The race for first place in the National League Central could come down to the Contreras.
Which, of course, remains unknown.
The Cardinals won the division in 2022, while the Brewers won in 21. This season, you may have heard, the Cardinals’ new catcher is Wilson Contreras. And the Brewers’ new catcher is his brother, William, who hit 20 homers in just 334 at-bats last year for Atlanta.
“He’s still really swallowing the trade — it’s been a big influence on him,” Wilson said during the winter warm-up. “And I’m really happy for him because I know he’ll have the chance to be himself in Milwaukee. And we’re already talking about some situations there. But it’s going to be more fun to play against my brother than I did last year. And I’m just looking forward to beating him. Because I know he’s He wants to hit me, but I want to hit him. Because even though we’re brothers, that’s part of the game.”
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It really is a riveting story. Their stories began in the streets of Puerto Cabello on the northern coast of Venezuela.
“We used to play baseball with a stick and tape,” Wilson said.
From those streets, Wilson paved a new path. The game wasn’t just a game. His dedication led him to a Venezuelan baseball academy at the age of 16. The Cubs signed him on the 17th.
His brother was five years younger.
“We always wanted to be top players,” said Wilson. “So when I signed, he once told me I was a role model. So he put some weight on my shoulders that I took on, because I like to take on challenges and responsibilities.
And I said to him — don’t give up. It’s not going to be easy. You have to get to the States, you have to learn the language and the culture. A lot of times you’ll find yourself (and wonder), like, ‘What am I doing here?’ But we have to think about our family, And what we want to achieve in our lives.
Wilson Contreras made his major league debut in the summer of 2016.
That fall, his team won the World Series.
William Contreras made his major league debut in the summer of 2021.
That fall, his team won the World Series.
“As soon as I found out he had a phone call, I started crying,” said Wilson, who played for the Cubs from 2016-22. “It was something I always looked forward to. And we’re really humbled to be in the big leagues and spend it in the same league together.”
In April of last season, the Contreras brothers traded lineup cards at home before a Cubs-Braves game. Wilson made three All-Star teams as a cub, most recently as a starter in 2022. That summer, William was named a reserve to the same National League All-Star team. The manager was Atlanta native Brian Snicker. In the batting order, captain Snicker had Wilson Contreras bat sixth … and batter named William Contreras bat seventh.
Now, the Cardinals fan base especially appreciates catch families. Over the years, St. Louis learned the traits and anecdotes that came to define the Molina family. There was a son Yadir. It was very good. And his older brother, Benji, has also become part of the Cardinals’ culture, recently as a broadcaster (a third brother, Jose, also played in the seniors…all three won World Series).
The beloved Francisco Pena played the 2018 season in St. Louis, where his famous father, Tony, was the Cardinals’ all-star catcher and a member of the 1987 pennant winners. Also, Matt Pagnozzi had 42 batters for the club, as his uncle, Tom, won three Gold Gloves as the catcher. And in the ’40s, including three World Series, Walker Cooper was the Cardinals’ cornerback, while brother Mort was on the mound—in the Talkin’ Cardinals Baseball song, Terry Cashman sang: “Lewis was another Cooperstown.”
Heading into 2023, there’s talk in this town that Wilson could be the third in-demand big hitter in the Cardinals lineup. And it’s true, he’s hit 20 or more home runs in four of the past five full seasons. The only thing we have to wonder about is how many games he will play. In the past five full seasons, he has played an average of 120.2 games. Last season, Cardinals manager Oliver Marmul did a masterful job using the DH spot. There may be days when Contreras is still in the lineup, even as Andrew Knysner catches up. It can definitely help with health.
For the division, the Cardinals should be the first, even though the Cubs have signed a bunch of at-bats, and the Brewers still have some brilliant hitters. While it was Atlanta (along with new catcher Shaun Murphy) that sent William to Milwaukee, Wilson himself chose to leave the Cubs for the Cardinals. He came here to win the class for sure. But he also came here to recreate history.
Winning a World Series with the 2016 Cubs, he said, “keeps me excited and makes me want to win every year. We know winning every year is impossible. But there is something on this organization’s mind – winning a World Series and getting to the World Series. And I think it’s time to get there.” So once you win the World Series, you’ll still be hungry about it. You want to get there every year. And that’s something these guys have shown me so far — that they want to win the World Series.”