David Freese is why Joe Buck said: "we will see you tomorrow night."
Nearly eight years ago, it was Freese who stepped to the plate against the Texas Rangers and created a moment that will be watched by generations upon generations of baseball fans.
I am not just talking about St. Louis Cardinals fans. Any fan of the game will treat that Game 6 two-run triple and walk-off home run like medicine to their soul on a bad day, curing the troubles of everyday life with baseball heroics. Those two swings that could make a career sing.
Freese announced his retirement today after 11 seasons at the age of 36, a career split between St. Louis, Los Angeles (with both the Angels and Dodgers), and Pittsburgh. He once chased Albert Pujols home on that legendary hit against Neftali Feliz in October, and then chased #5 all the way to an Angels uniform a couple years later.
He wore Pirates colors, hitting .270 in a supporting role. He would hit .328 in 98 games with the Dodgers over the past season and a half, including a .403 OBP mark this year in 79 games. Freese hit .417 with the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series. If it was chilly and Halloween decorations were up, Freese was dangerous.
He was a part-timer for the majority of his post-Cardinal life, saving most of the magic in his bat for Busch Stadium.
It is something that may live as legend to us, but more than likely appeared as overwhelming to Freese, who suffers from depression and anxiety. Imagine walking around town a hero to every sports fan. Now imagine doing that months and years after the fact, and it can be a hard weight to bear. Freese wasn't a hometown kid like Pat Maroon; the Lou basically adopted him as its own. Every time Freese came back, he was treated like a king, starting in 2016 with Pittsburgh.
This past season, he was given ovations all series long when the Dodgers came to town. If he sneezed, a Cardinals fan had a kleenex. If he stepped out of the dugout, the crowd roared louder for him than some of its own players. That's because, in this town, you are a legend until you die, especially if you help win a World Series.
Without Freese, the Cardinals don't have eleven World Series trophies, and it's not just Game 6. How about the two-run hit in Game 7 the very next night? How about the big hits against Milwaukee the week before? Remember the big postseason hits in 2013? He did all of that.
In 69 career postseason games, Freese slashed .299/.370/.519, including ten home runs and 17 doubles. He was "money" on the biggest stage of the game, collecting hits with the ease of a guy making a cup of coffee in the morning, or at least it looked that way.
The magic is so real, I believe in the thought about giving Freese a red jacket in a few years, even though his career numbers in St. Louis don't even include 50 home runs, a .300 batting average, or .800 OPS. Sometimes, it doesn't have to do solely with the stats. Sometimes, you need to think about a batch of moments, and decide if that is Cardinal Hall of Fame worthy. It may not make sense to some, but to most, baseball often doesn't. That's the beauty of its unpredictable nature. Many didn't see Freese coming.
Freese came to St. Louis from San Diego in the Jim Edmonds trade, with St. Louis taking a chance on the kid from Corpus Christi, Texas -- and it wasn't always easy. Freese was drafted in the ninth round by the Padres. He got into his fair share of off-field issues, including a DWI arrest in 2012. He wasn't without his scars, just like any living human being. He battled problems that millions do, but unlike so many, he came out on the other side of it a winner. He fought and he won. It's the blue-collar-like scrap of Freese that endears him to many.
There's an alternate universe where I imagine him staying in St. Louis for his entire career, slapping hits to right field and making outfielders nervous every time he looked out there. Maybe the Cardinals shouldn't have traded him to the Angels, but then again, maybe he needed the escape from a 24/7 fever dream that would become unbearable if he stayed. The "what-ifs" are tough with Freese.
What St. Louis got were memories that will live on for a lifetime. Genuine golden scenes that Busch Stadium could play like a greatest hits rock album whenever people walk through the gates for a game. I remember where I was when Freese launched that triple over Nelson Cruz's outstretched glove.
I was sitting on a couch with my head in my hands following the return of my son from the hospital, fighting a battle with a deadly heart disease. Baseball was sitting in second place, but I couldn't look away. I had accepted that the Cardinals were being eliminated by Texas, but kept the game on because you never know in this game. He hit that ball, I looked up, and suddenly, life was a lot better.
That's baseball. That's David Freese. An out-of-town kid who become a hometown hero to Cardinal Nation for eternity.
Thanks for taking us to tomorrow night, Freeser. Enjoy the peace of retirement.