Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chasing Our Dreams

From the time we are little, most of us are told by our parents or someone close to us that we "can be anything we want to be." Of course, as we grow up, we realize that isn't true. I certainly never dreamed of becoming a singer, but even if I had wanted to, the truth is Helen Keller probably held a tune better than I can. There are definitely limitations to our childhood dreams; and that's to be expected, because if we all got to live our childhood dreams I have a feeling there'd be a lot of game-winning home runs in game 7 of the World Series. As we grow up, we may realize some of our dreams are unattainable because of factors beyond our control. However, the beauty in growing up is that we learn who we are on a daily basis. Sure, as a 17-year-old or 20-year-old or 25-year-old you may realize you aren't going to be the World Series hero, but you may also realize what it is that you really love to do. Most of us get over our childhood dreams because the fact is we are never going to achieve them; we replace them with slightly more realistic dreams. I say "most of us" because for David Freese, he came as close as possible I would think to living out his childhood dream.

By now, I have little doubt that you know David Freese, down to his final strike, hit the game-tying double in game 6 of the World Series, with his team down two runs in the 9th inning. Then he came up again in the 11th inning and hit a walk-off home run to center field, ending arguably the most dramatic World Series game in baseball history. Freese added a big game-tying double again in the 1st inning of game 7, the Cardinals won game 7 by the score of 6-2, and David Freese won the World Series MVP.

You probably also know that Freese grew up a Cardinals fan, because it was mentioned over and over during the World Series and even more after his MVP performance. He hit .533 with 23 home runs as a senior in high school, was considered the best shortstop in the state, and had an offer to play baseball at Missouri. But he felt burned out, and he surprisingly decided to quit. He walked away from baseball at 18 years old because he was sick of it. He still attended the University of Missouri for his freshman year, but when he returned home for the summer he realized just how much he missed baseball.

Freese enrolled at St. Louis Community College-Meramec for his sophomore year so he could play baseball again. That year he was a second-team All-American among JUCO schools, hitting .396. He then went on to play two years at South Alabama, where he hit .373/.443/.525 as a junior and then an even better .414/.503/.661 as a senior. He was a 9th round pick by the San Diego Padres in 2006, and was traded to his hometown Cardinals in 2008 in the deal that sent Jim Edmonds to San Diego.

Since the trade, Freese has spent parts of three seasons with the Cardinals. He's basically had a season's worth of at-bats over those three years, and he's hit a solid .298/.350/.441 in just over 600 at-bats. Freese's game 6 heroics will be shown every time there's a World Series game 6, just like Joe Carter and Kirby Puckett. However, what makes the situation so remarkable is that Freese almost gave it all away because he was sick of it. He almost gave up on his dream, for no real reason. And if he had, none of us would have been able to enjoy game 6 nearly as much as we did. Because for one night, we were all living our childhood dreams vicariously through David Freese. It wasn't game 7, but it was damn close.