Local boy David Freese traveled a long road from his high-school playing days in the St Louis suburb of Wildwood to reach his destination with a sweep of postseason awards for the comeback kings of baseball.
Overcoming injuries and a delay to his professional path because of burnout, Freese stood tallest among the new Major League Baseball champions by adding World Series MVP honors to his NL Championship Series MVP after the Cardinals’ Game 7 win over the Texas Rangers on Friday.
“I’ve had plenty of days in my life where I thought I wouldn’t be even close to being a big leaguer,” the 28-year-old third baseman told reporters. “I’m just full of joy, finally.”
Freese put his signature on one of the most thrilling World Series games in memory in Thursday’s Game 6.
Facing possible elimination, Freese cracked a two-run, two-out triple to right to send the game into extra innings and after St Louis rallied once again with two 10th-inning runs to stay alive, he crushed a walk-off home run in the 11th.
In Friday’s winner-takes-all World Series finale, Freese drove a two-run double into the gap in left-center to tie the game 2-2 as the Cardinals went on to a 6-2 triumph.
“This is definitely a dream come true,” he said after hoisting the MVP trophy. “This is incredible.”
Freese batted .348 in the series with a home run and seven runs batted in, but his climb to the top was far from easy.
The promising player quit baseball after his days at Lafayette High School, turning down a college baseball scholarship because he felt burnt out.
After a year off, Freese realized how much he missed it and entered community college and rekindled his love for the game.
“This is why you keep battling,” said Freese, whose Cardinals fought back from a 10.5 game deficit in the NL Central division to win a playoff berth on the last day of the season. “Sometimes things don’t work out, but you stay on the path.”
Drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2006, he spent two seasons in the minor leagues before being traded to his home town team, the Cardinals, where he made his major league debut in 2009.
It was not smooth sailing then either for Freese.
He began 2009 with the Cardinals, but sprained his left ankle and played just 17 games with them.
Last year, he won the Cardinals starting third base job, but suffered injuries to both ankles and required surgery.
This season, he was hitting .356 before he missed 51 games after breaking his left hand when he was hit by a pitch.
He finished the season with a 297 average, 10 homers and 55 RBIs, but blossomed in the postseason, winning the NLCS top award after hitting three home runs and driving home nine.
“I think you’ve got to kind of take a step back and understand all the work you’ve put into it, and then you realize how many people are the reason why you’re here, starting with my folks,” he said after the celebrating. “I quit out of high school, and they were the only two people that supported that decision. If I listened to everybody else, I wouldn’t be here right now. No chance.”