The Cardinals will have a new face behind home plate on Opening Day for the first time since 2004.
Following the retirement of legendary catcher Yadier Molina, Willson Contreras is set to take over backstop duties for the organization and is in line to debut for the franchise Thursday in St. Louis against the Blue Jays.
Ahead of his first-ever game for the Cardinals, Contreras paid tribute to Molina with a pair of custom cleats, which he plans to wear on Opening Day.
The 30-year-old, who joined the Cardinals in free agency after spending the past seven seasons with the rival Cubs, is clearly not understating the importance of taking over the mantle from Molina.
Willson Contreras shows his tribute to Yadier Molina. Pretty cool. pic.twitter.com/VmXGikyByx— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) March 29, 2023
The red and yellow cleats have the word “Respect” printed along the side, next to Molina’s No. 4.
.@Cardinals catcher Willson Contreras will wear custom Yadier Molina tribute cleats for Opening Day pic.twitter.com/21dgxLcwpK— MLB Life (@MLBLife) March 29, 2023
“I feel like I had to some kind of honor to him. … I think he deserves this and more,” Contreras said of Molina, via Ryan Fagan of Sporting News.
Contreras signed a five-year, $87.5 million deal with St. Louis in the offseason, making him MLB’s fourth-highest paid catcher in terms of his contract’s average annual value.
Molina had been the Cardinals catcher since 2004, spending 19 seasons with the organization and appearing in 2,224 games. He won two World Series, made 10 All-Star Games and won nine Gold Glove awards.
Those are some large shoes to fill, and Contreras is taking it upon himself to show respect to the 40-year-old with his gesture on Opening Day.