The hometown kid was something of a wild child back then, but he was also humble and hardworking. So Pujols took him under his wing, setting him on the right path, one that led Freese all the way to the MVP award of the St. Louis Cardinals‘ 11th World Series championship.
“I don’t have a word yet to describe David Freese,” Pujols said after St. Louis beat the Texas Rangers 6-2 in Game 7 on Friday night. “To be able to go through the things he’s done in his career, just shows who David Freese is.”
The most unlikely standout on a team full of big names, Freese batted .348 for the series, with seven RBIs, three doubles and one big homer. He’s the fourth Cardinals player to win the MVP award, joining Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson in 1964 and ‘67, catcher Darrell Porter in 1982 and David Eckstein in their 2006 victory over Detroit.
Freese drove in 21 runs in the postseason, shattering the previous record.
“This is why you keep battling,” Freese said. “Sometimes things don’t work out, you get injured, you do stupid stuff, but you try to stay on path. You surround yourself with guys like we have on this team. I’m so glad to be part of this.”
The kid who grew up in a St. Louis suburb hit a three-run homer in Game 6 of the NLCS against Milwaukee, earning the MVP of that series for the first act in his coming out party. His performance in Act 2 against the Rangers made him the sixth player to be MVP of a league championship series and the World Series.
Down to the Cardinals‘ final strike in Game 6, Freese delivered a tying two-run triple in the ninth inning Thursday night. Freese then did one better: a leadoff homer in the 11th that gave St. Louis a dramatic win over the Rangers and forced the first Game 7 since 2002.
“You’re Game 6 performance, David, will turn out to be one for the ages,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in announcing the MVP award. “I’m sure this is a dream come true for a St. Louis native.”
Holliday struggled most of the series before spraining his right wrist during Game 6, taking him off the roster Friday. Pujols was intentionally walked whenever he was a threat.
That left much of the offense to Freese, who had given up on baseball after high school, spurning a scholarship offer from Missouri to simply be a college student. He even rebuffed the Tigers’ coaches when they called midway through his first semester to find out whether he’d changed his mind.
It wasn’t until about a year out of high school that the itch to play finally returned.
Freese gave in and enrolled at St. Louis Community College-Meremec, and his play there caught the attention of the coaching staff at South Alabama. Freese blossomed into the Padres’ ninth-round draft pick in 2006, and a trade to the Cardinals eventually brought him home.
“If you wrote a story like that — a guy gets traded, comes back to his hometown, he’s a hero — if you sent that in the script, it would get thrown back in your face,” Selig said.