When the Cardinals selected Kantrovitz, a St. Louis native, in the twenty-sixth round of the amateur draft last June, he was walking on air. "To be wearing a Cardinals uniform is a dream come true," he says. "I grew up ten minutes from [Busch Stadium]. My family had season tickets. Some of my earliest memories are of Ozzie Smith doing his flips on the way out to shortstop."
But if draft day was one of the happiest times of Kantrovitz's life, he soon faced some of the most frustrating. Assigned to the Cardinals' rookie league affiliate in Johnson City, Tennessee, where the club was hoping to switch him to second base, Kantrovitz was performing infield drills a few hours before only his third professional game when misfortune struck. While making an overhand throw on a double-play feed, he blew out his right shoulder, which he had recently nursed through a highly successful but very painful senior year for the Bears.
Now his season was over, his professional career on hold. The injury, however, was not completely unexpected. Kantrovitz had torn the labrum in the shoulder when he'd collided with Brown teammate Todd Iarussi '01 during a practice rundown in the fall of 2000. Although Kantrovitz had surgery on the shoulder in St. Louis that November, "it was a Band-Aid approach," he says. "The main thing they did was to get me through the [spring] season. Pro scouts would come to our games, and there I was, throwing sidearm across the diamond. Every throw was agony. On the first throw of every game, the pain would radiate down my arm. From then on it didn't stop. It was horrible."
Nevertheless, Kantrovitz hit .417 that season, drilling sixty-eight hits - a Brown single-season record - and driving in a team-high forty-one runs; defensively, he put up a .968 fielding percentage. The stats were good enough for All-New England, All-ECAC, and All-Ivy honors and helped propel the Bears through a late-season rush that ended just short of Brown's first Ivy League baseball title. "We had a good team, and it was a fun season," says Kantrovitz, "but I knew somewhere down the line I'd have to have the shoulder taken care of permanently. By the time I got to Johnson City, it was like [I had] a time bomb in my shoulder."
A new spring brings new hope, and Kantrovitz, after undergoing extensive surgery in St. Louis in July, returned to Florida last fall to prepare for spring training. After the surgery, his right arm had been immobilized in a sling for six weeks, during which he traveled to Oxford University to immerse himself in finance and accounting courses. "It was good for me," he says of the sabbatical. "Even if I wanted to work out, there was no time to." Besides, Kantrovitz, who says his Brown grade point average was 3.86, is sensible enough to realize that he needs a backup career, just in case. After graduating with a degree in organizational behavior and management, he postponed an offer from Lehman Brothers so he could labor on the diamonds of summer. "It's nice to have it as a fallback, but baseball is what I want to do. It always has been," Kantrovitz says of the Wall Street offer. "Just because I have other options, people assume I don't care as much. But baseball is what I want. It's all I've ever wanted."
And so for the months before pitchers and catchers reported for spring training, Kantrovitz put in daily dawn-to-dark workouts, rehabilitating his shoulder and keeping his game sharp for his first full year as a professional baseball player. "I just want to show [the Cardinals] what I can do at full strength," he says.
"Dan will show up [at training camp] healthy, and he'll get all the instruction he'll need," says the Cardinals' director of baseball operations, John Mozeliak, who first met Kantrovitz when he interned for two summers in the Cardinals' front office. "It's up to him where he takes it from there. He's a fine young man. I truly hope he turns out to be a success story."