The Oakland Athletics cut John Nogowski after the 2016 season, his fourth in the minors, and the Florida State native had to make a decision on his future. Nogowski gambled and decided to play independent league baseball.
Playing for little money but with a chance to impress someone, Nogowski hit .402 with a .482 and in 34 games had 28 RBI. The St. Louis Cardinals were combing rosters and received positive feedback about Nogowski, who played at FSU from 2012-14.
“A guy like that has to love the game to be able to go to independent ball,” Cardinals director of baseball administration John Vuch told the Osceola. “He checked out from the analytics side, he checked out from the personality side. He checked all the boxes of what we were looking for at the time.”
Signing Nogowski proved to be a good one. Nogowski was productive in his next two seasons, and he went on a tear at Triple-A Memphis in 2019 as he hit .295 with 15 home runs, 75 RBI and had a .413 on-base percentage.
The journey was well worth it, even after a pair of spring trainings with the Cardinals in 2020. Nogowski was in the car, driving from the St. Louis Cardinals’ developmental league site in Springfield, Mo., heading to St. Louis and not knowing if he would be on the taxi (practice) squad or if he would be an active player. Either way, it was a step closer to his big dream. Vuch made the phone call and got to deliver the message: Active.
Nogowski was in the major leagues and played first base in Sunday’s loss to the White Sox, but he recorded a single in the sixth inning for his first major league hit. As he touched first base, a short celebration, a look up to the sky and the realization that he had made it to the show.
“I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast on a single to center field down to first base but it was just something special,” Nogowski told Cardinals reporters after the game. “It’s something that I’m going to treasure the rest of my life. There are so many people that have contributed to me getting to this spot and being able to get that hit. It was kind of a ton of emotions there getting on first base.”
Nogowski has worked diligently on his defense through the years, saying “I love working on it because that’s a huge reason why I was able to get up here. I want to be able to help the team on both sides of the ball.”
Vuch described Nogowski as a “very intelligent player.” He then went on to detail three characteristics that sound like a typical Florida State hitter.
“He takes a tough at-bat, takes pitches, doesn’t chase,” Vuch said. “That’s one of the things that serves him well. It’s a combination of his work ethic and baseball savvy and the fact he didn’t pack it in.”