Matt Lloyd has overcome a lost 2020 season due to COVID-19 and injuries, leading to his release by the Cincinnati Reds, to having a productive first season with the Springfield Cardinals. (Photo by PJ Maigi, Springfield Cardinals)
Matt Lloyd has overcome a lost 2020 season due to COVID-19 and injuries, leading to his release by the Cincinnati Reds, to having a productive first season with the Springfield Cardinals. (Photo by PJ Maigi, Springfield Cardinals)

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It wouldn’t be a stretch for Matt Lloyd to call Hammons Field his personal field of dreams for what it represents to his resurgent career.

“I love this ballpark. It’s beautiful and probably the nicest ballpark I’ve ever played in,” the first-year Springfield Cardinals outfielder and designated hitter said before a May 21 series opener against the visiting Tulsa Drillers.

But it’s more than the ballpark’s beauty that appeals to Lloyd. The St. Louis Cardinals' organization offered him an opportunity last winter after the 28-year-old had been released by the Cincinnati Reds and spent the 2023 season playing for Sioux City in the American Association of Professional Baseball, a non-affiliated league.

After his pro career had been derailed by a COVID-19-canceled 2020 season, then a series of injuries, he used his time in Sioux City as a bridge to keep his career going. In 88 games, he hit .321 with 14 home runs, 27 doubles and 61 RBIs.

It just goes to show that if you’re playing good baseball, somebody is taking notice. In Lloyd’s case, it was the Cardinals.

“Probably about November, my manager from Sioux City called me and said the Cardinals were interested and I should be hearing from them in the next couple of weeks,” Lloyd said. “Then, sometime in December they called and asked if I was interested. I said ‘100%’ and I signed.”

COVID shutdown was the first detour

Lloyd has been one of the first-place Springfield Cardinals’ mainstays in the first two months. He hit a home run May 21 in Springfield’s 7-6 series-opening victory over Tulsa. He’s hitting .268 with a team-leading seven home runs and 27 RBIs, plus a team-best 23 walks. 

In a May 19 home win over Midland, Lloyd had three hits and was a triple shy of the cycle.

All is going well. For Lloyd, it seems fitting following a rocky first segment of his pro career after the Toronto native was selected in the 15th round of the 2019 MLB draft by the Reds.

After hitting a respectable eight home runs with 11 doubles in 50 games in Class A that summer, the detours began. First COVID-19 canceled the 2020 minor league season, affecting Lloyd and hundreds of others from the 2019 draft who were seeking traction with their organizations.

Lloyd spent most of that year at home in Calgary, where his family moved when he was young. He did the best he could to stay in baseball shape, but it wasn’t easy.

“I was just at home, getting in the weight room and trying to practice baseball as much as I could,” Lloyd said. “We have an indoor facility there, but it was closed. I was playing long toss, hitting little Wiffle Balls with a broomstick. Just trying my best to stay in shape and trying to stay sane, honestly.

“Mentally, it was tough. Being around family helped along with being at home, but I was itching to play the game and nobody could really play it.”

Injuries preceded his release, but Lloyd wasn't ready to quit

Matt Lloyd, wearing a Springfield Cardinals uniform, plays in the field during a baseball game at Hammons Field in Springfield, Missouri.
One year after playing for the non-affiliated Sioux City (Iowa) Explorers, Matt Lloyd has renewed his big-league dreams with the Springfield Cardinals. (Photo by PJ Maigi, Springfield Cardinals)

Before baseball resumed for minor leaguers in 2021, Lloyd had a physical setback when he fractured the hamate bone in a hand prior to spring training. Then during spring training, Lloyd strained his oblique.

Playing in only 32 games at Double-A that season, Lloyd hit seven home runs. But then things were even worse in 2022 after he tore ankle ligaments and missed most of that season, appearing in only 20 games with six home runs.

After the Reds released him in mid-March of 2023, Lloyd wasn’t ready to quit.

“I wasn’t there yet,” Lloyd said. “I just wanted to keep playing the game. I felt I could still play and have success. I really can’t picture doing anything else but playing. I just wanted to keep playing as long as I can.”

Lloyd said he took a positive attitude to Sioux City, vowing to earn another shot at affiliated baseball.

“One hundred percent,” Lloyd said. “I got the opportunity to play the game again, so I just wanted to make the most of it, have as much fun as I could and enjoy playing the game.”

Manager credits Lloyd's attitude, clubhouse presence

Matt Lloyd, wearing a Springfield Cardinals uniform, swings his bat during a baseball game at Hammons Field in Springfield, Missouri.
Springfield manager Jose Leger said that Matt Lloyd has an uncommonly good command of the strike zone for a middle-of-the-order power hitter. Lloyd had 22 walks to lead the Cardinals to go with six home runs, tied for the team lead, entering the home series against Tulsa. (Photo by PJ Maigi, Springfield Cardinals)

Springfield manager Jose Leger said the hunger to succeed, combined with the proper attitude, is half the battle of succeeding for a player like Lloyd.

“That goes along with having a good attitude,” Leger said. “He works hard and the guys like him. He’s very likable in the clubhouse. He’s very grateful for the opportunity that the organization gave him and he’s making the best out of it.”

Leger said the 6-foot, 205-pound Lloyd is a power hitter, but with additional traits not always associated with a big bopper. He pointed to Lloyd’s 22 walks, showing that he has a sharp eye and patience at the plate.

“For a guy who hits in the middle of the lineup and brings power, he has a really good idea at the plate,” Leger said. “You look at his walk rate and he’s among the leaders in the league. He puts the ball in play and gives you tough at-bats.

“Also, he’s been producing with runners on base, like runner on third and less than two (outs) he will get the job done. He’s even won a couple of games for us late in the game.”

Lloyd eager to write his own story

The Cardinals have had several players take the route from independent ball to the big leagues, including relief pitcher Josh Kinney who wound up a World Series champ in 2011.

Lloyd, who said he’s made about 10 visits to Black Sheep Burgers during his time in Springfield, has heard those stories. He’s eager to try to write his own.

“It’s definitely inspiring,” Lloyd said. “It shows that it’s a possibility. Every guy has their own path to the big leagues. Whatever your path is, showing up every day and doing what you can, taking the most with the opportunities and just see what happens.”

Springfield Cardinals homestand

  • May 21 - Springfield 7, Tulsa 6
  • May 22 - (doubleheader) Springfield vs. Tulsa, 5:05 p.m.
  • May 23 - Springfield vs. Tulsa, 7:05 p.m.
  • May 24 - Springfield vs. Tulsa, 7:05 p.m.
  • May 25 - Springfield vs. Tulsa, 6:35 p.m.
  • May 26 - Springfield vs. Tulsa, 6:05 p.m.

Tickets are available at the Hammons Field box office, on the Springfield Cardinals website or by calling (417) 863-2143.

Lyndal Scranton

Lyndal Scranton is a Springfield native who has covered sports in the Ozarks for more than 35 years, witnessing nearly every big sports moment in the region during the last 50 years. The Missouri Sports Hall of Famer, Springfield Area Sports Hall of Famer and live-fire cooking enthusiast also serves as PR Director for Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri and is co-host of the Tailgate Guys BBQ Podcast. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @LyndalScranton. More by Lyndal Scranton