Every so often the price of fame comes knocking at the front door of Guy and Lynn Freese's Wildwood home.
Typically polite but sometimes insistent, strangers will ask the couple if they can speak to their son, the postseason hero.
"I usually tell them David used to live here but it's been awhile," says Guy.
A supernova October transformed David Freese — Guy's son, a Lafayette High alum and the Cardinals' starting third baseman — from a local flavor into a national draw. Freese stepped into last October fighting fatigue and a slump that caused manager Tony La Russa to consider a time-share at third base. He left the month the headliner in the team's wild World Series parade and a guest on Leno and Ellen.
"It's surreal," Guy says. "It's kind of like there's David our son and David MVP of the World Series. You take a minute to draw the connection. But he's the same David."
Guided by his representation at Creative Arts Agency's sports division, Freese has navigated more than two months of celebrity, endorsements and public appearances. He was feted at a Missouri football game and walked on ice along with Chris Carpenter, Tony La Russa and Carpenter's son Sam prior to a Blues game.
Freese has handed Nelly a personalized jersey and sat on Lafayette's bench during a recent basketball win over Mehlville. (Every Lafayette player wore a black T-shirt bearing No. 11, Freese's number when he played for the school.) He will be among the honorees at Sunday night's Baseball Writers of America dinner at the Millennium and then travel to New York, where he will receive the Babe Ruth Award in recognition of his breakout postseason.
Freese batted .397 with five home runs and a record 21 RBIs in 18 postseason games, was named MVP for both the Cardinals' six-game takedown of the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Championship Series and their seven-game World Series epic over the Texas Rangers.
"Ever since we got off the field after winning the World Series, everything has been new," Freese says. "I'm in a situation I've never been in. Things are different. Everything has risen."
Freese, 28, reached celebrity less than four years after the Cardinals rescued him in December 2007 from a career dead end with the San Diego Padres. He endured a complicated route to the postseason stage, including various injuries that still prevent him from listing a 100-game major-league season on his résumé.
"It definitely opened doors. It also made things a lot more hectic," he says. "I prefer to be the guy who plays for the Cardinals and blend in. Winning is what it's all about. If your life gets a little more hectic because of it, you deal with it."
Freese chaperoned ESPN talent Erin Andrews as a presenter at the Country Music Association Awards — "probably the most terrified I've been all off-season" — and appeared on numerous nationally syndicated shows.
Though he still resides in the same area code as his folks, David has come a long way from the teenager who burned out on baseball and academics at the University of Missouri-Columbia before resuscitating his interest in both at St. Louis Community College at Meramec.
"I walk into a place, and it's a matter of time before somebody recognizes me. If I go out, I expect it because there are Cardinals fans everywhere," Freese says. "I understand people wanting to come up and talk. I get it. But it's tough sometimes when you run into a department store and you get caught up. Then you remember it's flattering. It's unbelievable, really."
The same guy who flirted with Kelly Clarkson on the "Today" set — or was it the other way around — has resumed lifting, hitting and playing regular squash games with Cardinals left fielder and close friend Matt Holliday. He has had no complications from the ankle and foot issues that have plagued him since a car accident prior to the 2009 season.
"Everything David did this off-season is what he wanted to do," says Freese's agent, Nez Balelo, noting that CAA's crossover reach only enhanced his client's exposure. "He really enjoyed what I think is really a unique experience and opportunity for a player at this stage of his career. But he's still the same guy — down to earth and committed to his craft."
"When something new comes along, you have to learn how to deal with it," Freese says. "You try to take it in stride and maintain a balance. I don't want it to get in the way of what I have to accomplish. I'm a baseball player. It's my job. I'm going to take care of that first."
Freese has reduced his appearances since Thanksgiving, but what hasn't changed are the demands for his time. He has had to learn the art of "no."
"I was probably naive to people really. You step back and you understand a lot of people are out for themselves. It's frustrating and it's unfortunate," he says. "At no point do I consider myself of the same status as a (Lance) Berkman or a Holliday. They're elite players. But I have an appreciation for what they go through. Everybody wants a piece in some way. That's tough. … You want to be nice and respectful. But you can't help everybody out. If they can't understand that, I'm sorry."
Says Holliday: "He's such a nice guy, he feels like he has to say yes to everything. But at some point, you have to take time off for mental relaxation. It's OK to say no every now and then."
Two months ago, Freese was working a walk-on role in the ABC sit-com "Work It." More recently he penciled a rendering of the lineups from Game 7 of the World Series for charity. Yet spring training approaches from barely a month away. He now craves normalcy and, at times, anonymity. A recent getaway for a weekend with teammate Jon Jay in Miami allowed him to achieve the second goal. "It was great," he says. "Nobody knew who I was there."
He wishes his family could achieve the same. His parents recently changed their phone numbers due to the unsolicited crush of well-wishes and requests. "Sometimes," says Guy, "it gets little bit overwhelming."
No one wants to change what happened during or after the Series. Freese's parents remember the postseason, especially the World Series, as a blur and still pop in the DVD for a reminder of the experience.
"A lot of the fun attached to this comes from seeing the excitement in my family and friends," David Freese says. "Personally, every day is different. It's kind of like a baseball season with its ups and downs. Sometimes you feel like you want to throw in the towel. Then you take a step back and realize how blessed you are. What I do for a living is so many kids' dream. It was my dream, too, especially getting to experience it with the Cardinals."