This has been a special season in baseball for me, because this is the first time I've been with a team from the beginning of the season.

This is my sixth big-league season, but this is by far the most I've ever played or contributed. This is my first season with St. Louis, but I really feel like part of it. I've been with teams before and gotten called up during the season. I don't want to take anything away from those teams, those times or those experiences, but it's just different when you've been through the ups and downs of a season together. It's a different experience when you have the chance to go through those battles and wars as a team.

Being with the same guys for this long has been a great experience. I've been with this club and this group of guys since the beginning of the season, going back to Spring Training, and I look forward to being here until the end to help see this through. When you spend so much time with one another during the long baseball season, you really create a special and unique bond. It helps you come together as a team and fight together as a team, which I love.

In prior years, I've played in parts of five big league seasons for three different teams -- the Red Sox, Phillies and Dodgers. If you added up the time with those teams in those years it wouldn't equal the time I've spent with St. Louis this year.

I view that as an accomplishment. I think it's great. I think it's awesome. Those are the words I choose to use, because it helps illustrate that all the hard work has paid off. It shows that everything I've done to this point to get to this level has paid off.

Part of that work was going to play ball in Puerto Rico last winter. You can feel a little hidden when you're doing that, but it can pay off if you work hard and play the game hard. It can open some eyes, too. I played for Eduardo Perez, who managed, and he helped put in a good word with St. Louis when we were done playing there. I think that helped.

Coming here in the spring, my goal was just to keep playing the game the way I normally do. When they call my number, my job is to go out there and play my game, whether that's coming off the bench, running the bases, playing defense or whatever.

Of course, another reason that this season has been such a highlight, the non-baseball reason, is the birth of our first child, a daughter, who came this summer.

Utility infielder Joe Thurston has played in 111 games this year, his first with St. Louis, at third base, second base and left field in addition to pinch-hitting and pinch-running duties. From 2002-08, he totaled 59 games in the big leagues with the Phillies, Red Sox and Dodgers.