Berkman receives ovation from Cardinals faithful

Berkman receives ovation from Cardinals faithful

Berkman receives ovation from Cardinals faithful
ST. LOUIS -- Lance Berkman had to be prodded out of the Cardinals' dugout and onto the on-deck circle in the seventh inning. Still physically compromised by a knee ailment, Berkman knew he had little to offer the offense, which -- at the time -- was being shut out by the Reds.

Manager Mike Matheny didn't care. It was the moment that mattered, and Matheny wanted to ensure that a sellout crowd of 42,509 at Busch Stadium would have an opportunity to recognize Berkman, not only for his contributions as a Cardinal over the last two seasons, but also for Berkman's 14-year career of achievements.

"He didn't think it was going to be all that big of a deal," Matheny said. "He thought he might walk out there and hear crickets."

Not a chance.

The reception, which included a standing ovation from the crowd and everyone in the Cardinals' dugout, was resounding. Berkman doffed his helmet and later waved his hand in appreciation. After grounding out, he jogged into the dugout while fans continued their applause.

"It was a very nice moment for me being out there and really just a chance to tip my hat to the crowd -- a great city, a great group of fans," Berkman said. "Obviously, I've just enjoyed the heck out of my time here. That was one of those mutual thank yous. I really just wanted to thank the crowd and the city of St. Louis. I'm glad I got a chance to put on the Cardinal uniform.

"It's pretty emotional, it definitely is for me. But looking back on it, I'm sure I'll really appreciate it more as I go along."

Unless he makes an unexpected appearance on a postseason roster, Berkman's career in St. Louis is likely over. After being healthy enough to take only 81 at-bats this year, Berkman is set to be a free agent. The Cardinals won't have a spot for him, with Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran slated to return.

Berkman has admitted this season that there is a chance his career may conclude with the close of the 2012 campaign. If that's the case, Wednesday's at-bat would be the 6,235th and final one of Berkman's career. The switch-hitter has a lifetime average of .296, with 412 doubles, 360 home runs and 1,200 RBIs.

"I certainly thought about it maybe being the last time," Berkman said. "You don't have the right perspective to deal with it at that time. I'm sure looking back on it, it will be a lot different than it was in the moment."

Berkman said he will wait until the offseason to come to a more concrete decision. He continues to rehab his right knee -- which he's already had two procedures on this year -- in case the Cardinals advance deep enough into the postseason for him to become a consideration for the roster.

"If I can't get to the point where I can move around, where I feel like I can be competitive at the plate, then it doesn't make any sense to go back on the playoff roster," Berkman said. "We'll just see how it progresses."