsibilities necessarily other than to be available. It helped me get a better idea of what the culture was like, how the inner workings take place. I got an appreciation for the communication and structure. It definitely will help me do what I can to make the team better.”

The 48-year-old Shildt joined the Cardinals as a scout before moving into a coaching role, and then managing. He spent three years managing the rookie-level team in Johnson City, Tenn., three years at the Double A level in Springfield and the last two seasons at Triple A. Moving to the majors was the next step in his progression, but not one he spent much time worrying about.

“When you have your selfish moments, which we all have, you think about it,” he said. “DJ (Mark DeJohn, the Cardinals’ minor league field coordinator) gave me great advice when I started that I think he might have got from George Kissell, and that was that you can’t care more about your career than you do the players you are helping to lead.

“I’ve always had that mindset but I do escape occasionally. When you get to go up near the end of the year and spend time with the club and spend time with Mo and Mike and the group you kind of think it would be nice to be here.”

In his visiting capacity, Shildt was allowed to be in uniform in the dugout during games, and he will be in uniform in the dugout during games next year as well – but with one difference.

In those temporary assignments with the big-league team, Shildt mostly was an observer – listening and watching, but basically only speaking when he was asked a question. Shildt intends to be more vocal in his new job, but respecting the role of others at the same time and knowing that he is not going to be re-inventing the wheel.

“I was so fortunate to have those opportunities,” Shildt said. “That’s why the organization does it. You don’t know what it looks like until you are actually there. You see what it looks like, what the level of play looks like, what the expectations are and what goes into it. It was a tremendous experience and also helped me see what it looks like for a player coming up and what the bridge is going back and forth (to Triple A). That was a valuable resource for me.

“Any healthy relationship is one where people can communicate and express what they feel or think and know that it is for the greater good, not for a personal agenda. Everybody is there to have an opinion and has a level of expertise to bring to the table … I respect what the staff has done in the past which has produced a lot of success. I just want to be part of the process.

“I also appreciate that you are not always going to get your way, but you challenge each other to get better. Mike has the hammer, and whatever the decision is you carry it out like it was your idea.”

The two specific areas which Mozeliak has identified as needing the most improvement on the field next year are the team’s defense and baserunning, so it is logical to expect figuring out ways to do that will be part of Shildt’s job description.

“We’re going to look at what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, and maybe how we could tweak it,” he said. “I will get direction on that as we go.

“The reality is that you put a guy in the best position possible and prepare him right. There is so much information and so many different ways you can look at things. It’s about paring it down correctly to make the most sense and distributing it correctly. That’s going to be as important as anything.”

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains