Way, way up north in Wisconsin, in the land of the Rainbow Flowage and snowshoe baseball, locals have a name for a favorite ice-fishing spot so that no one else can possibly know its name.
“Oh, yeah, Area Lake,” said Jason Sloan, a native of the northwoods and older cousin to Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong. “It’s insane. It’s loaded. But I can’t tell you its real name. It’s Area Lake. It’s, you know, in the area. This place is saturated with lakes. But we have a very dry sarcasm.”
“It’s just this happy place we have,” DeJong said.
An August trip to Wisconsin is pretty common for DeJong, but this week instead of going to unwind from the baseball season at the family cabins he’ll be going to Miller Park because of the baseball season, as the starting shortstop and No. 3 hitter for the Cardinals. Less than 12 months ago, he was new to the position, and just this past winter he kneeled on the ice, tugging lines, hand over hand, and told his cousins how this was the year he hoped to reach the majors. Reach he has.
The Cardinals’ breakout shortstop has set a club record for homers in July by a rookie (eight), his 16 extra-base hits are the most in July by a Cardinals rookie since Pepper Martin had 19 in 1931, and he’s the first rookie since Albert Pujols to have an RBI in six consecutive games. The last rookie to play shortstop and bat third for the Cardinals was in 1945, when Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst did it. DeJong’s power jag since his return to the majors in mid-June ranks him alongside modern giants like Nolan Arenado for extra-base hits (23 each) and Giancarlo Stanton for homers. DeJong is second with 13 to Stanton’s 16. As a rookie, he’s hitting in the most prominent spot of the order while playing one of the most demanding positions in the field.
It sounds like a…