ST. LOUIS -- The one image that stood out for Jason Motte as he closed out the 2011 World Series was Yadier Molina's smile.
"It's one of those things that's ingrained in my mind," Motte said.
Motte remembers watching David Murphy's fly ball land in left fielder Allen Craig's glove and turning back to look at his battery mate, Molina, whose ear-to-ear grin, in a way, made the Cardinals' final out of a World Series championship seem more real.
"I turned, saw Craig catch it, turned back and just watching Yadi's big smiling face ... I've told him many a time it's something I'll never forget," Motte said. "For me, it was that moment in time that was in super-slow motion. I'll never forget."
Motte and Adam Wainwright, part of a trio that threw out ceremonial first pitches before Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Friday, have more in common than the fact they are teammates and have each recorded the last out of a Cards World Series win.
Motte is sidelined this year, recovering from Tommy John surgery while watching his team work its way through the playoffs from a seat on the dugout bench. It's a similar situation Wainwright in which found himself in 2011, when discomfort he experienced during Spring Training that year ended up requiring a procedure to repair a tear in his elbow.
Wainwright had a front-row seat as his Cardinals teammates captured the World Series championship in '11. The story is still being written this year, but Motte vowed to serve as his team's biggest cheerleader as the Cards try to win their second championship in three years.
"It's one of those things that even though you're hurt, these guys in the clubhouse do a good job of not making me feel like an outcast," Motte said. "And I feel like I try to have a positive attitude. I think if I had a crappy attitude, it would be different. I try to stay positive."
Motte was front and center, with Wainwright, during an elaborate pregame ceremony that welcomed in the third round of the 2013 postseason. Motte and Wainwright joined Hall of Famer Bob Gibson to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, each holding the distinction of being on the mound when the Cardinals clinched a World Series title. Gibson did it in 1967, Wainwright in 2006 and Motte in '11.
Bruce Sutter, who closed out the 1982 World Series, was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.
"To have three, four guys like that be able to go out there and say you closed out the last pitch of the World Series ... one person a year gets to say that in the entire world," Wainwright said. "We're pretty privileged."
The pregame ceremony began in a very St. Louis-like manner, with the traditional trek around the warning track by the Budweiser Clydesdales. After both teams lined up on the field for introductions, 2013 Miss Missouri Shelby Ringdahl performed the national anthem. The presentation of colors was made by Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop C Honor Guard.
"God Bless America" was to be performed in the seventh inning by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class (Ret.) Generald Wilson.
All events went off without a hitch, especially the first pitches, which were thrown from the halfway point between the mound and home plate.
Tailor-made for a guy who is, for the time being, nursing a bum elbow, no?
"We may have to do like the Little League equation to make it the equivalent to a Major League pitch," Motte laughed. "Equivalent might be 45 mph."