Now, both of them are basking in the glory of a World Series title.
So goes the story of a team that overcame tremendous odds to not only make the playoffs, but to somehow battle back at every turn to win the Fall Classic.
Rallying from a 10 1/2-game deficit to make the playoffs as the wild card team the final day of the season, overcoming a 4-0 deficit to Cliff Lee and beating the Phillies in the NLDS, taking out Milwaukee in the NLCS and winning the final two games of the World Series, the Cardinals epitomized what it meant to fight until the end.
Also, a local boy-turned-hero set the tone for the Cardinals popping the celebratory champagne after Friday night's 6-2, Game 7 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Freese cemented his place in history with a two-run double in the opening inning to tie the game and was a huge reason why the Cardinals were able to celebrate their 11th world championship.
"I'm trying to soak this all in," Freese said after being named the MVP of the World Series. "I've tried to soak in this whole postseason as much as I can because you never know if it's your last attempt at a title. It's going to take me a little bit, I think, to realize what we've accomplished."
Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Freese was raised in the St. Louis area and he grew up a fan of the Cardinals. He graduated from Lafayette High School in Wildwood, Missouri.
"I've had plenty of days of my life where I thought I wouldn't be even close to being a big leaguer," he said. "I'm here because of everybody around me. They've put so much trust in me to accomplish not only baseball but just stuff in life, and to do this is -- I'm just full of joy, finally."
He set an MLB record with 21 RBI in this postseason, surpassing the 19 held by Sandy Alomar Jr. (1997), Scott Spiezio (2002) and David Ortiz (2004). Freese finished the World Series with a .348 average and seven RBI in the seven games.
Down to their last strike twice on Thursday night, the Cardinals rallied to force Game 7 thanks mostly to Freese. His walkoff homer in the 11th inning in a 10-9 victory came two innings after he tied the contest with a two-run triple.
It's a wonder how Freese, 28, even arrived at this point. Burned out from playing baseball, he quit the game during his senior season in high school and didn't take a baseball scholarship. After his freshman year at Missouri, he worked for a school district's maintenance department for the summer, but then started up baseball activities at St. Louis Community College-Meremec.
So started his comeback to the diamond.
After a tough 2010 season, which ended early for Freese due to a recurring right ankle injury that required him to have a pair of surgeries, Freese had to battle through missing two months of the 2011 season due to a fractured hand.
In the end, he became the sixth player ever to win both the NLCS MVP and World Series MVP in the same year.
"I quit out of high school, and they (parents) were the only two people that supported that decision," Freese said. "If I listened to everybody else, I wouldn't be here right now, no chance. But it's amazing. I sit around and think -- I just think about everybody that's involved in all this, and it takes a lot of people to get to this point."