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CBC grad Matt Vierling starting for Phillies in Wild Card opener against Cardinals

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Matt Vierling

Phillies outfielder Matt Vierling runs the bases on his two-run home run against the Nationals during the third inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Washington.

Phillies outfielder Matt Vierling can’t remember exactly which 2013 World Series game he attended at Busch Stadium, but the St. Louis native could recall some details.

He remembers that Busch Stadium was “rocking” and said former Red Sox slugger Mike Napoli might have hit a home run on that October night. Now, nearly nine years after witnessing the playoffs as a fan, he’ll have his own postseason moment. Only this time, the Christian Brothers College high school grad will be in attendance as the Phillies’ starting center fielder.

“It’s pretty special, man,” Vierling said. “Definitely family and friends are all going to be here. Really just growing up and watching these guys (the Cardinals) be in the postseason year in and year out, now to be playing against them in the postseason, it’s pretty special. I’m excited for it.”

Alongside family including his brother Mark, who played baseball for both the University of Missouri and St. Louis University, Vierling watched from home as the Cardinals made World Series runs in 2006 and 2011, the latter being the same year St. Louis eliminated Philadelphia in the National League Division Series.

Like many Cardinals fans from his generation, the 26-year-old has baseball memories crafted by household names like Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. On Friday, he’ll play across from them during his first postseason and the Phillies’ first October appearance since 2011.

“They were pretty much the catalysts of the team at that point,” Vierling said. “(It’s) pretty cool to be on the field against them. It makes it all that more special.”

Of the three longtime Cardinals, Vierling said Pujols was the one he gravitated to the most growing up, adding that he “looked up to Pujols a lot.”

That admiration not only created memories as a baseball fan but also led Vierling to discover the right bat he’s used for most of his amateur and professional baseball career — the one modeled for the future Hall of Famer first baseman.

“In the minors, I toyed around with a couple of other ones,” Vierling said, as he raised his black AP5-M model Marucci bat. “But growing up I always used that model and then I was like, ‘You know what, this is the model I’m going to use.’”

Vierling played varsity baseball for CBC for four years before graduating in 2015. He was selected in the 30th round of the 2015 MLB draft by the Cardinals, but elected to go to Notre Dame instead, where he batted .300 with an .849 OPS across three seasons leading him to become a fifth-round pick in the 2015 MLB draft by the Phillies. He made his MLB debut in 2021.

Vierling began the season on the Phillies’ opening day roster. He batted .170 and posted a .472 OPS in his first 23 games before getting demoted to the Phillies’ Class AAA affiliate, Lehigh Valley, on May 11. The CBC grad returned to the majors on June 7 and has played a role in helping Philadelphia end a 10-year playoff drought.

On the same day he returned from the minors, Vierling hit a pinch-hit, game-tying home run off former Brewers closer Josh Hader to help lift the Phillies to a road win when they were four games under .500 and had recently fired  manager Joe Girardi. On Aug. 12, Vierling threw out Mets outfielder Starling Marte at home to prevent a walk-off win in a game the Phillies won in 10 innings.

He has played all outfield spots and seen time at first, second and third base under Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson.

“We sent him back to Lehigh (Valley) to kind of get reset, and he did,” Thomson said. “I mean, he impacts the ball as well as anybody. He's athletic, he can play defense, he can play anywhere on the diamond. Like I said, he's had good at-bats. He's really a good player and a very important piece to this club because of the versatility game and speed and his hitting abilities.”

Back in his hometown, Vierling’s next chance to impact a game could come in a place where he saw others curate October magic.

“It’s like the crazy moments just keep kind of piling up as far as like getting thrown into the infield, playing in the outfield, being (with the team on) opening day there, too,” Vierling said. “Just a lot of cool moments have happened this year and I’m looking to keep them going.”

Ben Frederickson and Daniel Guerrero preview the best-of-three series, from slumping Paul Goldschmidt to the Phillies' shaky defense.

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