"I was depressed," Freese said. I was always depressed. I never tried to do anything to myself, but I didn't care about my life. I didn't care what would happen to me. It was almost to a point that if this is my time, so be it? And there was definitely a lack of care about my well-being at certain times, for sure."
In the midst of his off-field struggles, Freese was a postseason hero for St. Louis in 2011. He won the NLCS and World Series MVP Awards en route to the Cardinals winning the World Series.
Freese had three drunken-driving incidents during his Cardinals tenure, however, and crashed into a tree on Thanksgiving Day 2012.
The Cards leadership knew he needed a change, which led to a 2013 trade to the Los Angeles Angels.
Freese grew up in Missouri and said that playing close to home likely exacerbated his issues: "Who knows where I was headed, but as long as I was here, I had so many friends here, I wasn't good at just saying no. I wanted to please people, make everyone happy, and that became impossible. It just worsened with my depression. There were days it was so bad I just didn't want to get out of bed."
The 33-year-old met his future wife, Mairin, just before getting traded to the Angels, and they got married last year.
Freese believes Mairin entering his life is what motivated him to change: "I always wanted to change, but it was so hard, right up until I met Mairin. I don't know if we met at the right time or not, but it was a blessing. She's just tough. I need that. And I want that. She challenges the hell out of me, and I love it."
The former All-Star believes the darkest time of his life is now behind him, and he is confident that his future is bright:
I used to be so afraid what would happen to me after baseball. I was getting older, watching other people, and it was like, 'Man, all of these people have their lives together.' People were passing me by.
That's all changed. I'm confident that when I retire I'm going to be a loving, great husband. Hopefully a kick-ass father. And a guy who doesn't booze. Things are just so different now. Now, it's so different. I can't wait to get out of bed in the morning. You wake up, and you're ready to face the world. To be honest, I never knew I could be so happy.
Freese is in his second season with the Pirates after posting a .270 batting average with 13 home runs and 55 RBI in 2016. Through 14 games in 2017, he is hitting .326 with two homers and five RBI.