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oakley dispatch Former South Alabama baseball star is no longer playing for his hometown St. Louis Cardinals, but he still might be keeping a little of St. Louis close to his heart. Since his trade to the Los Angeles Angels, Freese has changed his uniform number from 23 to 6. The number 6 has been retired by the Cardinals in honor of Stan Musial. "It's obviously something that crossed my mind, being a Cardinal and being around Stan," . "It's just an honor to kind of wear his number. I don't think I look at it and not think about him, for sure." Freese joined the Angels on Nov. 22, when Los Angeles swapped outfielder Peter Bourjos and minor-leaguer Randal Grichuck for the third baseman and pitcher Fernando Salas. Freese, who grew up near St. Louis in Wildwood, Mo., had played all 466 games of his big league career with the Cardinals. Freese is friendly with members of Musial's family and saw Musial frequently at Busch Stadium before the Hall of Famer's death in January 2013. "Just to wear his number is an honor," , "and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be around him when he'd come to the field. Going to his wake, that was a tough thing. ... It was a blessing to be around a guy like Stan and understand what he was all about." The third baseman and the Angels open their 2014 Cactus League season on Friday when they host the Chicago Cubs in Tempe, Ariz. Freese has changed numbers previously in his big league career. He wore the number 12 in his first few games when he broke in with the Cardinals during the 2009 season, but soon switched to 23. Freese wore the number 27 when he played for South Alabama in 2005 and 2006. He led the Jaguars to NCAA Regional appearances in both seasons and topped the team in batting average and RBIs each year. Freese hit .373 in 2005 and .414 in 2006 for the Jags, and his .394 career batting average is the second-highest in USA history. His 99 hits during the 2006 season remain second on the school single-season list, and his 73 RBIs in 2006 are still third in the USA record book. The Angels are hoping to rebound from a 78-84 showing in 2013 with bounce-back seasons from Freese and Albert Pujols, another former Cardinal. Pujols starred for St. Louis for 12 seasons before signing with Los Angeles last year. But injuries limited him to 99 games for the Angels in 2013. "From the first step I took in the (Angels') clubhouse, he was already here," of Pujols. "He's showed me the ropes for the first few days. He's gone out of his way to help me, which is cool." During the 2013 season, the Angels' third basemen hit a total of eight home runs. After hitting 20 home runs and making the National League All-Star team during the 2012 season, Freese hit nine home runs last season, when he hit .262 - 31 points lower than he'd ever hit in his MLB career. Freese started the 2013 season on the disabled list because of a back ailment that developed during spring training. "It was just a rough year," . "It was downhill from the beginning, but I grinded through it, and we did what we did to get to the postseason. I'm ready to go, and I think people will see it." Freese reached the World Series last season with the Cardinals, who lost to the Boston Red Sox in six games. Freese was the MVP of St. Louis' 2011 World Series victory over the Texas Rangers.