Freese unchanged by sudden stardom
ST. LOUIS – David Freese has been just about everywhere this offseason.
He made an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" three days after the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series. He appeared on "Ellen" the next day and presented an award at the Country Music Association Awards with Erin Andrews a few weeks later.
Freese has been recognized at a Blues game, a Missouri football game and a Mizzou basketball game. He was on hand for the debut of the Cardinals' World Series DVD at the Peabody Opera House and has had multiple autograph signings.
On Tuesday, he went with his teammates to be honored by President Obama at the White House. The list goes on and on.
But after being named World Series MVP and helping his hometown team bring home the title by defeating the Texas Rangers in seven thrilling games, Freese wouldn't change a thing about the past few months.
"It's hectic, but it's flattering," Freese said. "It's humbling going places and seeing fans. I still can't understand why people thank me all the time, but it's a cool feeling."
"I don't think I was really ready for it. It kind of went from one end of the spectrum to the next, but I get it and I understand what comes with winning a World Series and doing what we did. But I'm definitely ready to kind of get down to camp and play baseball."
Freese became a household name in a matter of days after winning the National League Championship Series MVP and World Series MVP. Adding to the story was the St. Louis native doing it for the team he grew up rooting for.
His Game 6 performance will go down as one of the greatest of all time. Freese tripled home two runs to tie the game in the ninth inning with the Cardinals one strike away from elimination. Two innings later, his walk-off home run pushed the Series to a Game 7, where he provided a game-tying double in the first inning en route to a 6-2 Cardinals win.
But despite the sudden stardom, Freese says he remains the same person he was before he burst onto the baseball scene in October.
"I know I'm me," Freese said. "And I think that's the easy part. I think about that all the time. Stuff has hit me quick; that's for sure. But I've said it before: You get the right people around you, and it's that much easier to stay you. It's great having everybody around and being a part of all this. It's truly special."
Expectations would have already been increased for Freese with how he finished 2011. But with icon Albert Pujols leaving in free agency to join the Los Angeles Angels, the Cardinals will look for even more from their third baseman next year.
But finally enjoying a healthy offseason for the first time in several years, Freese welcomes whatever pressure and extra attention comes his way. His ankles no longer hurt, and he's no longer worried about his health.
With spring training fast approaching, Freese can't wait to just go out and play.
"I'm not nervous, and that's' the good thing," Freese said. "I've had that feeling for a long time, and a year ago today, there was definitely a nerve-racking feeling going into camp and to pull that off my shoulders is a great feeling.
"That's the good thing. There's less to worry about. I'm not doing that 8-to-5 stadium routine five days a week. It's relaxing. The nervous feeling of, "Am I ready?" is not there anymore, and I've been waiting for that."
With the offseason circus about to leave town, Freese will arrive in Jupiter, Fla., in a few weeks to put the World Series behind him and focus on trying to do it again.
And with the bull's-eye likely centered on him as he enters what could be a breakout season, Freese appears to have the right plan for success.
"I'm just going to be me," Freese said. "That's what this is all about — just be me and do my part."
If his part comes anywhere close to resembling what he did last year in the playoffs, the Cardinals and their fans will have no complaints.