Long before he found himself in a holding pattern at the professional level, Jon Jay had learned the necessity of waiting his turn.

It started during his days at Columbus (Fla.) High School, when, despite being a talented teenage player, he didn't even make the junior varsity team as a freshman. He joined the varsity his sophomore year but didn't start until his junior season. Such was the reality for players trying to break into one of the Miami area's elite high school programs.

As a senior, Jay was a member of a state championship team.

He expected to wait at the University of Miami too, signing a letter of intent at a school that, at the time, had four junior outfielders. Jay didn't care. It's where he wanted to play. Circumstances -- two transfers and an injury -- created an immediate opening for him, even though Jay had already braced to wait.

He finished his collegiate career a three-time All-American.

"I didn't have the best tools out there, but I did what I needed to do as a college player to prove myself," Jay recently recalled. "I've always looked at things as a challenge. At a young age, I learned to understand how the business side of this sport goes."

It all prepared Jay for his professional path, which, after a quick climb to Triple-A, stalled because of the absence of an immediate fit with the big league club. Jay, who turned 28 on March 15, spent parts of three seasons with Memphis. When he was finally summoned to St. Louis in 2010, he bounced around the outfield, filling in as needed.

It wasn't until the Cardinals dealt center fielder Colby Rasmus at the 2011 Trade Deadline that Jay finally sensed the Cardinals committing to him. He prepares for the 2013 regular season having proven his value as an everyday center fielder, much in the same way that Allen Craig has finally found his everyday job at first base.