On Thursday, April 26, Freese joined 18 members of Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Louis in inaugurating the modified Mr. Freeze roller coaster at Six Flags St. Louis: Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast. Offering a new twist on an old favorite, the ride launches passengers backwards through its 190-foot tunnel and into a 180-degree inversion before climbing more than 200 feet in the air. Once at the top, passengers drop back down to experience the same stretch of track in reverse. Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast opens to the public on Saturday, May 5.
St. Louis Sprout & About was on hand to cover the event and caught up with the 2011 World Series MVP. Read what he had to say about the event, growing up in St. Louis, and being a role model to young ballplayers in our Q-and-A with Freese.
Are events like today an important part of being a major league baseball player?
Yeah, I think so. We get to play a game for a living, but there are a lot of other things that go along with it. The platform that we're on grants us the opportunity to come out here and hang out with some kids who want to have some fun, ride a roller coaster and spend some time with a Cardinals player. It's cool to change up your routine a little bit and get out here and have a good time.
By my count, you rode the roller coaster five times today. Are you glad you don't have to play baseball tonight?
Yeah! A little bit! The schedule is set up nicely so that if I'm going to get on this thing five times that I get the night off from baseball.
As a kid growing up in St. Louis, did you come to Six Flags much?
I came a bunch, especially in middle school. I guess Batman was the big ride when I was coming up here a lot. Mr. Freeze opened in '98 when I just got into high school. Walking around this park definitely brings back a lot of memories.
What are some of the other places in St. Louis that you liked to visit as a kid?
It's not around anymore, but going to the Arena with my dad, going to hockey games, that was something that we did a lot. Obviously, the Blues are playing well right now, so that's pretty cool. But the big thing for me was going to Cardinals games, going to Blues games and going to concerts at the Pageant.
As a lifelong Cardinals and Blues fan, who were your heroes growing up? Are you able to connect with them now that you're in the Majors?
We had the honor and pleasure of having Ozzie Smith down at spring training this year, and, growing up in St. Louis, he was my guy. I grew up playing shortstop, and he was my favorite player. So to have it come full circle and have him around again, that's crazy. I remember taking ground balls in spring training, and I look up, and I'm throwing the ball back to Ozzie. That's insane! I hope I get to do it for a lot more years.
Are you getting used to the fact that you're that guy for a lot of kids coming up today?
No! I don't know if I ever will. But it's a good thing. It shows I'm doing my part on the field, and that's where it starts. I think you have to play well, especially being a Cardinal. They expect you to win. But to see the looks on kids faces when I run into them, or the fact that they're wearing my jersey or trying to do my batting stance in the backyard – that's what this is all about. It's amazing.
I guess you're getting more autograph requests these days ...
A little bit! I think playing in the playoffs and World Series will do that. But that's a good thing. When people want your autograph, it means you're doing something right.
Do you get a chance to see any Little League games these days? Does it bring back memories for you?
Growing up playing Little League, whether it was at Pond or Ellisville, you can name them all, and I played in all of these local parks. When I see kids out in those fields, it turns back the clock for sure. Even going to see my buddies play in softball leagues, just messing around, it's cool to see how much fun people have with this game.
You're away from St. Louis a lot as a traveling ballplayer. Are there things you miss about St. Louis when you're gone?
Sure. When you're away you miss hanging out with your friends. You miss hanging out with your family. But that's just part of the gig. You miss weddings. You miss your friends having children. But that's OK. Everybody understands what we go through. It is what it is, but you have to deal with it in a positive way.
Does it make it easier or more difficult to have this kind of success in your hometown?
I don't know if it's more difficult, but it's definitely different. Growing up here and getting to know so many people over 25 or 26 years, it definitely adds a different layer to the experience, maybe a little more baggage. But I wouldn't have it any other way. It's a dream come true for me to play for this team and in this town.
Is the team having fun on the field this year?
We're having a blast, from day one coming into spring training. We didn't know how it was going to feel missing some faces in the clubhouse, but that's baseball, that's sports and that's life, and you move on. We've got a great team, and we're having a lot of fun. It's a good character ball club.
You can meet Freese yourself on June 11 at Six Flags St. Louis. The amusement park is offering special tickets for "David Freese Appreciation Day. A portion of each ticket benefits St. Louis Ronald McDonald House. Visit Six Flags' website for details.
Top two photos: David Freese meets Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast as he launches 70 mph ride alongside kids from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri.
Middle: Freese celebrates an early 29th birthday at Six Flags St. Louis.
Bottom: Freese gets a break in between rides. He rode Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast five times.
Photos courtesy of Six Flags St. Louis.