Not even the urging of his two young sons, Jackson and Ethan, or the chiding of teammate Kyle Lohse could pressure Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday into grabbing an iron and taking a whack at a par-3 on Monday at The Country Club of St. Albans.
He lent his name to the charity golf tournament.
He never promised to contribute his game.
"The odds of me hitting a hole in one on a real golf course ..." Holliday said, shaking off his requests of his school-age boys.
"... Are about the same as me hitting a homer," Lohse concluded.
Holliday and more than a dozen of his teammates gathered at the posh golf course in St. Albans for an annual charity event, but this time with a notable twist. For the previous nine years the celebrity golf tournament, which benefits the Pujols Family Foundation, had been named for and hosted by first baseman Albert Pujols. But when Pujols signed with the Los Angeles Angels this past winter, the St. Louis-based tournament lacked a headliner.
As he did in the Cardinals' lineup by taking over Pujols' No. 3 spot, Holliday stepped up.
"Using our name and having a chance to have a platform to help some people and help raise money for charitable organizations," Holliday said, his wife Leslee standing beside him before the tournament started. "I'm not looking for any extra credit. I'm just trying to help. We felt like this was an easy fit for us."
After losing the longest game played in the majors so far this season — Sunday's 6-3 loss in 19 innings to Pittsburgh — infielder Skip Schumaker was among the players who said maybe a run of charity events planned for the next 24 hours would bring a welcome "reset." Players went straight from the ballpark Sunday to a Make-A-Wish charity event organized by their wives and girlfriends — an event that raised $165,000, an organizer said.
Manager Mike Matheny, hitting coach Mark McGwire and general manager John Mozeliak flew to Joplin on Monday morning to help build several houses as part of a relief effort for neighborhoods damaged or destroyed in last year's tornado.
Closer to St. Louis, players and more than 200 other participants gathered for the Matt Holliday Celebrity Golf Classic. A mini-reunion for the 2011 World Series champs broke out. Former manager Tony La Russa and former bench coach Joe Pettini, who is now with Houston, shared a cart and golfed together. And Pujols made a planned but unannounced appearance on his way from Anaheim, Calif., to the Angels' game tonight in Boston. He spent more than three hours before leaving the course to catch his flight.
While he's returned to St. Louis a handful of times this season — to see his son play baseball, to attend a memorial service — Pujols' visit was the first time many of his former teammates had seen him since the championship parade in October.
"St. Louis is going to be in our heart forever," said Pujols, who signed a 10-year, $240-million with the Angels in December. "I believe that this (tournament) is something to show people we're not going anywhere (with the foundation). I'm wearing a different uniform, playing in a different city, but still the passion that I have isn't going to change."
Following his first full season with the Cardinals, Holliday and his family discussed and pursued starting a foundation of their own. Holliday was particularly interested in helping families with ill children who face "life-changing medical bills," he said at one point. After doing research, the Hollidays elected to help many charities instead of founding one. It was through the course of their planning that they took an interest in Pujols' foundation.
The Pujols Family Foundation is focused on helping children with Down syndrome, raising awareness of Down syndrome, and aiding communities living in poverty in Pujols' native Dominican Republic. The annual golf tournament ends with a dinner that serves as a presentation of video and photos of the foundation's events, as it did Monday.
"We're here now," Leslee said of the Hollidays' roots in St. Louis. "What we wanted to do was get out there and research different foundations and this just happens to be a really, really good one and it happens to be Albert's. At the end of the day, the reason why we decided to support this foundation has a little to do with him, and a lot to do with what they do in this community."
Todd Perry, the executive director of the Pujols Family Foundation, approached Holliday earlier this year about adding his name to the tournament. Perry acknowledged that Pujols' departure "left a hole" and that to continue the tournament it needed a local anchor.
Holliday agreed soon after the invitation.
He had the polo shirt with the "Matt Holliday 7 Celebrity Golf Classic" logo to prove it. Leslee kidded that he wears it around to be recognized.
"Are you going to play?" Pujols asked Holliday as groups teed off.
"I'm going to drive," Holliday said. "Drive around."
Lohse might have had the best drive of the day, landing his wood shot on the green at a par-4 363-yard hole. Several Cardinals didn't play but made appearances a day after playing 6 hours, 7 minutes in the loss at Busch Stadium. Allen Craig, who La Russa called "Hero" when they crossed paths, said it's important "to separate what happens on the field from this and focus on the cause."
Carlos Beltran also visited, accompanied the Hollidays on their tour of the course, and did not golf. He did chat at length with Pujols, offering the day's snapshot of the changes the Cardinals have undergone since the World Series title.
Beltran was the Cardinals' free-agent target hours after Pujols signed with the Angels, and the two arrived at St. Albans with identical statistics for the year: Each has a .278 average, 28 home runs, 69 runs scored and 85 RBIs.
Beltran regained the National League lead in RBIs with his two-run double early in Sunday's loss. But that was all the Cardinals scored for the next 13 innings. Before the 19th inning Sunday, the Cardinals' pitchers had held the Pirates to four earned runs in 36 innings, and yet the offense fizzled and the Bucs took two games as a result. The Cardinals close a stretch of 16 of 19 games at home with a visit from last-place Houston, which has lost 32 of its past 39 games.
Holliday was part of the offensive sag, going one for 15 in the series against Pittsburgh. His average has dropped from .324 to .301 because of a .130 (seven-for-54) stretch the past two weeks.
But that's not why he didn't play golf.
He's never taken to the game, and not even his sons could get a club in his hand Monday.
"I have enough frustration in my life," Holliday said, wryly. "Maybe when I'm done playing and I have five hours a day of frustration to spare I'll try."