ST. LOUIS • The story has been told a few times how, out of the blue one day, Kolten Wong received a phone call and an invitation for an all-expenses-paid trip to St. Louis and his first immersion into the Cardinals clubhouse with a veteran player as host and hitting partner for several days.
Matt Holliday made the call. Wong took the call.
Over the course of a few weeks both are getting another call.
On Wednesday night, out in Arizona, Holliday was officially inducted into the Arizona Fall League's Hall of Fame. He and fellow inductee Carl Crawford make 36 members of the AFL's Hall. Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter, two former teammates of Holliday's, are previous inductees of the AFL Hall. Holliday, poised to be a free agent shortly after the World Series ends, played in the elite AFL in 2003 for Colorado's Mesa Solar Sox. His teammates included Ryan Theriot, with whom he'd win a World Series title in St. Louis in 2011, and Brad Hawpe and Delmon Young.
In 19 games that fall, Holliday hit .333 with a .408 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage. He went 22 for 66 out west and homered thrice.
He was among the league leaders in ... stolen bases.
He stolen seven bases and was not caught once in the AFL season.
Holliday made his debut with the Colorado Rockies a year later, was an MVP candidate for them in 2007, and two years after that came to the Cardinals via trade. He signed the largest contract in Cardinals history in January 2010, and the guaranteed portion of that deal will soon expire. The team has given him the indication that he should pursue other opportunities this winter, perhaps seeking a role with an American League team.
Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was present for Holliday's induction.
In mid-November, Wong will be inducted into another prospect-based Hall of Fame. While the AFL features the top prospects already in pro baseball, the league set to honor Wong is where top college players go to show what they can do with wood bats against top-shelf competition. The Cardinals have made a habit of drafting leading players from the Cape Cod League, and Wong was no different. He was the Cardinals' first-round pick the summer after his Cape Cop turn.
Wong will be inducted into the Cape Cod League's Hall of Fame on Nov. 19. In 2010, he won the league's MVP award for his play with Orleans. Wong batted .341 and stole 22 bases.
The elections of Wong and Holliday to the respective halls of fame were announced in June. The official inductions waited until after the major-league season ended.
• There was some indication that Cuban infielder Lourdes Gurriel's 23rd birthday was Wednesday (Oct. 19). Not so. As reported long ago by The Houston Chronicle and confirmed through MLB sources, Gurriel's birthday was Oct. 10. Why this matters is that it's at age 23 that Gurriel can sign without counting against a team's international signing bonus. The Cardinals are one of the teams interested in the young Cuban as his market continues to develop.
• As the Cardinals move toward finalizing Mike Matheny's coaching staff one thing to note is that first-base coach Bill Mueller, a St. Louis native, has a year remaining on his contract. He recently told Post-Dispatch columnist Benjamin Hochman that he hopes to return, in some capacity. Mueller has served as assistant hitting coach, first-base coach, and infield instructor, and he has past experience as third-base coach.
• Out in Arizona, Harrison Bader continues to hit well with a .375 (5-for-16) start to his turn in the AFL. He has a .444 OBP and a .625 SLG for an OP better than 1.000 in his first week in baseball's finishing school.
• Carson Kelly has played six games and hit .238/.308/.381 with five RBIs and a homer for the Glendale team.
• Austin Gomber is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA and nine strikeouts in seven innings of work.
• Third baseman Paul DeJong is three-for-21 so far with seven strikeouts.
• Ryan Sherriff, a lefty reliever, has four strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings of work but he also has allowed seven baserunners and three earned runs.