To Motte, time sidelined used to the fullest
Cardinals reliever pledged attention to charity efforts throughout 2013
ST. LOUIS -- Jason Motte, months ago, decided that he would dwell not on what was lost -- that, of course, being his 2013 season -- but rather on the perspective gained during a time that everyone else assumed was a period of adversity.
He doesn't like that descriptor. He prefers the last seven months be referred to as a blessing.
Though Tommy John surgery precluded Motte from pitching this year, the season-ending operation opened up hours to serve. A year after hosting his first Strike Out Cancer event to raise money for cancer research and patient services, Motte used much of his unexpected downtime during the baseball season to augment those efforts.
His friendships in recent years with boys Brandt Ballenger and Lane Goodwin drew Motte to see the devastating reality of childhood cancer. It moved Motte to devote time to planning a Strike Out Childhood Cancer day at Busch Stadium in September, two months after Ballenger passed away. That event raised funds for pediatric cancer research.
The Mottes participated in several local walks and races for various causes, and they spent hours planning their second annual Strike Out Cancer fundraiser, which will take place at the Clark Opera Memphis Center on Saturday.
"It has put a lot of things in perspective," Motte said of his injury. "I believe what happened this year worked out for a lot of reasons. I got to spend a lot more time with Brandt than I ever would have if I wasn't hurt. And I got to meet other people and go here, go there and do more than I would have ever been able to do if I was on the mound.
"I wouldn't trade those memories, those moments, those days, any of those people for one out this year in the big leagues. It was one of those things that has affected me deeper than I think a lot of people know. It puts so much into perspective."
Motte and his wife, Caitlin, raised $37,000 during their Strike Out Cancer event last November. This year, they hope the event grows beyond an attendance mark of 200 and that a larger auction will bring in more money. Among the items to be bid upon will be an Atlanta Braves hat signed by Justin Upton and B.J. Upton, a Mike Trout-signed jersey, a Craig Kimbrel-signed jersey, cleats signed by Matt Holliday and All-Star batting practice jerseys signed by the Cardinals' All-Stars.
An all-expense paid trip to St. Louis for a baseball and entertainment weekend will also be given away. Tickets for the event, which will also feature dinner and dancing, are still available for purchase at JasonMotteFoundation.org. There is an opportunity to donate for those unable to make the event.
All funds raised will go to cancer research and/or cancer centers.
"That's why we do what we do," Motte said. "We want to find a cure."
Though fulfilled by a summer of relationships and service, Motte has also been preparing for his 2014 return to the mound. Motte, who underwent Tommy John surgery the first week of May, was throwing from a flat-ground distance of 150 feet when the Cardinals' season ended. He had begun tossing off the mound, too, in order to reintroduce his body to throwing from a slope again.
Motte is continuing his three-day-a-week throwing program at his home in Memphis this fall and said he plans to relocate to the Cardinals' facility in Jupiter, Fla., shortly after the new year. In between, he'll have a down period from about Thanksgiving to Christmas, as has been prescribed through his rehab program.
Given his progression thus far, Motte said he is eyeing a return next April or May.
"We're just taking our time and are where we need to be," Motte said. "It's going to be what it's going to be."
When Motte does return -- for what will be the final season of his two-year, $12 million deal -- he does not appear targeted for a return to his role. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said recently that Trevor Rosenthal will open the season as the team's closer. Motte, when healthy, will likely slot in as his setup man.
Such specifics, though, are mostly irrelevant to Motte, whose time away from the mound has given him a renewed purpose. He did not have to throw a pitch to deem this a season fulfilled.
"Baseball is baseball," Motte said. "This year has put a lot of things in perspective with what is going on outside of baseball. I've been able to meet people and get to know people and see that what we are doing is helping people. At the end of the day, it's all about helping others. If you can't help others, then you're doing something wrong.
"Baseball is what it is. These guys have done a capable job [filling in], and I just watched them. People are always out in baseball to take your job, whether it's your first year or 20th year. Someone is always behind. Baseball may be here now, but it won't be here one day. It will all work out just like it's supposed to."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.