Mike Shildt speaks fondly of his old team, the Cardinals, and his new team, the Padres

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Mike Shildt faced the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time since he became the San Diego Padres' manager and expressed gratitude to both organizations.

Shildt was with the Cardinals organization for 18 seasons, including managing them for three-plus seasons before being fired suddenly despite three straight playoff appearances and winning the 2019 NL Manager of the Year Award.

He landed with the Padres in 2022 as a senior advisor to the major league staff and player development department. He was elevated to manager in October after Bob Melvin was hired away by his hometown San Francisco Giants after reports surfaced of a strained relationship with Padres general manager A.J. Preller.

The Padres and Giants split a four-game weekend series and now here come the Cardinals.

“Listen, there’s some emotions. I’m not going to kid you. I’m human," Shildt said before Monday night's series opener. "A lot of really good years, a lot of gratitude for my time in St. Louis. A lot of tremendous relationships. A lot of growth took place there, a lot of off-the-field personal, professional growth. I still owe a lot to a lot of people in that organization. I can’t say enough about my 18 years there and I did everything I could to reward the confidence they had in giving me opportunities.

“But you know what? I’m in a great spot here. I love San Diego. The last three years have been home. They’ve treated me very, very well here as an organization. The city’s been phenomenal. The clubhouse has been tremendous. So San Diego is home now and it’s a part of my very bright future.”

Shildt started as a scout with the Cardinals in 2003, switched to player development and worked his way through various levels of the minor league system. He was appointed interim manager in August 2018, and then took over the permanent job the following season.

The Cardinals won 91 games in 2019, earning Shildt the NL Manager of the Year Award, and advanced to the NL Championship Series before getting swept by the Nationals. The Cardinals lost 2-1 to the Padres in a wild card series following the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. They had a franchise-record 17-game winning streak in 2021 and reached the wild card game before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a walk-off homer.

A week later, Shildt was fired for what Cardinals president John Mozeliak said were “philosophical differences” between Shildt, the coaching staff and the front office.

Despite the abrupt ending, Shildt still speaks fondly of the so-called “Cardinal Way.”

“Listen, it’s a lot of what my fabric is, just about playing the game the right way,” he said. "I had some people in my life that I can get emotional thinking about them and talking about them because they mean the world to me.

He also said he still respects the Cardinals' jersey, mentioning that "anytime I put it away, I always hung it in a certain spot. But I also do it with the Padre jersey. I have a lot of respect for this organization, clearly, and I treat it with the same amount of due respect that I did over there.”

Shildt got to know owner Padres owner Peter Seidler so well that he spoke at a celebration of life on March 23 for Seidler, who died on Nov. 14 at age 63.

“He was tremendous to me, treated me like absolute gold,” Shildt said. “I'm in a good place. I landed in a great spot.”