Unleashing a Father's Day Special
Batting phenomenon David Freitas carries a swaggering presence both inside and outside the Missions' clubhouse.
He stands 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, and everyone in the Pacific Coast League is well aware of his .366 average.
Off the field, Freitas is something of a teddy bear.
He relishes the moments when he can have a FaceTime discussion with his four-year-old son, Owen.
When Owen gets on the phone for a visit, he likes to tease his dad by hanging up, and then calling right back.
"He likes to get me riled up," Freitas said. "He likes my angry face. He thinks it's funny."
Lately, playing baseball seems as easy for Freitas as those long-distance games with Owen. In addition, that angry face seems downright frightening to the Reno Aces, at the moment.
Freitas unleashed a Father's Day special on Sunday, ripping double and a homer and producing a season-high four RBI as the Missions downed the Aces, 8-3.
On the homestand, Freitas is 6 for 13 at the plate, and the Missions have won four out of five games, including the last four in a row.
"He's totally got his own approach (to hitting)," Missions manager Rick Sweet said. "You remember Jeff Bagwell? He had a certain (style). Freitas is the same way. ... He uses his hands to hit better than anyone on the club."
In the early going against the Aces, the Missions didn't seem to bring much energy.
After playing nearly four hours and winning the series opener 5-4 in 12 innings late Saturday night, Freitas and friends arrived at the ball park before noon, and then took the field for a 2 p.m. game in mid-90s heat.
Reno pitcher Alex Young, a former TCU player, made them sweat a little more with an array of moving fastballs, sweeping curves and darting sliders.
As Young took charge, the Aces made it 2-0 off Aaron Wilkerson on solo homers by Abraham Almonte.
Freitas said he thinks the Missions' slow start stemmed from both the early game time and the pitching of Young.
"Obviously, you've got the quick turnaround between games," he said. "But, he was throwing us off a little bit. He was throwing a lot of breaking stuff early. We had to make an adjustment. If we didn't make an adjustment, he was going to get us."
In the bottom of the fifth, the Missions broke through, scoring four runs on five hits off Young.
Three of the first four batters reached base on hits, including a Nate Orf RBI single to left. One out later, a key play developed when speedy Cory Spangenberg beat out an infield single to load the bases.
The play set the stage for Freitas, who promptly unloaded with a one-hop double to the fence to score three runs.
Spangenberg put on a show by speeding around third and charging for home, sliding in ahead of a relay throw for a 4-2 Missions lead.
The Missions tacked on two more runs in the sixth, in the seventh, they added another on Freitas' fourth home run of the season.
His high drive to the left field berm made it 7-2.
It was the latest in a string of eye-opening performances this season for Freitas, a former major leaguer who has produced 33 RBI in 41 games for the Missions.
His at bats are always interesting. As he gets set, he digs in and drops the bat head slightly. Then, he uncorks a short, compact swing, usually resulting in solid contact.
"He has a plan," Sweet said. "He has an approach. He doesn't vary it. He doesn't change it, and that's why he's having the year that he's having."
Another reason for his success is his confidence as a 10th-year veteran. That, and a fierce determination to prove himself.
Freitas objected when he was told Saturday that he wouldn't be in the lineup for the next day's game.
"He said, 'I feel good. I want to swing the bat,' " Sweet said. "So, I went home and slept on it. Got up this morning and put him in the lineup. Smart move.
"Of course, (pitching coach) Fred Dabney and I are both afraid of him. You know, he might pinch our heads off. So, you know, maybe there's a little fear in there, too."
Freitas, who started the season at Triple-A Tacoma in the Mariners' organization, joined the Missions on April 14. The Brewers acquired the 30-year-old Californian in a deal for pitcher Sal Biasi.
He showed up to hit, and he hasn't slowed down.
"He's got a ton of big hits for us," Sweet said. "There isn't any doubt that having him in the middle of the lineup is a huge positive for us."
Soon after he joined the Missions, Freitas talked about how life on the move as a pro ball player can be challenging, especially for fathers of young children.
In addition, his wife, Kacee, is expecting the couple's second child next month.
Playing on Father's Day, he acknowledged that he thought about all of this a little bit more as he went through his pre-game routine.
Freitas said didn't get to talk to Owen before he left for the stadium Sunday morning. But, he said he planned to do some FaceTime later in the evening.
"I'm sure I'll get hung up on and called back plenty of times tonight," Freitas said.
American Southern Division - San Antonio 44-26, Round Rock 42-27, New Orleans 38-32, Oklahoma City 28-40.
Pacific Northern Division - Sacramento 36-33, Fresno 34-35, Tacoma 32-38, Reno 29-40.
The Missions host the Reno Aces on Monday and Tuesday, with both games at 7:05 p.m.
Zack Brown (1-4, 5.07) for San Antonio vs. Ricky Nolasco (0-0, 4.91).
In a duel with Reno's Ryan Young, Missions starter Aaron Wilkerson worked five innings and picked up the win, improving to 6-1 with a 1.79 earned run average.
"I threw OK," Wilkerson said. "I didn't really feel real good out there but I made it work. After that homer in the third, it was kind of damage control and trying to limit the runs the rest of the way."
Dubon, Orf lead the way
Mauricio Dubon and Nate Orf, the Nos. 1-2 batters in the lineup, had three hits apiece. It was Dubon's second three-hit day in a row. He is 6 for 11 in the two games against Reno and has raised his batting average to .307.
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