RALEIGH — Tom Holliday laughed when asked why his son, Matt Holliday, is such a talented baseball player.
In the small college town of Stillwater, Okla., where Holliday coached and raised his family before moving to Raleigh, the N.C. State pitching coach said playing sports was the only way to stay busy.
“I think the way Matt plays comes a lot from his upbringing,” Holliday said. “Being from a small town, there is really nothing else to do except play sports. When I threw BP with him or Josh, we never took it lightly. He was bound and determined to be a professional athlete and when he chose baseball, it was lights out.
“Any time he thought about quitting, he had me in his corner saying, ‘Are you kidding me?’”
This year, Holliday’s son is making his fourth postseason appearance with the St. Louis Cardinals after leading his team to an 88-74 record in the regular season. Matt finished with a .295 batting average, 27 home runs and a team-leading 102 RBIs and 95 runs.
Matt Holliday, a six-time All-Star, is working toward helping the 2011 World Series champion Cardinals win another crown. In St. Louis, where they have won 11 World Series titles, second only to the New York Yankees, losing is not an option.
“I think when you’re a World Series champion, you almost expect to be in the playoffs the next year,” Tom Holliday said. “But if you look at all of the changes in their roster, you see just how difficult it was for this team to make it back. The loss of (Albert) Pujols left the city, and the team, in a state of shock.
“That move alone put so much pressure on the big bats in the lineup like Carlos Beltran and certainly Matt.”
The offseason changes included the retirement of Tony La Russa, the St. Louis’ manager who won two World Series with the team.
The Cardinals also lost former Cy Young award winner Chris Carpenter before the season started. Carpenter was supposed to miss all season but recently returned and started Game 3 of the NLDS. Holliday said all the changes made it tougher for Matt and the Cardinals to fulfill outside expectations.
“When you do something as special as they did last year, fans want nothing less than a title,” Holliday said. “And St. Louis fans are a lot like Yankees fans. They don’t just want you to play in the Division Series or the Championship Series, they want to buy tickets to the World Series to watch their team.
“In fact, being a fan and a dad, I’m worn out.”
Thanks to his son, the ride isn’t over.
Matt Holliday hit a home run in the Cardinals’ one-game wildcard victory over Atlanta that helped put them in the NLDS against Washington.
HOLLIDAY’S CAREER STATS IN THE POSTSEASON: