When he was in high school, Matt was given a signed jersey of Lance Berkman, his childhood hero and teammate from 2011-2012. The poster was a gift from his now-wife, Mackenzie (Detmore) Carpenter. The couple were married on December 10, 2011.
Before Matt was born, Carpenter's father, Rick Carpenter, a college baseball player, and his wife, Tammie, once a softball player, settled in Texas so that Rick could pursue a coaching career. Matt recalls some of his earliest memories coming at the La Marque High School baseball field, where his father spent seven years.
"We would sit in lawn chairs by the dugout, where my Mom would always be," Matt said. "I remember just playing around as a kid. We never missed a game."
Rick Carpenter later moved to Lawrence E. Elkins High School, where he built a powerhouse baseball program in a state where that is no small task. He doubled as a Little League assistant coach for every team Matt played on, too. Rick Carpenter now jokes that had more to do with his son—he was always peppered with coaching requests by head coaches who wanted to ensure that Matt would be on their team—than himself.
While fostering his son's love for the sport, Rick Carpenter never forced it. He was also realistic, never assuming that, while Matt was always an elite player in Little League and high school, his oldest son would find his way to the Majors.
"I grew up with guys whose dads were so pushy," Matt said. "For me, the love of the game was always there. I always wanted to go to the baseball field. I know for a fact that there was never a time when he said, 'Hey, let's go hit.' It never happened. It was always me."
Rick Carpenter has had four Major Leaguers pass through that program, too. Along with Matt, James Loney, Kip Wells, and Chad Huffman all played for Rick at Elkins High School in Texas.
In 2002, Matt and Loney were a part of the high school team that won the national championship. Matt's Dad was the coach and also won the national coach of the year award.
While Matt said he firmly believes he wouldn't be in the Major Leagues had it not been for the coaching he received from his father, he interjects that, perhaps surprisingly, the greatest lesson his father imparted on him didn't come on the baseball field.
Rather, it came in 2007, when Matt was starring on the baseball team at Texas Christian University. That spring, Tammie Carpenter, then a principal at Colony Bend Elementary School, became embroiled in a school district controversy over one of the school's teachers appearing on a reality TV show.
Believing that his wife had been improperly treated, wrongly disciplined, and publicly slandered by the school district, Rick Carpenter resigned from Elkins High.
"This program that he had built up at Elkins was kind of a dream job. It was his baby," Matt said. "To watch him up and leave for my Mom, that really opened my eyes. You can do a lot of things in this game, but family has to come first."
Rick immediately landed a new head coaching job at Dallas-area Prosper High School. In 2014, Matt's father won the National High School Coach of the Year award.
Carpenter was off to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth where, as a sophomore he hit .349 and helped lead the Horned Frogs to a Mountain West title. But his grades were poor, and his conditioning was awful. In his firs two years at TCU, he'd put 40 pounds on his 6' 3" frame, ballooning to 240. Then, early in his junior year, he hurt his right elbow, ending his season for Tommy John surgery. Soon after, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle pulled Matt into his office for a heart-to-heart.
"I said, 'Listen, now there's no baseball,'" Schlossnagle said. "You can cry about it, or you can see it as this awesome opportunity to address changes in the rest of your life."
Matt took to baseball while still in diapers. His father, Rick, a high school baseball coach in Texas, remembers seeing his son, at 18 months, pick up a dowel rod in the living room, put it on his shoulder and take a batting stance.
"He's been a student of the game ever since," says Rick. "My assistant nicknamed him 'One More,' because when they threw him batting practice, he was always like, 'Gimme one more.'"
Matt figured he'd play three years for TCU, win some games and then get drafted. But that plan looked ruined when after his injury.
"I was the furthest thing away from a major league prospect," he says. At that point, Schlossnagle's straight talk resonated with Carpenter.
"I left his office that day and changed everything," Matt says. A junk food afficionado, Carp swore off soda, burgers and pizza to shed the 40 pounds. And he became a model student, too.
"He was a different human being in every possible area," Schlossnagle says. The same fanatical disclipline Carpenter had once shown in baseball now carried over to his personal life.
"I haven't seen Matt eat a dessert since this all happened," Rick says. Matt's daughter, Kinley, turned two in May 2018. At her party, he let her put a piece of cake in his mouth, only to spit it out when she wasn't looking." (Jon Tayler - Sports Illustrated - 9/24/2018)
Matt has a brother, Ty, who used to be in the Mets' organization.
- June 2009: The Cardinals chose Carpenter in the 13th round. His signing bonus, as a senior sign, was $1,000. "After taxes, it was like $620," Matt says.
In 2010, Matt was the Cardinal's Minor League Player of the Year when he led their minor leaguers with a .418 on-base-percentage. And he followed that up with a .417 OBP in 2011.
In 2011, Baseball America rated Carpenter as the 11th-best prospect in the Cardinals organization. He was at #12 in the offseason before 2012 spring camps opened.
Carpenter loves the game, loves his team, and is a real grinder. He is relentless in his work ethic. Carpenter gets up real early to work out. But he also needs to know when to slow it down and back off and rest.
That he finally has arrived has more than made up for some disappointment along the way. He blew out his elbow during his junior season at TCU and was not drafted. He returned for his senior season, and St. Louis got him in the 13th round of the 2009 draft. He's one in a long list of smart draft choices made when Jeff Luhnow, now the general manager of the Astros, ran the draft for the Cardinals. Specifically, he was the 26th of the 48 Luhnow picks that have played in the big leagues.
"It wasn't until his senior season at TCU, his fifth year, that he put together a pretty good season," Luhnow said. "It was a combination of the area scout who liked him and the analytics that loved him. When those two things intersect, typically an organization like the Cardinals are there to take advantage of it." (Justice - mlb.com 6/25/13)
May 18, 2014: Carpenter had some special guests in attendance. The Turnpike Troubadours. "I've been getting to know them pretty well over the last few years," said Carpenter of the band which performs his walk-up song "Long Hot Summer Day."
"I became a fan of just their music and I chose the walk-up song. We kind of conversed over Twitter one time back in 2011-12 and they come through Fort Worth all the time at place called Billy-Bob's."
So does the old adage still hold true—rock stars want to be athletes and athletes want to be rock stars?
"I sang on stage with them this offseason," shared Carpenter. "We had a TCU football game and they were playing afterwards. Me and just a group of my friends from back home were hanging out with them backstage and listening to the concert."
The next thing he knew Carpenter was being introduced to join them on stage.
"They were like 'Hey, we've got a special guest.' I had no idea and was like 'wonder who it is,'" recalled Matt, who went wide-eyed when he heard his name called out.
In 2014, for the second straight season, Matt has been named the Cardinals' winner of the Heart and Hustle Award, presented annually by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association to honor players "who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit, and tradition of the game." (7/22/14)
The odds were against Carpenter. He was a 13th-round draft pick in 2009. He was pudgy. He was a fifth-year senior at TCU. His signing bonus was just $1,000. Or, as his mentor puts it, "He wasn't even a prospect."
When Carpenter was in college, he developed a friendship with Twins veteran Torii Hunter, which blossomed after Carpenter was drafted. Carpenter's father, Rick, was integral in connecting the two, as he coached two of Hunter's sons when they were in high school.
"[My dad] was the one who told [Hunter], 'Hey, I got a son, too, that plays baseball,'" said Carpenter. "Torii reached out to me and invited me to over to hit at his house and spend some time with him."
For Hunter, it was somewhat of a given. Baseball had been good for him, and he wanted to give back by mentoring a young player, as he had done before and continues to do.
"I've been [mentoring] hundreds of players you guys don't know about. And that's what I do," Hunter said. "I've learned a lot. So I try to give back to these young guys, and some apply it to their careers and some are kind of like, 'forget it.' And you can tell the guys that are hungry, and Matt is definitely my No. 1 guy."
As the relationship developed, the two began training together, with Torii picking up the tab for Carpenter to train at an expensive performance center. They ran the bases, fielded ground balls and did sprints.
"I was just lifting on my own at my dad's high school," Carpenter said. "Hunter took me to a place where a lot of big leaguers were training, a very high-end place with real specific work and ... really helped my career a lot."
Hunter was always there to answer any questions Carpenter had, on topics ranging from what to expect at his first Spring Training to finances to agents.
"Now he's doing the same things he saw you do, and that's what it's all about," Hunter said. "Each one, teach one." (Betsy Helfand - associate reporter for MLB.com - 6/19/2015)
Asked to pick his favorite books, Matt struggled, but only because he could name a library full.
"I'm one of those readers where it's like every book I read I end up loving," Carpenter says. "I usually have three books in my backpack at all times: my Bible, a devotional book, and whatever current book I'm reading.
"When I got to junior high and high school, I didn't read as much as on my own because you're just trying to keep up with the books assigned in class. But in college I started reading for enjoyment again, and it has stayed with me.
"Call me old-fashioned, but I like having the book in my hands. I'll read books on my tablet occasionally, but it's mostly because of convenience. Reading is mostly a morning and night thing for me.
"I truly believe it helps me in baseball the more I read. When I'm reading and constantly engaged, I notice I have sharper focus and clarity when I come to the field than when I'm not reading as much. I think what it does is provide a healthy distraction," Carpenter said.
"I recommend Mind Gym: An Athlete's Guide to Inner Excellence, which is written from a sports psychology standpoint, about playing the mental game of baseball."
Carpenter's number reveals that he's not superstitious. Nope. He's number 13. "I'm just not that kind of guy," Matt said. "Now granted, I'm a guy who if I find a routine that's working, I'll do it.
"If I order a chocolate protein shake with bananas on the way to the park, and the game goes well for me and the team, I'll have another the next day and ride that out until it doesn't work. I always step into the batter's box the same way, with my left foot first, to dig in.
"In the past I've gone clean-shaven during a rough spell to see if it would change my luck. Now I've embraced the beard, and I think that's going to be my look from here on out," the superstition-less Carpenter said. (July 2015)
Carpenter and his wife, MacKenzie spend off-seasons in Fort Worth. "It's such a cool town and there's tons of stuff to do around a college campus," Matt said. "We essentially live on the TCU campus, probably 100 yards from the baseball diamond and across the street from the soccer field.
"We bought the house in 2013, right in the middle of the Cardinals' season. When I was attending the university (2005-2009), I dreamed of owning a house there one day."
May 25, 2016: Carpenter's wife, Mackenzie gave birth to a healthy baby girl. So Matt went on the paternity list for a few days.
2017: Carpenter was selected to play for the USA in the World Baseball Classic.
March 4, 2017: Still bothered by stiffness in his back, Carpenter informed Joe Torre, general manager of Team USA, that he needed to remove himself from the country's World Baseball Classic roster.
Matt's dad was a huge Pete Rose fan, and he inspired his son to play with the hustle as the Hit King. And it turns out that Rose is now a fan of Matt Carpenter.
"There's a lot of good players out there," Rose allows, "but you usually like one who plays a little like you did. It's safe to say Carpenter's my favorite player,
"I admire, first of all, the way he plays," Pete said. "Second, he'll change positions to help the team—which is the way I played. Third, with two strikes, I'd rather have him up there than anybody. He knows how to put the ball in play."
When Rose discusses their similar approaches, he refers more to Carpenter's eagerness to put the team first and the 100 percent he gives every game.
"He's a gutty, hard-knocking, hustling, don't-give-a-crap baseball player," Rose says. "That's the kind of guy you want on your team. Cardinals fans ought to be happy to have a guy like that."
It's also the kind of guy you want in your clubhouse. Carpenter already is recognized as a leader by the example he sets—a grinder who shows up early and works as hard as his craft as anyone on the team, though often quietly. (Stan McNeal - Cardinals Magazine - April, 2017)
Matt's numbers were amazing during a 30-day period in July-August 2018 (.313 avg. - 16 HRs- 27 RBIs - 1.238 OPS). Many claim it is his recent large consumption of salsa (one mason jar each day). Matt makes his own version of which he keeps what he calls his "secret ingredients" private. It has become a daily ritual for many of his teammates to eat the salsa too. (Jim Hayes-Fox Sports)
Carp uses a Marucci bat—a 33.5 inch, 31.5 ounce David Wright model, but branded in Carpenter's name. It is the only model he has ever used.
"There is one thing about me. I'm pretty consistent," Carpenter said. "I'm pretty stubborn. I have swung the same bat. I've never taken a professional at-bat with a different bat. I've worn the same glove. I don't change stuff. I think that is part of why I've been able to be consistent. But it's also my nature.
"My dad wakes up and does the same thing he's done for 55 years. My grandpa was the same way. I'll be the same way. We are just very meticulous, routine-based. We don't change."
Jan 29, 2019: Shortly before word leaked out to the public about the agreement the Cardinals had reached to acquire Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona, the news traveled to Texas. Matt received it with a giddiness still evident six weeks later. But it also came with a corresponding request: Was he prepared to move across the diamond?
"I'm ready to go," Carpenter answered. "Let's do this. I mean, we got Paul Goldschmidt! I'll play wherever to accommodate that."
In what's become seemingly an annual shuffle, Carpenter's defensive position will change yet again. Drafted as a third baseman, he broke into the Majors as a utility man, earned his first All-Star invitation as a second baseman and finished 2018 as an everyday first baseman. Carpenter now heads back to third—the position at which he has the most career appearances (528), but also, arguably, the largest number of lingering questions. Carpenter accepts the skepticism, as well as the chance to eradicate it.
"I kind of have a chip on my shoulder for that position," Carpenter said. "I feel like I have something to prove over there. I want to show not only our team, but the rest of baseball, that I can do a good job over there. I'm looking forward to that." (J Langosch - MLB.com - Jan 29, 2019)
May 19, 2019: Carpenter has lent his clout to support efforts to discourage young people from using appearance-enhancing and performance-enhancing drugs. He’s done so as a member of the Advisory Board of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, a nonprofit organization named for a young player who died at 17 following his use of anabolic steroids.
Carpenter, a three-time All-Star for St. Louis, said he wanted to participate for many reasons.
“One, the health, the impact that it can have on your body when you treat it that way,” Carpenter said. “Also, for just the integrity of the game and keeping it the way it’s meant to be played under fair circumstances, league-wide. Those are the most important reasons, but I’m committed to it because I’ve always been a guy who takes a lot of pride in the way he takes care of himself. It’s not easy to eat and train and do the things you need to compete at a high level, and anytime someone’s taking a shortcut, it’s obviously not a good thing.”
The Taylor Hooton Foundation now has 42 players, spanning all 30 MLB teams, on its Advisory Board. The players are participating in the foundation’s “All Me” campaign, a print public-service announcement that will be featured in team programs and other media. The foundation has spoken to and educated nearly two million people in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. (D Sessions - MLB.com - May 19, 2019)
For Matt, Father’s Day is about reflecting on all the things his dad, Rick Carpenter, taught him. Rick recently retired after 40 years of coaching—37 years at the high school level.
Two of those years produced Matt’s favorite memories with his dad: When Matt was a junior and senior at Elkins High School, he won back-to-back state championships, and Rick was at the helm of those two teams.
“It was quite a thrill to be able to do that with him,” Carpenter said. “I give him a lot of credit for my knowledge of the strike zone. Knowing what’s a ball and what’s a strike. He really helped me a lot as a young kid learning that. Although he lets me do my own thing now.”
With more time on his hands now, Rick will be able to follow Matt and the Cardinals around, as well as spend more time with his grandchildren, including Matt’s two children.
“There’s no way I would have been able to make it here without him and get to this point in my career without him,” Matt said. “He’s been a big influencer and motivator for me along the way.” (Rogers - mlb.com - 6/16/19)
Season stats: 50 games, 169 PA, 22 R, 26 H, 6 2B, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 23 BB, 48 K, .186/.325/.314, 77 OPS+, -0.1 bWAR
Postseason stats: 3 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K, .222/.429/.333
Statcast: .323 xwOBA, 9.8% barrel %, 88.2 exit velocity, 35.9% hard hit %
Best Statcast category: Barrel % (63rd percentile)
Worst Statcast category: xBA (12th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 5, Goat 2
On COVID IL: No
Statcast was no friend to him like it was when he struggled in 2018. Except for a surprising increase in barreling the ball, something that went up from 7.2% last year, nothing that he did was in the top half of the league. His launch angle has steadily decreased over the past four years–though obviously that’s not everything. He had almost the same angle in 2015 that he did last year; and in 2015 he was an MVP candidate.
The biggest differentiator in the lines between those two years seems to be the fact that in 2015 he struck out at a 22.7% clip (which was actually higher than the next couple of years) and in 2020 it was up to 28.4% of the time, which is easily the highest he’s had. Too often, it feels like Carpenter doesn’t think he can do anything but walk and so he keeps wanting to do that, running deep counts that either end in his favor or, more likely, don’t.
He hit a little better at home (.763 OPS) than away (.535 OPS) and had his best power month in September, when he hit three of his four homers. He was better in high leverage situations than any other kind of situation. He actually did better against power pitchers than finesse pitchers, perhaps because the speed of the ball coming in helped get it to go out in something more than a weak grounder. Two of his home runs came against the Cubs, so you have to appreciate that. There is still some good parts to Carpenter’s game and maybe they’d have shown stronger if there were more games, but overall you lump this with what he’s done since August 14, 2018 and you get a .211 average over 700+ at bats, with 22 homers granted but also 113 walks and 131 strikeouts.
Outlook: There’s no doubt that the DeWitts' desire to make Carpenter a legacy Cardinal made for a bad contract situation. The Cardinals had an option for 2020 and they could have exercised that instead of guaranteeing 2020 and 2021 and giving him a vesting option for 2022. Given the state of their finances, they are probably regretting that, as Carpenter will make $18.5 million in 2021 with no significant reason to believe his statistical output will be much greater. They overreacted to his hot middle stretch of 2018 and now they are going to pay for it. (Cardinal70 - Nov. 9, 2020)
The 2010-2019 decade: Carpenter's 26.7 WAR tops all Cardinals for the decade.
Asked about the accomplishment of Matt's reaching 10 years of service time, which he did during September 7, 2021’s tilt against the Dodgers, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt rattled off a list of odds to put it in perspective. Few young kids who pick up a baseball play in high school, fewer play in college, even fewer make it to the Minor Leagues and a miniscule portion spend a day in the Majors, let alone 10 years.
But Carpenter did all of that as a 13th-round Draft pick, as a fifth-year senior from TCU, and as a bona fide third baseman who had to switch around positions as he rose through the Cardinals’ ranks.
“I can tell you those odds that I just mentioned were much steeper for him than a guy with more of an investment from the organization that gets more opportunities,” Shildt said. “When you're a high-round guy, you get every opportunity to fail. When you're a late-round guy, a fifth-year senior, you have zero margin for failure. He basically willed his way with his talent, his dedication to his craft, to come up here and be a really good player for this organization for the last 10 years and help us win a lot of baseball games.”
Carpenter reached his 10-year milestone all with one organization, becoming one of 17 active players to do so. He joins Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina as the Cardinals’ three players to have done the same; only the Giants boast as many players with 10 years of service time with one organization.
“Pretty crazy, pretty surreal to think about,” Carpenter said. “Pretty special day and just hard to even put into words, really.”
Throughout his career, Matt has demonstrated an attitude to admire and a legacy to celebrate. “To even make it here and now, to be here 10 years later, it's hard to fathom, to be honest,” Carpenter said. (Silver - mlb.com - 9/7/2021)
2021 Season: Carpenter caught 130 games of action with the Cardinals in 2021 at a variety of positions. The 36-year-old hit to a career-low OPS of .581 this past year, as he still hopes to play in the major leagues in 2022.
“I’m extremely motivated to keep playing, and not just keep playing,” Carpenter said. “I don’t want to just fill a roster spot. I really feel like I’ve got more left in the tank to be a productive major-league player.”
To fulfill that belief, he has spent the offseason traveling around the country, trying to fix his swing. Carpenter visited a cutting-edge baseball performance lab in Baton Rouge, LA., private hitting instructors in Santa Clarita, Calif., and a trusted former teammate in Stillwater, OK. But the process began with the call with Joey Votto, his rival for more than a decade.
“One thing I love about Joey more than anything is that he’s so blatantly honest,” Carpenter said. “If he would have told me, ‘I think you’ve peaked. I think this is it,’ honestly, I probably would have retired. But he said, ‘I think you do have a lot left. I think you’ve kind of lost your way a little bit.’”
“I went to the lab to get to the analytical-type view,” he said. “Then I went to a baseball guy and said, ‘Help me fix this.’”
The “baseball guy” was former major-league catcher Tim Laker, who was between jobs as the Mariners’ hitting coach and Dodgers’ minor-league hitting coordinator.
“I’m more confident about where I’m at and where my swing is than I have been in years, maybe ever,” Carpenter said.
Of course, it’s one thing for a player to talk excitedly about offseason changes, and another thing for him to apply them against Major League competition, in actual games. Carpenter believes his new, more efficient swing will help alleviate two of his biggest problems: his strikeout rate and his performance against the shift. (Rosenthal-TheAthletic.com-Feb 23, 2022)
2022 Season: Not even Carpenter could have predicted how well his 2022 season played out. He was cut by the Rangers despite a strong month of April at Triple-A but made the most of his opportunity with the Yankees. Carpenter hit .305-15-37 with an elite 1.138 OPS in 154 plate appearances before fracturing his foot on a foul ball in early August. The soon-to-be 37-year-old could get some looks as a regular again this offseason as a result. (Seth Trachtman - Nov. 10, 2022)
Who is Matt Carpenter's wife, MacKenzie Carpenter?
MacKenzie Carpenter (nee Detmore) was born on January 7. She is the daughter of Paul Byron Detmore and Nancy Detmore. She also has an older brother, Brad Detmore, who also played baseball.
MacKenzie Carpenter attended Texas A&M and graduated in December 2010. After her school years, she worked as a physical education teacher and was also the volleyball coach at Fort Settlement Middle School.
Matt and MacKenzie have known each other for a very long time. They met on the playground when he was 11 years old. At school, they started dating and had an on-off relationship until college when they became steady.
She always supported his dreams and even gifted him a Lance Berkman poster to keep him motivated. Once Matt started playing professional baseball, they got engaged and eventually married in 2011.
MacKenzie and Matt Carpenter have a daughter, Kinley Rae Carpenter, born on May 25, 2016. Their son, Kannon Lee Carpenter, was born on November 7, 2017. (Arka Mukherjee - Apr 24, 2023)
June 2009: Carpenter was a fifth-year senior at Texas Christian when the Cardinals chose him in the 13th round. Scout Aaron Krawiec signed him for $1,000.
March 8, 2014: Carpenter agreed to a $52 million, six-year deal with the Cardinals. The deal includes a team option for a seventh year in 2020 at $18.5 million.
April 10, 2019: The Cardinals announced a two-year contract extension for Carpenter that includes a vesting option for 2022. The deal replaces a 2020 option Carpenter had as part of his previous contract.
Nov 3, 2021: Matt chose free agency.
March 20, 2022: The Rangers signed Carpenter to a minor league contract. But he did not make the team out of spring training and was assigned to Triple-A Round Rock.
May 19, 2022: The Rangers released Carpenter.
May 26, 2022: The Yankees signed Carpenter to a Major League contract and added him to the active roster.
Nov 6, 2022: Matt chose free agency.
- Dec. 21, 2022: Matt Carpenter agreed to a $12 million, two-year contract with the San Diego Padres.