Villanueva calls role with MLBPA 'special'

Right-hander 'felt a responsibility' to bring Latin American voice to conversation

Villanueva calls role with MLBPA 'special'

JUPITER, Fla. -- Though not the longest-tenured Major Leaguer in the Cardinals' clubhouse this spring, Carlos Villanueva may just be the most well-versed in the business of baseball.

Villanueva, invited to Cardinals camp on a Minor League deal, continues to serve as an alternate representative on the executive board of the MLB Players Association. Working in that capacity, Villanueva has embraced the chance to be a players' voice at the bargaining table and also to learn about the history of labor agreements. The cumulative experience, Villanueva said, has given him a deeper appreciation for the game.

"It has been very special for me to be able to help," Villanueva said. "There's no MLB vs. MLBPA. Both sides are trying to better the game and move the game forward. It's helpful to learn why we have so many good things. Why do you make a half-million dollars when you come up? Why do you have certain privileges on the 40-man roster? Somebody didn't just make them up. These things have taken a lot of work."

Villanueva said he first started attending MLBPA meetings in 2006, at the urging of Craig Counsell. He immediately noticed that he could help add diversity and perspective to conversation.

"I felt a responsibility," said Villanueva, a native of the Dominican Republic. "It began as a voice more for the Latin players because when I went there, we didn't have anybody. You can't defend somebody if you don't understand what they go through. I felt it in my heart to get involved and teach our guys. I kept coming back and coming back and helping a little bit more."

During the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, Villanueva did not miss a single bargaining session.

"Villa, no matter where he is or whatever he does the rest of his career, whatever he does beyond his career, will be an asset to all players in the support he provides across the board," Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLBPA, said on Friday. "He's someone who I pray plays another 10 years. If he doesn't, perhaps we can have his mustache around us a little more often."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.