PHILIPSBURG — A small town turned out in a large way to welcome “Big City” home on Saturday.
Philipsburg put away its Mountie and Nittany Lion blue and white in favor of Cardinal colors for native son and St. Louis first baseman Matt Adams, a quiet guy with a big smile and a lot of heart. In just his second season with the Cardinals, Adams was part of a National League title win and participated in baseball’s biggest games, the World Series.
“When I got drafted in 2009, I didn’t know how soon, or even if, I’d be (here),” said Adams, in the Keno Beezer Baseball Complex at the Moshannon Valley branch of the YMCA of Centre County. “It’s definitely been quick.”
But it’s also been a lifetime in the making. Adams said he was recently looking at old family pictures.
“There I was, 1 or 2 years old, carrying around a big plastic bat and wearing a Pirates hat,” he said. “I guess it’s my destiny.”
It’s also ironic that the road to the World Series drove Adams directly through the Pittsburgh Pirates, bringing an end to his favorite childhood team’s first winning season in 20 years. Dad Jamie said those Pittsburgh games were a bit awkward.
“It was stressful,” he said with a laugh. “We were glad to have the home field advantage (for St. Louis).”
Philipsburg didn’t care. The idea of seeing the Pirates win was only eclipsed by the idea of seeing the (hometown) slugger pull out a W.
Mom Lisa called the local response to Adams’ career “amazing.”
What isn’t surprising is that little boy’s years of work paying off as a grown man.
“I don’t know if we ever really thought about it,” said Lisa. “Matt just loved it so much.”
Sister Kaylee isn’t surprised. She remembers all too well the sting of that major league pitch. The family has always been enthusiastic about baseball, but nobody knew better than Kaylee the power in Adams’ arm.
“He just threw the ball so fast,” she said. “No matter what kind of glove I used, it always hurt,” she said.
Adams is eager to get back to practice in February and hopefully make a second run for a World Series title. The best moment of the past year for him was walking across the field at Fenway Park on the day of Game 1, knowing exactly how big the experience was.
But for now, he’s happy to be home.
“We’ve got a great community here,” he said, calling the local reaction “unbelievable.”
And that was before he rode through town on a vintage Hope Fire Company engine, waving at baseball fans and locals who are just happy to see a hometown boy make good.
Ron Pinto, 11, plays left field, sometimes right, and he was thrilled to stand in the cold on Presqueisle Street with a sign that said “You’re a Star!” to welcome Adams home. He’d love to follow him into the majors. He has a bat that Adams signed for him.
“I use that bat, too!” he said. In fact, he’s used it so much that the autograph is wearing off, but he says sometimes it makes him more confident that if Adams did it, he can, too.
That’s the kind of thing that Jamie Adams just can’t believe.
“To see these little kids ... (Matt) was that little kid,” he said. “He was chasing people down to get an autograph. Now they want his. It’s something to see.”