Intentional Walk: An Inside Look at the Faith That Drives the St. Louis Cardinals

Intentional Walk: An Inside Look at the Faith That Drives the St. Louis Cardinals

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by Rob Rains
     
 

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Intentional Walkfeatures the stories of Adam Wainwright, David Freese, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Jason Motte and other members of the 2012 Cardinals, written as those players and the rest of the team tried to repeat the 2011 world championship. The book talks about how they became Christians and offers their testimony about what it means for

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Overview

Intentional Walkfeatures the stories of Adam Wainwright, David Freese, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Jason Motte and other members of the 2012 Cardinals, written as those players and the rest of the team tried to repeat the 2011 world championship. The book talks about how they became Christians and offers their testimony about what it means for them to have God play such a prominent role in their lives.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In a book that's equal parts faith and baseball, baseball writer Rains (Tony La Russa: Man on a Mission) offers an exclusive look at life inside the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse as the team attempted to defend its 2011 World Series championship led by a rookie coach and man of faith, Mike Matheny. Each chapter begins with a Bible verse and focuses on the career and spiritual life of one or two members of the Cardinals organization who are practicing Christians, including the equipment manager, a broadcaster, and players ranging from minor league prospects to stars such as Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday. Each story offers insights into remaining faithful to God through all of life's successes and failures. Some of the recurring spiritual themes throughout are following God's will, seeing the big picture, dealing with adversity, using one's God-given abilities, and living out the Christian life in both words and actions. Overall it is an enjoyable read, despite the abundance of truisms and occasional post-game interview tone (and consequent lack of depth). VERDICT Recommended for Christian baseball enthusiasts; all Cardinals fans may enjoy the player profiles.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780849964589
Publisher:
Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date:
04/30/2013
Pages:
207
Sales rank:
297,695
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

INTENTIONAL WALK

An Inside Look at the Faith That Drives the St. Louis Cardinals
By ROB RAINS

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2013 Rob Rains
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8499-6458-9


Chapter One

DAVID FREESE

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. —Psalm 23 KJV

The night before the Cardinals played their opening game of the 2012 regular season on April 4, the first-ever game at Marlins Park in Miami, a visiting reporter walked into a well-known restaurant to have dinner. It was not surprising to him that some of the Cardinals were there. What he was astounded by, however, was that a dozen of the players were there having dinner, together, at the same table.

Despite having covered baseball for about thirty years, this was not something the reporter was used to seeing, and it spoke volumes to him about the 2012 Cardinals, the closeness of the players, and the chemistry and the bond that connected this team.

David Freese was one of the players there that night, along with many of the team's veterans, including Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright, and Chris Carpenter.

"A lot of the veterans get together and they drag me along," Freese has said. "It's a free meal."

Freese, of course, may never have to buy a meal in St. Louis again after his heroics in the 2011 postseason, which included hitting the walk-off home run in the eleventh inning of game six, perhaps one of the most dramatic moments in World Series history.

There was more involved on that April night, however, than the fact that Freese didn't have to pay for his steak and lobster—the team's players try to get together for dinner at least once on every road trip during the season, and as many players who want to come are welcome.

"It's a great time for fellowship," Freese said. "The coolest thing about this group is our fellowship together. That's a big word in our clubhouse. What I hear is that it is very unusual in baseball, but what we have here with our spiritual faith is a good thing. It keeps you grounded. It keeps you on the right path.

"You definitely can identify with what's important in the world when you step in this clubhouse."

This is particularly important for Freese, who is aware of a couple of points in his life, both in baseball and outside the game, when he could have gone in a much different direction, had he allowed himself to continue down a bad path.

Continuing down the wrong road definitely would have led Freese to a different place than Busch Stadium, in his hometown of St. Louis, where his performance during one magical October made him a hometown hero as well as an overnight national and international celebrity.

Appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and other television shows followed his selection as the MVP of both the National League Championship Series against the Milwaukee Brewers and the World Series against the Texas Rangers. Anybody and everybody wanted a piece of Freese, who claims one of his most chilling moments came in November 2011, when he was on the field for the Missouri–Texas football game and received a prolonged standing ovation from more than seventy thousand fans.

Freese knew then, and knows now, that none of it would have been possible had he not made a dramatic decision in December 2009 to turn his life over to Christ. He had just been involved in a second off-field incident, which was embarrassing to himself, his family, and the Cardinals. After a heartfelt talk with his parents, he made an unannounced trip to the stadium to talk with general manager John Mozeliak, offering a sincere apology and a pledge that it would not happen again.

Then the twenty-six-year-old Freese went home and walked into his bedroom. He was drained and exhausted. "I didn't have much left," Freese said.

He sat down and prayed.

"I really kind of surrendered myself," Freese recalled. "I said, 'God, here I am. Do with me what You will. I'm Yours.' I look back at that now and realize that was a very big moment in my life."

At the time, Freese had only played seventeen games in the major leagues with the Cardinals. He had not been a high bonus baby, having been drafted in the ninth round by the San Diego Padres out of South Alabama in June 2006. The Cardinals had obtained him the previous winter, in Mozeliak's first trade as general manager, for outfielder Jim Edmonds.

The Cardinals believed Freese had a chance to become a regular third baseman in the majors, but only if he could straighten up his personal life and also avoid frequent injuries. It was shortly after making the decision to turn his life over to Christ that Freese just "happened" to run into Matheny at a charity bowling event in St. Louis, organized by former major leaguer Brian Boehringer.

"It was a great time to run into Mike Matheny," Freese said. Matheny at the time was living in St. Louis and working as a special instructor in the Cardinals' farm system. Freese had been a fan of Matheny's a decade earlier, often watching from the upper deck as Matheny played for the Cardinals.

"He pulled me aside and talked to me for about twenty minutes," Freese said. "That was when our relationship really catapulted. We went on from there, and it has been good things ever since."

Freese knows now that the meeting was not accidental. After his meeting and conversation with Matheny, Freese began to notice a gradual change in his life.

"There were people who started entering my life after that," Freese said, "and that's when I really started to notice that God had a plan ... that He's got an idea for you. I can sit down right now and tell you that ten years ago I probably had five hundred more friends, but the friends I have now mean more to me. The relationships run deeper."

Freese knows that because of the people God put into his life, his life has been changed.

"I don't know what would have happened [without Christ in my life]," Freese said. "This world is crazy. You don't know what can happen. I can tell you right now I wouldn't be in this position, personally or professionally.

"Sometimes I get caught up in saying, why didn't I find God earlier in my life, and I know that's just not God's plan sometimes. That's frustrating for me to think about, but what I have gone through has put me in this position, not just professionally but personally. The relationships I've built, the sense of joy I have internally compared to ten years ago—that's appealing to me."

That December 2009 incident—the wake-up call—that jolted Freese was not the first time he had wondered about his baseball future.

Years earlier, after his senior year at Lafayette High School in suburban St. Louis, after earning All-State honors and receiving multiple scholarship offers, Freese decided baseball was no longer fun. He wanted to go to the University of Missouri, but he wanted to, in his words, "be a regular kid" and not have his college life dictated by the team's schedule.

For the first time in his life, Freese did not play baseball that year. He joined a fraternity, and enjoyed his break from the daily grind of practice, training, and games. He did not think about it at the time, but Freese knows and understands now that making that decision, one he said only his parents supported, was also a part of God's plan for his life.

"If I had kept playing, it would have been because I was listening to everybody else," he said. "At that time, it was nice to be selfish and stubborn. You don't want to be those things, but at that time it was what I needed to be, especially when I can look back and see where I am now."

Sometime before the next school year began, Freese had a change of heart. He doesn't remember it being because of one specific incident, but he came to the conclusion that he missed playing baseball. The year away had forced him to reassess a lot of priorities in his life. Instead of returning to Missouri, he enrolled at a local junior college in the St. Louis area, Meramec Community College, and started working harder than he had ever worked at the game before. If he was going to play baseball, he wanted to succeed at the highest level.

Freese knows now that the inspiration behind that decision was God-driven. "It was just something I felt like I needed to do," he said. "I needed to play baseball. I needed to find out what I was all about. Honestly, when I started back playing, I was not entirely sure that was what I wanted to do. It took the two years at Meramec to realize that I love this game."

Two good years at the junior-college level led to the scholarship offer from South Alabama, where Freese hit .414 and soon found himself signing a contract to play in the Padres organization.

He spent the 2006 and 2007 seasons playing in Eugene, Oregon; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Lake Elsinore, California, and was pleased with how his career was progressing. That December he was having dinner with friends at a Burger King in suburban Los Angeles when his cell phone rang.

Freese saw that the call was coming from the St. Louis area, but he didn't recognize the number, so he let it go to voice mail. When he checked the message moments later, the caller identified himself as John Mozeliak, the general manager of the Cardinals, who said he was calling to welcome Freese to the organization.

Freese thought it was one of his friends pulling a prank on him. But before he could figure out who it could be, his phone rang again. He took the call, from the San Diego area, and quickly learned that the first call had not been a prank. He really had been traded to the Cardinals.

After that reality set in, Freese called home to tell his mother the news. She, like her son, thought it was a joke until he convinced her otherwise.

"I can't tell you everything she said, but she definitely didn't believe it," Freese said.

Freese made the jump from the Class A California League to Triple-A Memphis in 2008 and had a big year, hitting .306 with 26 homers and 91 RBI. It looked as if the Cardinals had found their third baseman of the future, perhaps beginning as soon as 2009. That was what Freese believed as well, but he soon found out, again, that God had a different idea.

Driving on an ice-covered road one morning in January 2009, Freese's car slid off the road and veered into a ditch. Freese suffered injuries to both lower legs, leaving him on crutches when he should have been going through his final training before heading to Florida and the start of spring training.

That was the beginning of two injury-filled seasons for Freese, who played only seventeen games for the Cardinals in 2009 and sixty-four more at three minor league levels. He underwent three different operations on both ankles in the span of sixteen months, denying him the chance to play when he should have been coming into his prime seasons. Then, in December 2009, came the incident that really forced Freese to reevaluate where he was in his life, and he ended up in his bedroom, asking God for help.

The following spring, Freese knew his life was about to change.

"I firmly believe that God puts things in front of you for a reason," Freese said then. "Sometimes it may not be the best thing in the world, but it's an important test. How I rebound is important. How I rebound, that's how I will be viewed. So far, I'm doing great. I'm real positive, and I'm as confident and ready as I've ever been."

He was in the starting lineup for the Cardinals on opening day in 2010, but Freese should have realized his recovery, both spiritually and physically, was not going to be that easy. A bone bruise on his right ankle sent him to the disabled list in June for two months. Then, playing in his first rehab game, the ankle gave way again, leading to another season-ending injury.

"I definitely didn't make it easy on myself numerous times," Freese said. "You can sit back and think for a while on things I have had to deal with, but you keep plugging away."

All of those efforts finally paid off in a major way when he became the postseason hero in 2011, leading the Cardinals to their eleventh world championship. All that success, however, only set up the next challenge for Freese—to try to put it all behind him as the 2012 season began.

His new manager, Matheny, was confident that Freese was ready for the pressure.

"I know that, with the humble person and player that he is, all the attention really was not what he was hoping for because he realizes he still has a lot to prove in this game," Matheny said, "not necessarily to us, but to himself. I think he knows he wants to be a better defensive player. I know that he wants to put together a more consistent season, and he wants his body to do what it will allow him to do out there as much as possible.

"It's not as if David Freese is content with what has happened and now he is just going to cash in his chips. He's very motivated. He's excited about 2012."

Freese was in the fifth spot in the batting order for opening day in Miami, and he came up in the bottom of the first inning with two outs and runners on second and third. Facing Josh Johnson, he calmly lined a single to left, driving in the first two runs of the season and leading the Cardinals to a 4–1 victory. Freese finished the day with three hits.

He did not downplay the possibility of the 2011 playoff and World Series success carrying over into the new season.

"The playoffs can do wonders for you—learning how to keep your composure and not to get too anxious," Freese said. "If you embrace it and soak in all those postseason experiences, they definitely can help you. You can't run from anything. This game will eat you up if you run from it."

Freese's efforts helped assure that Matheny won his first regular-season game as a manager, and he was one of the ringleaders as the players presented Matheny with the game ball, then showered him with bottles of water while he was standing in the hallway outside his office.

"It was nice to get Mike that first win," Freese said. "In the back of our minds, we wanted to give him that first one right away.... He's a special person and he deserved this as soon as possible."

The win began a good stretch for both Freese and the Cardinals. By the end of April, in his first twenty games of the season, Freese had hit 5 homers, driven in 20 runs, and had a .333 batting average. The team was 14–8 in April, and on the morning of May 2, had a four-and-a-half-game lead in the National League Central.

Then came May, and a .211 average, which hit its rock-bottom point on May 20, when, during a Sunday night game at Los Angeles, Freese struck out in all four of his at-bats. He swung and missed on eight pitches.

Freese had always been a player who handled the highs pretty well in his career and life but had struggled with the lows. As the team returned home, he was definitely at a low point.

Matheny gave him two days off for a mental break. Freese celebrated his return to the lineup with a two-run homer but tried to take it in stride as just another game during a long season.

"Sometimes you get in that box and you want to be Superman," Freese said. "That's not going to help you out. You have to stay with your plan and try to execute.

"With that said, you're going to have ups and downs. I think there are a lot of people out there that don't understand that. But in this clubhouse, we know what a season is like and what the game can do to you. You just have to grind it out."

Trying to even out the lows has been a challenge for Freese.

"The lows get me," he said. "Faith gets kicked in, and I wish I was better at that. I know the more you invest in God, the easier the lows become. I think you become stronger. You push through stuff more. When God is inside you, things are easier to deal with. He's going to give you stuff you can handle."

Freese attributes his ability to handle the highs to his parents, who raised him in a Christian environment, something he appreciates now more than he did then.

"I went to church, but probably more on authority than on my choice," Freese said. "I appreciate the fact that my parents are deep in faith. I'm young in faith compared to a lot of people.

"I've had good fortune in my life, to be sure. I had a good childhood. Things have happened that have taught me to be humble. I've learned that tangible things are not what life is all about. If the word humble is not in your dictionary, it is going to find you quick."

Freese rebounded from the low of May with another .300 month in June, and in early July, as he was about to walk into the team's weekly Bible study, he found Matheny waiting in the hallway to deliver the news—in front of his teammates—that Freese had won the fan vote for the final spot on the National League All-Star team.

"I wanted to let his teammates experience that moment too," Matheny said. "You stack his numbers up and he's deserving. I'm just excited to see him get that because I imagine the first [AllStar game] is going to be extra special."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from INTENTIONAL WALK by ROB RAINS Copyright © 2013 by Rob Rains. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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