You probably didn’t notice, and it most likely happened long after your head hit the pillow last night, but one of our own landed on a milestone. The West County Kid, the hero of game six, the legend of the 2011 St. Louis fall got his 1,000th hit… far from home out on the West Coast. He had been slumping, his average dropping nearly .100 points over the course of a couple weeks. Then, he got one hit on Monday, and last night he finally broke through. 2-4, with a HR and 3 RBI’s. Number 999 was the long ball, but number 1,000…that was a thing of beauty.
He did what he always seemed to do during that magical run of 2011. He took the pitch exactly where it was thrown. A perfectly placed single to right, moving Cody Bellinger from first to third. Not doing too much, just playing the game the way it is meant to be played. Text book day one baseball you learn in your backyard before you’re even four feet tall.
Then you think back on who Freese was, what he did, and what it still means. Yes, he is a baseball hero, but like all of us, he is flawed. He drank too much in his younger years, couldn’t get his head right for some time, bounced around looking for a new place to belong after leaving home. Take away baseball immortality and he’s just another midwest kid trying to find his place in this world.
He’s just one of us. Maybe that’s why we all still give him that standing ovation every time he steps in the box in someone else’s jersey. He is the one athlete we all look at and honestly think, if things had broken different for me, I could’ve had that. Heck he grew up right around here. He’s no super athlete. He’s not Albert Pujols doing the unimaginable, he’s not a gargantuan like Mark McGwire, he’s not backflipping and diving with the grace of a world class olympian like Ozzie. He simply stands there in the box, looking and acting like anyone of us.
But, the results…aren’t like anyone of us.
I once heard Matt Holliday say, “That guy has a slow heartbeat…” And I thought to myself, “That is it. That is the thing that makes him so different from the rest of us.” When everyone else in the stadium can feel the hairs on the back of their neck stand at attention…the knots in their stomachs getting tighter and tighter…when they all start gripping the arm of whoever they’re next to…barely able to look…Freese just stands there…totally normal…totally calm…Like it’s the tenth at-bat in spring training. There’s nothing different about the moment. He’s sixty feet and six inches from the mound. His hands are where they always are. His practice swings are exactly the same. He’s just that short little kid in a backyard in West County…playing the game exactly how it should be played.
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