IN FOCUS: Cole Freeman
Communications Student Assistant
Can Cole Freeman hit? That’s what LSU head coach Paul Mainieri was wondering when he started recruiting Freeman from Delgado Community College in New Orleans. Mainieri recalls that now and thinks that it’s funny that he was ever worried about whether or not Freeman could hit consistently.
Since he joined the Tigers last season, that’s what the second baseman has been doing. Hitting. During his junior season - his first as a Tiger - Freeman led the team in batting with an average of .329. He did the same thing in his summer league, batting .374 in the Cape Cod League. There’s much more to Freeman than just being a superb hitter, though.
Coming out of high school, Freeman didn’t receive a lot of baseball interest from many schools including LSU, his dream school. He never dreamed of wearing any other jersey except the purple and gold one that said “Tigers” across the chest.
“Once I got into high school I told all of my friends that I would play for LSU,” he explained.
He didn’t get that chance right away and that motivated him to be better. He started off his college career at Delgado. Freeman says the decision to go to Delgado was one of the best decisions of his life and that he owes everything to those coaches for helping get him to where he is today.
Once he excelled at Delgado, Freeman was offered a spot on the LSU team. He jumped at the opportunity. Quickly, he became a leader and a top performer on the squad.
After being doubted throughout his baseball career because of his small stature, it seemed as though Freeman was finally being recognized for his performance. With his work ethic, he has been able to show, time and time again, that his size doesn’t matter.
Freeman’s close friend and double-play partner in the middle infield, shortstop Kramer Robertson, said, “He obviously doesn’t have tremendous size or anything, but he makes up for it in his work ethic and his will to be successful.”
The combination of results and work ethic got Freeman selected in last summer’s MLB Draft. He knew that he wanted to come back to LSU, though.
“I just felt like it wasn’t time to leave,” Freeman said. “It didn’t feel right. If it would have felt right to start my professional career I would have, but it would’ve felt forced. I knew I could be a part of something special here and being able to wear the No. 8 was a big deal.”
Jersey No. 8 is a very prestigious number in LSU baseball lore. Jake Fraley wore it last year, Alex Bregman wore it the prior year. Mikie Mahtook and Mason Katz have also donned the No. 8 jersey at LSU.
It means the world to Freeman to be associated with players of that stature, especially since he grew up watching them play, dreaming to be in their position one day.
There’s something special about the way Freeman plays the game of baseball. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s always been undersized, and he knew the only way to reach the top was by taking no pitches off. Or maybe, his passion for the game just burns that deep.
“I’ve dedicated my whole life to playing baseball,” Freeman explained. “I’ve never considered it a sacrifice because I enjoy it so much. I don’t consider waking up early to go hit or take ground balls work. It’s an obsession and I enjoy it so much.”
He also enjoys pressure. One of the reasons Freeman likes playing second base is because in the middle infield, he can have an impact on the game on every play. Last year, he played third base some and he did a good job, but he said he didn’t feel at home there because he wasn’t as immersed in the action.
“I didn’t feel like I was doing the most I could to help the team at third base,” Freeman said. “It’s just a mindset that you want to get it done and you want the ball hit to you. You want to be that person that makes the play. If you don’t have that mindset, it is going to be tough to play middle infield.”
A member of the 2016 SEC All-Defensive team, Freeman has made a huge impact with his glove. That was expected when he came here. The big question mark about Freeman for Mainieri was his bat. How would Cole Freeman do inside the batter’s box?
“We weren’t sure how much he was going to hit, and that seems kind of hilarious when you think about it now with what he’s been able to accomplish,” Mainieri laughed.
The little kid who had big dreams of being a Tiger is now living them out, and his impact will be felt at LSU for a long time, not just because of his play, but also because of his work ethic and mindset.
“I want to do whatever I can to help the team win,” Freeman said. “I want to respect the game, and I want to play the game the right way and get after it.”