While on his way to become a potential Hall of Famer, St. Louis Cardinals Yadier Molina, started his career off right here in Kodak, TN.
“I knew one night when we were playing here he threw out a base runner at second base and never got off his knees,” said longtime Smokies public address announcer George Yardley. “We looked at each other up here in the press box and said ‘Wow he won’t be here long.’”
“Yadi” only spent 104 games with the Smokies in 2003 where he put up a .275 (100-364) line with two home runs and 51 RBIs. He made his debut in 2004 as a backup to now Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
The Cardinals went on to go to the World Series that year, but were swept by the Boston Red Sox. He became the regular starter the next year, a position he hasn’t relinquished since.
Molina comes from a family from Puerto Rico that has boasted three major leaguers, including himself as his brothers Bengie and Jose also were catchers and had successful careers. “Yadi”, as known by Cardinals fans, has been to the World Series four times with the Cardinals and has two rings to show.
He gained folk hero status in St. Louis when he hit a late game winning home run against the New York Mets in Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series that sent St. Louis to the World Series. There they faced the Detroit Tigers and won in five games. He also helped the Cardinals defeat the Texas Rangers in seven games in the 2011 World Series.
Molina is also regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the game as he has a career fielding percentage of .994 and has caught 44% of the base stealers. He is a six-time gold glove winner, six-time all star, and also won the Silver Slugger award last year. He has also led the Cardinals to seven postseason appearances.