Jon Jay focused on growth, next championship

When St. Louis Cardinals center-fielder Jon Jay left St. Louis in October after a crushing defeat by the San Francisco Giants after squandering a 3-1 series lead in the NLCS, he wasn't satisfied.

"I'm all fun, I like to have fun," Jay said Saturday from Roger Dean Stadium, the Cardinals Spring Training facility, in Jupiter, Fla. "But, when I step on the field, especially in Spring Training, it's time to work."

In 2011, his first full season in the majors, Jay tasted victory.

In 2012, he tasted defeat.

"Knowing you're so close to achieving something so great -- it hurt a lot," he said.

Now, in 2013, he has one mission -- win another world championship.

"Just having that sour taste in my mouth last year from being one win away from the World Series -- that's my drive," Jay said. "Yeah, we won the year before but you can never rest on that."

While 2011 made for fond memories, his goal is to keep them as just that as he moves forward in his career.

Jay said he believes it's all about giving yourself a chance and doing your best to put your team in a position to win. With that said, he believes this team has a good shot at re-visiting that late season magic of the past two seasons.

"We get into October with the guys we have on this team," he said. "Obviously health is a big issue, just like with every other team, but if we go out there and we do what we can do I think we have a good possibility."

A big part of that stems from what Jay believes is simply the "Cardinal Way." He said it's not about talking a big game, but about walking out on the field day after day and giving your everything.

The key for Jay is always looking back and telling yourself you can be better than that.

Over the years, the Cardinals have had many players who helped to make the Cardinal way what it is today. It's an idea that comes from generation after generation of players who excelled not only on the field, but in life as well.

"I'm just a little piece of that, I've only been here three years, going on my fourth. I'm trying to keep that legacy going now," Jay said. "Rest in peace, that's what [Stan] Musial did."

There's even one current Cardinal that Jay said exemplifies what it means to be not just good, but great -- Yadier Molina.

Molina's offensive explosion in 2012 took him a step beyond being a fantastic defensive player.

"Yadi could have rested on exactly what he did three years ago, but he's become one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball," Jay said. "He's the best catcher in baseball and that's where you want to get. You want to be the best at every facet of the game. You see him here at 5:30 a.m. every day working in the cage, working on the field. Does he need to do that? In reality, no."

Jay said what Molina does is setting an example for the younger players, himself included. That, he says, is what makes a Cardinal -- and what makes a champion.

With his success in 2012, Jay's name was mentioned in Gold Glove discussions and alongside with impressive defensive players of the past. The humble young player from the University of Miami said he refuses to let that go to his head.

"I told everyone it's nice to be mentioned in those categories, but that's not my ultimate goal," Jay said. "My ultimate goal is to win championships. I know if I go out there, stay healthy and stay in the lineup all year, then good things are going to come."

He did say it was a real honor to have been mentioned that way in his first year as a starting center-fielder.

Right now, his focus is on becoming a better all around player. That's what he believes it takes to win championships.

"Wherever I'm hitting I've really got to own that role," Jay said. "If we all do that, it's going to be a positive thing. It's not about the numbers.

"That's the way we won in 2011," he said. "It takes more than just one guy on a team. It takes all 25 guys to win."

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