The sight of David Freese bashing his way into World Series lore on Thursday wasn't a wholly pleasing one for Jason McLeod, the former draft overseer for the Red Sox and Padres. "Freese," McLeod told this blog, "is one of my bad moves."
The story of how Freese entered professional baseball is a familiar one. Padres director of scouting Bill Gayton, heeding area scout Bobby Filotei , chose the slugger from South Alabama in the ninth round of the 2006 draft. The Padres then signed Freese for less than $10,000.
What isn't commonly known, though, is that McLeod and the wealthy Red Sox, attempting to exploit a loophole in Freese's draft status, set up a $90,000 deal to get the third baseman, only to have it nixed by the commissioner's office.
"His draft year, he was a fifth-year senior, and we thought we could sign him before the draft," McLeod said. "We actually agreed with him on a signing bonus for $90,000 and sent it to the commissioner's office."
No dice, MLB ruled. Freese had to go through the draft. "We said, 'OK, we'll draft him in the seventh round,' " McLeod said.
In the sixth round, a Red Sox aide reminded McLeod about the plan to select Freese in the next round. McLeod, influenced by a scout's admiration for other players, decided he could chance waiting until the ninth round.
Gayton had hired McLeod into his first scouting job in 2002, had trained him to study ballplayers. When Gayton selected Freese in the ninth round, 273th overall, in Boston his protege let out a scream. "Bleepin' Padres."
Freese wasn't thrilled with the turn of events, either. "He was livid," McLeod said, noting that Freese's signing bonus with San Diego was a sliver of what the Red Sox were prepared to pay.
Ten picks later, McLeod select Ryan Kalish, a high school outfielder from New Jersey who is now on Boston's 40-man roster.
Thursday night in St. Louis, Freese's game-tying triple and game-winning home run, along with the game's other dramatic swings, prompted comparisons to the epic home run by Carlton Fisk for the Red Sox in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
McLeod was happy for Freese, although he couldn't help but be reminded of the draft-day whiff. "You never heard of the guys I took in the seventh or eighth round of that draft," said McLeod, now with the Cubs. "Yours truly said, 'I'll take Freese in the ninth.' "