Scott Spiezio, one of the heroes in the St. Louis Cardinals' drive to their 10th World Championship in 2006, was back on familiar ground Friday.
Spiezio, 41, was in town for a function at Ballpark Village and threw out the ceremonial first pitch before their game against Atlanta. He said the best thing happening in his life is sobriety, although he's still taking baby steps in his recovery from alcohol and substance abuse.
Friday marked Spiezio's 150th day of being clean.
"I've got my life in order," said Spiezio, who attended the game with his girlfriend, Ginni Clampitt. "I've had ups and downs along the way, but I feel really good right now. It's cool to be able to come back here feeling this good.
Spiezio, who lives in Morris, Ill., regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous classes and acknowledged that some days remain difficult as he fights his inner demons.
But he leans on Clampitt, also a former addict, and Clampitt relies on Spiezio. Together, Spiezio said, they will make it.
"A lot of people think you can do this damage and then recover in 28 days or something," Spiezio said. "It took me a long time. It was a constant battle. It's still a battle. I can't get overconfident. I've got no excuse to go back to the way things were."
Spiezio had a patch of hair under his lip that he said Clampitt had painted red for the occasion.
"I haven't been here since Winterfest going into 2008," Spiezio said, referring to the Winter Warm-Up. "It brings back a lot of memories for me because my dad (Ed) also played here. One of the big memories for me is when the Cardinals had my dad come here and give me the (World Series) ring on Opening Day in 2007. That was a tear-jerker."
Spiezio signed a free-agent contract with the Cardinals in February 2006. He batted .272 with 13 homers and 52 RBIs in 119 games in 2006, and on Sept. 30 delivered a pinch-hit three-run triple in the eighth inning of a 3-2 victory over Milwaukee that clinched a tie for the National League Central championship.
The Cardinals lost their regular-season finale Oct. 1, but Houston's loss to Atlanta gave the Cardinals the division title. St. Louis then defeated San Diego and the New York Mets in the playoffs before handling Detroit in six games.
"It was fun," he said. "Everybody on the team jumped in when we needed somebody to give us a spark," Spiezio said.
Motte almost ready
Reliever Jason Motte was in St. Louis on Friday for an event at Forest Park, and he might be here to stay.
Motte threw two innings for Class AAA Memphis on Thursday and appears almost ready to rejoin the Cardinals after Tommy John surgery.
"I felt pretty good," Motte said. "I was able to go out there and throw my fastball where I wanted to. I could elevate it when I wanted to. I was able to come in on guys. I was able to throw my cutter in on guys when I wanted to. I was happy the way it went.
"I'm a little sore today, which is to be expected. But I played catch and when I woke up this morning, I was able to move my arm. I wasn't ready to rip it off. We'll see these next couple of days what they have in store ... and what the plan is."
Motte could be activated as early as Sunday, the same day Jaime Garcia comes off the disabled list to start against the Braves. With the exception of playing catch, Motte will be off until then.
"He continues to check off the boxes," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "There are different things you need to do. Getting a couple of innings is an important step to take, and he passed that."
Motte said he has been consistently throwing in the low- to mid-90s and has touched the upper 90s.
Exploit the shift
One day after seeing the Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo reach on bunt singles in his first two at-bats against the Cardinals' shift Thursday, Matt Adams was working on his bunting before the game Friday. Teams also are employing a shift against Adams.
"Rizzo did a nice job," Matheny said. "That's the way to combat it. I believe there's going to be time in a game when that could be (useful). If teams are going to continue to shift, it's absolutely there for you. It's something (Adams) needs to be able to pull off whenever he can."
Pitchers hitting better
Cardinals pitchers this season are batting .178 (14-for-79) with six doubles and seven RBIs. They batted .125 (40-for-319) last season with eight doubles, one home run and 19 RBIs last year.
"The long at-bats, even though they might end up in a strikeout, are costing (pitchers) six pitches instead of three," Matheny said. "I think they've got a real nice approach. It's been a conscious effort."