it or not, one year ago, Jim Edmonds was still the centerfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals.
With 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 Stadium.
On a 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
recently was able to catch up with David while he is spending his off-season
playing winter ball in
Mattison: First off, I want to congratulate you as The Birdhouse's 2008
David 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
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
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
How did you come about playing in
DF: 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
One year ago at this time, you were a farmhand in the
DF: 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.
Hammer, 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.
Being 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 more.
DF: I 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.
It's like déjà vu all over again.
This is similar to the situation I had with
How much different is the
DF: 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 around.
DM: 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.
DF: I 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.
I 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 occur.
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
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
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:
Quad Cities: Pete Kozma
Dominican Summer League: Audris Perez
Venezuelan Summer League: Gerardo Mannbel/Alberto Riviero
By the numbers
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 position players.
link to stats page
Master article with all 2008 Scout.com Cardinals Minor League Players of the Year and the schedule for daily announcements: link. (This link is also permanently located at the lower left of The Birdhouse home page.)
If you missed our Players of the Year as they were unveiled, it's not too late to catch up! Subscribe now to Scout.com and 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.
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Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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