it or not, one year ago, Jim Edmonds was still the centerfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. Edmonds, a crowd favorite
and walking highlight reel, was beginning to show the wear-and-tear of a
late-thirties outfielder that was continuously sacrificing his body game after
game, year after year.
the replacing of general manager Walt Jocketty by John Mozeliak, the
organization was ready to start a “youth movement”. It appeared the perfect
place to start was the outfield, with a bounty of young players led by Rick Ankiel ready to make their mark on the grass of Busch
Friday night in December, I vividly recall coming home and turning on my
computer. With nothing out of the
ordinary, it was what I found waiting in my inbox that was totally
surprising. One of the greatest
centerfielders in the history of the most storied franchise in the annals of the
National League, Jim Edmonds, was traded to the San Diego Padres. Not only was he traded, but the hero of
the 2004 National League Championship Series and one of the MV3, had been traded
for a minor leaguer just finishing his first full season of professional
baseball in the California League.
pleased to announce that minor leaguer, David Freese, is our 2008 Scout.com St.
Louis Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year. In what appears to be a made for TV
story, Freese is a native of St. Louis that dreamed of one day wearing the Birds on the
Bat. After a 2008 in which he hit
.306/.361/.550 with 26 home runs and 91 RBIs, that dream is coming close to
recently was able to catch up with David while he is spending his off-season
playing winter ball in Venezuela.
Mattison: First off, I want to congratulate you as The Birdhouse’s 2008
Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year.
Freese: Thank you very much. It is
an honor to receive this award.
There are so many players that deserve this recognition, and I greatly
appreciate it. Coming into this
season, especially being a part of a new organization, I didn’t really know what
to expect. Having a chance to go to
Big League Camp was a great opportunity for me to meet new teammates and coaches
and basically get a head start on the 2008 season. I had heard that there was a possibility
that I would jump to Triple-A so I knew that it would take a lot of hard work to
prepare and get ready to try and show the organization that I was capable of
playing at that level right out of Spring Training.
You had a great season at Memphis.
Were you disappointed not to get a September call up?
tend to put a lot of pressure on myself sometimes because I set really high
expectations for each season. At
the end of the year I wanted to look back and say that I worked hard and got
better throughout the year. It was
disappointing first off not making the playoffs with Memphis. I’ve been fortunate to be in the
playoffs both years of my professional career and they are a lot of fun to be a
part of. As far as not
getting a September call up, I was pretty disappointed but there are reasons for
that and I have no control over the decision-making. I was really happy for the guys that got
to go up and it was awesome watching them.
Along the same lines, were you disappointed not to get an invite to the
really wanted to play some more in the off-season, either in the AFL or down in
Venezuela, to continue to see
competitive pitching. I was told
that Venezuela would be a better fit for
me so that is where I am. The
competition is pretty high and the pitching is definitely going to help me
become a better ballplayer.
How did you come about playing in Venezuela? Were there any concerns about going
there? What are your living
conditions like? What is the play
on the field like?
Around June, I let the Cardinals know that I wanted to play winter ball of some
sort if the opportunity came up.
Getting the chance to come down here is huge for me because I get to face
veteran pitching that will help me become more comfortable next season. When I heard I was going the play for
Caribes, I got really excited.
only to keep playing but also to go outside of the US and live is
an experience that lots of people don’t get to experience. I live in the Venetur Gran Hotel by the
field and it’s right on the ocean so it’s pretty incredible. The games are intense. The crowd gets real involved with every
pitch and every game feels like the playoffs. They definitely take baseball seriously
One year ago at this time, you were a farmhand in the San Diego
organization. Now, you are the
Minor League Player of the Year for the organization you grew up rooting
for. What has this past year been
like for you? Is there any added
pressure being a local?
This past year was so much fun, especially, since we were in the playoff hunt
until the last week. The Memphis Redbirds treat you with complete respect.
All the guys were great to play with and I’m so glad we had a successful
year as a team. Winning games
always makes it more fun.
Blaise, and Budaska were great to play for. They all brought a lot of heart to the
field and I definitely learned a lot about adjusting daily to the upper
levels. Budaska, our hitting coach,
took me under his wing and worked with me every day. I think the first step was to trust him
and understand that if I stick to a plan at the end of the year everything would
fall into place. Skipping Double-A,
I knew it would take time, but I tried to stay positive and kept working.
close to putting on that Cardinals uniform is pretty surreal. Growing up, that’s all I ever wanted to
do. If I am lucky enough to get
that chance next year, it would be a dream come true. There always is pressure, but being a
local I think adds a little more just because you’re in the spotlight a little
reports after you were traded, it seemed like a lot of scouts felt you might not
be able to stay at third base.
Well, seeing you at Memphis, I don’t think that is the case and now
that talk seems to have disappeared.
What is the difference, was it hard work, coaching,
was fortunate enough to have gotten drafted by the Padres because they believed
that I could possibly play third at the major league level. I have a lot of fun playing third and
that is where I want to play. But
the most important thing to me is playing at the next level so if something
changes that would be fine. I
definitely have worked hard at becoming a better infielder. The key for me was to soak up advice and
go from there.
Three of the top position prospects in the Cardinals system are you, Allen Craig, and Brett Wallace. What are
your thoughts on the logjam at the hot corner?
It’s like déjà vu all over again.
This is similar to the situation I had with San Diego regarding Kevin Kouzmanoff and Chase Headley. It’s
obviously good for an organization to have multiple players at one position
because it can create position changes to get more bats in a lineup or free up
someone for a trade. I don’t know
what’s going to happen. To play for
the Cardinals would be unbelievable but the bottom line is that I want to play
in the Majors, wherever that may be.
How much different is the Pacific
Coast League compared to the California League? How difficult was it to make that
Baseball is baseball. That is how I
look at it. The two leagues are
pretty different though. The
pitching is a lot better in the PCL.
Not to say they throw harder, but they aren’t as raw. To succeed, you really need to learn how
to make in-game adjustments. When
the count is in your favor, that doesn’t mean you are going to see a fastball,
let alone something right down the middle.
It’s really cool being able to face guys that have Major League time
because it’s a challenge. Picking
the brains of guys like Joe Mather and Josh Phelps gave me perspectives from
guys that have played and succeeded at Triple-A. So, it was very helpful having them
Have the Cardinals given you an indication of their plans for you this
spring? Do you plan on going to
spring training with a shot of making this team.
haven’t had any 2009 discussions yet, but I would assume that I would be heading
to Big League Spring Training again.
I’m going to go into camp trying to make the club. Knowing that is
probably unlikely with Glaus in front of me and that I’ll start in Memphis isn’t
going to make me not keep trying to show the organization that I’ll be ready if
they want me in the big leagues some time in the future.
think Mather really showed in Spring Training that he was ready for the call-up
when an opportunity presented itself.
That is what I want to do this spring if making the club doesn’t
DM: When you are not playing
baseball, how do you like to spend your time?
DF: The best days of the
off-season are NFL Sundays. That is
one thing I don’t miss if I can help it.
Maybe it’s the fantasy football that makes it more exciting. Also, being back in St. Louis has given me the
chance to hang out with friends and family I haven’t seen in a while. I watch a ton of movies and TV shows.
DM: I usually end with the
same question. What is one thing that Cardinals fans should know about you that
they probably don't already know?
One thing that usually
comes up with people I know is what I would be doing right now if I didn’t come
back and play baseball after I quit for a year out of high school. After playing at Lafayette and finishing up
with SLABA in the summer, I decided it was time to hang’em up. I just didn’t feel like playing baseball
With about two weeks left until I
would have to pack up and go back to Mizzou for my sophomore year, I woke up and
called my Mom at work and said that I wanted to play baseball again. I thought hard about it. I realized I didn’t want to be kicking
myself 20 years down the road saying what if? A couple days later I was enrolled at
Meramac JUCO and got back on the field.
Thanks again to The
Birdhouse. I really do appreciate
the recognition. If it wasn’t for
my family, friends, coaches and teammates, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I thank David for taking time out
of his busy schedule for this piece and once again congratulate him for being
our 2008 Minor League Player of the Year.
As a reminder, following is the
full list of our 2008 Position Players of the Year at the various levels of the
Cardinals system. Scout.com subscribers can click on the players’ names
to read the detailed articles on each, recapping their 2008 accomplishments,
quotes and much more:
Beach: Daryl Jones
Quad Cities: Pete Kozma
Batavia: Colt Sedbrook
City: Curt Smith
Gulf Coast League: Ryde Rodriguez
Dominican Summer League: Audris Perez
Venezuelan Summer League: Gerardo Mannbel/Alberto
As with all system-wide awards,
there was significant competition. Our own Leonda Markee assembled 2008
system-wide stats, both traditional and sabermetric, for Cardinals minor league
link to stats page
Master article with all 2008
Scout.com Cardinals Minor League Players of the Year and the schedule for daily
(This link is also permanently located at the lower left of The Birdhouse home
you missed our Players of the Year as they were unveiled, it’s not too late to
catch up! Subscribe now
follow our countdown of the top Players
and Pitchers of the Year at every level of the Cardinals minor league system.
Next up will be Top Rookies of the Year, reliever, starter and position player.
some of what else we have been running and have planned, exclusively for our
Receive the most comprehensive St. Louis Cardinals winter ball news every day
all off-season long via our daily Cardinals Winter League
Cardinals farm director Jeff Luhnow and instructional league camp coordinator
Mike Shildt discuss emerging organizational prospects Ryde Rodriguez and Yunier Castillo.
First-hand scouting report from Hawaii Winter Baseball on Blake King, following earlier
ones on Tony Cruz, Tyler Herron and Jim Rapoport.
Our annual reports and interviews direct from the Arizona Fall
Our annual Top 40 Cardinals prospects countdown, “40 Days, 40 Nights, 40
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Dustin Mattison can be reached via
email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2008 stlcardinals.scout.com. All
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