ST. LOUIS -- David Freese has impressed the Cardinals this year, with his defense and his production at the plate, but when manager Tony La Russa talks about the rookie third baseman, he mentions one other trait before Freese's baseball skills: his even demeanor. The St. Louis coaching staff loves the way Freese carries himself, a 26-year-old who acts like he's been a Major Leaguer for a decade or more.

"He's a player," La Russa said earlier this year. "I like him, because he doesn't get overjoyed with himself."

Freese prides himself on that same trait, and doesn't hesitate to credit where it came from. His father, Guy, always made sure that young David avoided getting too high or too low.

"Dealing with ups and downs was a big thing to him, because not everything is going to go the way you want it," Freese said. "I think that's a big part of why I'm even-keeled with everything. Because you're going to have struggles in your life, just like in baseball. It's how you deal with it. He taught me that. He would show me the way, and it was up to me to deal with the situation."

The elder Freese coached his son from David's earliest days playing the game, until shortly before he was in high school. He kept his distance when it was appropriate, and stepped in when it was needed. And he was certainly a baseball coach, teaching his son the game.

"My dad is a huge reason why I'm able to play Major League Baseball," Freese said.

Freese's father taught the youngster to hit to the opposite field -- another quality that has endeared him to professional coaches and managers -- but also emphasized how to handle oneself. That coaching continues, more than 10 years after the formal coaching came to an end.

These days, when Freese talks to his dad, Guy emphasizes those matters. Freese has the rare fortune to play Major League Baseball in his hometown, so his parents get to see him every day. But when David talks to dad, he doesn't get hitting tips, or notes on his positioning in the field.

"It's kind of all [about] how I carry myself," Freese said. "As far as the talent, and skills and everything, he leaves me alone. He doesn't really mess with that. He knows the coaching staff we have. I think he's a true believer that I need to be able to adjust myself. You can't always have somebody telling you how to fix this, how to fix that, especially in the middle of a game. You've got to be able to make adjustments. I think he understands that.

"So it's more, when things are going good, 'Keep going.' And when things are going bad, 'Keep going.'"

The extensive influence that Freese's father had on his career means that playing at home is extra sweet. For any player, wearing the hometown colors is something of a dream come true. But when you get to validate your most important coach every single day, it takes on additional meaning.

"It's huge," Freese said. "It obviously hasn't been the easiest road, but for [my parents] to be able to personally see me play in the big leagues is special. Because I can't tell him enough how big of a reason my dad is for me being here. So to give back to him in a sense, for him to come to the yard and kind of see what he's done, it's pretty special."