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      Mind of steel, mind of Clay

      There are a lot of boring people in life.

      Not bad people, mind you, but people who don't have a lot to offer. They are a yawn waiting to happen.

      Clay Broughton would certainly not fit under that umbrella.

      This mind of Clay has a mind of steel.

      Smart, edgy, funny, interesting, multi-faceted.

      During a lunch with Rod Smith and T.J. Fenske, the three of us just sat back and basically said, 'Wow.' Mostly, Clay talked, we listened. Every song that played, he not only named the group, but what year it came out and what impact it might have had on the music industry.

      Also during that lunch, Clay excused himself to the parking lot, coat hanger in hand, and broke into a car that had the keys locked in it.

      It's okay, it was my car.

      Clay worked his magic with that coat hanger, doing it with a purpose and a passion --- as he does everything in life --- while wearing a suit and tie.

      "All in a day's work," he said.

      Thank you, Clay.

      But this isn't about Broughton breaking into my car. This is about his knowledge and passion for St. Louis Cardinals baseball, because it is something else.

      He can just as easily drop Tony Womack and Woody Williams on you as Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. I'm sure you know the latter, but do you remember the former?

      "I had the great fortune of growing up in the 80s," said Broughton, 37, "and thus I got to see those great Cardinal teams ... the Whitey Herzog-led group with Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Terry Pendleton, Tony Pena.

      "That really planted the seed. Now, I'm lucky to be in these golden years of Cardinals baseball, so I'm really fortunate as a fan."

      Besides being a huge fan of the Cardinals, he loves the game, period.

      "There's just such an interesting dynamic in baseball," he said. "Half of it, you play as a unit, as a group. And the other half, you're by yourself. It's a really interesting mix of a team and an individual effort.

      "Baseball is a lot like life, to paraphrase Crash Davis from the movie Bull Durham. It starts in spring, when life is starting over, then you get into the Dog Days of life in August when things can be tough, and then things kind of wrap up in the Fall of your life and you look back at it all."

      Great stuff.

      Clay's father was in the National Guard for 42 years and, after growing up in Southeast Missouri, the family moved to Jefferson City in 1987. Clay is a 1995 graduate of Helias, but he didn't play baseball, even though baseball is obviously his passion.


      "Because I don't have any physical talent," he said.


      "Baseball has a lot to do with hand-eye coordination and athleticism and I'm not very athletic, at all. I'm more of a hustler and a grinder, which is why I got into hockey instead of baseball."

      He started playing hockey at a fairly late age, 17.

      "I just kind of learned it on my own and started playing goaltender, and I played for various Rec leagues for years and years," he said. "I loved it."

      After working at various radio organizations, Broughton worked at Learfield Sports for seven years, before joining Central Bank last September.

      "It's a tremendous place to work, very inspiring people and I'm learning a lot and enjoying it," said Broughton, marketing coordinator at Central Bank.

      Central Bank, the hometown bank of the Cardinals, sent a local couple to Jupiter, Fla., for a trip to spring training in March. That was a trip that included:

      * Round-trip air fare for two.

      * Rental car for three days.

      * Three-night stay at Homewood Suites in Jupiter, which included breakfast each morning.

      * Tickets to the games on March 21 (vs. the Nationals) and March 23 (vs. the Astros).

      * Dinner with Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and select players following the game on March 21.

      * and a Cardinals merchandise package.


      There will be promotions by Central Bank later this year, one of which is a free Stan Musial replica jersey with every new Cardinals Checking account. Central Bank will announce the start of the contest later this spring.

      "I don't think he's just the most underrated baseball player of all time," Broughton said of Musial, "but he's the most underrated athlete of all time."

      Broughton wasn't around for the Musial days, his Cardinal memories started in the 1980s. Two words: Don Denkinger.

      "I just reminder as a 9 year-old, that call was pretty obvious," he said. "That was one of my first memories. Not a great one, but a memorable one.

      "I listen to the games, I watch them on TV, I read a lot on various websites. I don't discriminate when it comes to Cardinals baseball, I take it in any form I can get it."

      Broughton will anchor our Cardinals Fan Forum this year, and nobody can do it better. He has thoughts on everything, from starting pitchers to back-up second basemen, and he knows what he's talking about.

      Like 2011, what a ride that was. The Cardinals overcame a 10 1/2-game deficit in late August to make the postseason, then won an unforgettable World Series over the Texas Rangers.

      It was unforgettable, mostly, because of what happened in Game 6, when the Cardinals had more comebacks than Freddy Krueger. The David Freese game.

      "I was with my girlfriend and we were watching at home," Broughton said. "I know a lot of people gave up, but I remember telling her: 'These guys don't stop, they don't quit. So let's not turn it off, just yet.'"

      Freese hit the game-tying two-run, two-out, two-strike triple in the bottom of the ninth inning, then won it with a solo home run leading off the 11th.

      Go crazy, folks, go crazy! And like most Cardinal fans, Clay did.

      "I jumped up, I was screaming, I was red-faced, my eyes were popping out of my skull," he said. "But a small part of me was not surprised, because that was what those guys did all year long.

      "There was just no panic in that team. They had the perfect storm of youth, the experience and the veterans. To see that season unwind, all the trials and tribulations of that year, the World Series ended up being a microcosm of the entire year.

      "So many ups and downs in that entire Series, just like the season. It was really neat to watch it unfold."

      The last two seasons have been nearly as good and envied by most --- St. Louis lost in the NLCS to San Francisco in 2012, and lost to Boston in last year's World Series.

      "They got beat by the champs both years, they lost to darn fine ball clubs, and that's part of it," Broughton said.

      "Those guys have an extra trophy that we don't have, but both of those teams would switch places with us in terms of our drafting and development.

      "And they'd be the first to admit it."

      So what about this year?

      "Much like 2011," Broughton said, "there are always the intricate little story lines and things to pick up on that makes baseball the greatest game on Earth.

      "So to answer your question, I don't know and I can't wait to find out."

      Neither can we.