But after getting into legal trouble, kicked off the team and not knowing what was next, Chambers had nowhere to go but up.
|Hall of Famer Lou Brock with Chambers during spring training|
"This is a special moment," Chambers said. "To have my name on the back of a jersey, I'm trying to soak all of this in and take it and make the most of it.
"I'm so happy. You're probably going to see me smile all day. I'm just trying to take it all in and have fun."
Chambers, listed in the Cardinals media guide at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, hit .277 with 73 runs scored, 19 doubles, 10 home runs, 44 RBIs and 22 stolen bases this year for Triple-A Memphis in Tennessee.
But his story goes much deeper.
A promising defensive back playing in the SEC at Mississippi State, Chambers was suspended and eventually kicked off the team in 2006 after being arrested and accused of attempted sexual battery.
The charge, a felony, was later reduced to misdemeanor charges of simple assault and indecent exposure. Chambers pleaded guilty, and as part of the agreement, the charges have since been removed from his record.
He was suspended from school after the incident and left to return home to Pensacola, Fla., to wonder what would become of his career. After several long lonely days, Chambers accepted an invite to give baseball a shot at Pensacola Junior College.
Playing on the diamond for the first time since high school, Chambers impressed enough that he was invited to a series of major league tryouts. One for the Cardinals was being held at their Triple-A ballpark in Memphis.
Unable to afford a flight, Chambers bought a bus ticket for $100 and rode 24 hours to attend the Cardinals' tryout. He impressed them enough that they selected him in the 38th round of the 2007 Draft.
The left-handed Chambers worked his way through the system and was added to the 40-man roster last offseason. After completing a solid first full season with Memphis on Monday, Chambers received the news he had been waiting for – he was a big leaguer.
"I always believed in myself," Chambers said. "I always thought that I was capable of being the best at whatever I was doing, but to actually get them to tell me that you're coming to St. Louis, that just solidified that everything I have done for five years or however long, it was all worth it. Everything I did, from Mississippi State, from this point right here, everything was worth it.
"I'm sitting next to (Matt) Holliday right now. I'm looking at (Albert) Pujols. I got (Kyle) Lohse over there watching his TV. I mean, it feels good being here. It feels like I'm a part of something, you know? I'm just trying to take it all in right now one day at a time and give it all I got."
Manager Tony La Russa conceded that Chambers likely won't play much. He's here to provide the Cardinals with a speedy pinch-running option or a defensive replacement late in games. Chambers played center field for Memphis, but La Russa wouldn't hesitate to put him in left or right.
Chambers would gladly carry the water cooler or do the laundry if that's what the Cardinals wanted. And for the rest of this year, he might not do much more than that. But with Colby Rasmus gone and Jon Jay elevated to the starting lineup, the Cardinals will likely have a spot available for a player like Chambers on next year's roster.
So the young outfielder plans to soak everything in: the way guys walk around the clubhouse; how they take batting practice; what they eat. Chambers had already begun taking mental notes in the short time he was around them in spring training, and that will be no different the final three weeks of the season.
Hoping to gain as much of an edge as he can heading into next season, Chambers plans to have his head on a swivel and his eyes and ears open at all times. But for at least a few minutes Tuesday afternoon, he couldn't help but sit in front of his locker and smile.
Chambers had reached his dream.
"It tells me that my hard work pays off," Chambers said. "I've been playing for the last five years, same organization. I've been moving up, they've been believing in me, and now I'm here. I'm here with all the big guys.
"I think for me, just being myself and coming in, playing my part, doing what I'm supposed to do and not getting in anybody's way. Have fun. I think that's the key. Come out having fun and enjoying my experience in the big leagues.
"I got here today thinking I was going to be the first guy here, and there were 20 other guys who beat me just laying back in their chairs. There are a lot of things I have to adjust to and figure out, but I'll tell you, this is exciting. I'm happy to be here, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
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