In nine years of covering minor league baseball, I wrote stories of success, failure, inspiration and some of sadness. Alcohol played a part in the saddest stories.
For the record, I quit drinking when I turned 21. Actually, I got a hiatal hernia when I was 21. It was before one-a-day pills for heartburn. No amount of Tums, Rolaids or Maalox could make drinking beer or bourbon a pleasant experience for me.
David Freese was not so lucky.
This is a hometown kid (Wildwood) who in 2011 was making the big league minimum of $414,500. After his union dues, Freese was making around $400,000. Freese was the League Championship Series and World Series MVP.
Freese has succeeded despite getting an extra strike. He has already had three strikes. As a 19-year-old, Freese was arrested for DWI in Ballwin.
In 2007 he was arrested by Riverside County California deputies for "Public Intoxication plus Obstructing and Resisting an Officer" at the Lake Elsinore Hotel Casino, not far from where Freese had just finished playing the 2007 season for the San Diego Padres minor league team.
Believe me when I say this, you have to work at it to get arrested for being "Drunk in Public." I know, I was in law enforcement for 30 years. Cops hate making public intoxication arrests. You are given multiplied opportunities to “quiet down,” “go away,” “shut up and sit down,“ or “now is a good time for you to leave” before you give a frustrated officer no choice but to arrest you.
Shortly after the arrest, the Padres traded Freese to the Cardinals for Jim Edmonds.
Lastly, there was a 2009 DWI arrest following a crash in Maryland Heights. Freese’s blood alcohol level was 0.23%. He broke a foot when he crashed his car.
His agent, Phil Tannebaum, was quoted after the arrest as saying: “David is not an alcoholic by any stretch of the imagination.” Do you think anyone was buying that statement?
The Cardinals announced that Freese was entering the team’s substance assistance program.
Then this year, I got a bad feeling after the Cards won the league title and 2011 World Series, to see Freese in a shirt drenched in beer and cheap champagne. But after the World Series, Freese seemed to be the perfect hero…a local kid making the minimum salary on a team filled with superstars. He said all the right things on national TV and genuinely seemed like a nice person.
While I no longer root for teams, I do root for players. I will be rooting for David Freese. I’ll be rooting for him to improve his fielding, hit .300 and get 100 RBIs for the next few seasons.
I will also be rooting that he avoids that fourth strike. He has done pretty good so far—after getting that extra strike.