Junior LSU infielder Cole Freeman has played with a chip on his shoulder since he started playing competitive baseball.
The Mandeville native weighed less than 100 pounds entering his freshman year at Lakeshore High School, and he had his fair share of doubters when it came to the idea of living out his dream and playing for LSU.
But the doubters were wrong, and Freeman earned a scholarship to Delgado Community College in New Orleans, where he helped lead the Dolphins to two Junior College World Series appearances.
This year, “Cole Drank”, as teammates and fans call him, is a staple on the Tiger baseball team in his first season. He’s a key cog in the team’s quest for its second straight trip to the College World Series.
DIG caught up with Freeman to discuss some of the players who inspired him, who he’s pulling for in the NBA playoffs and more in this week’s edition of Talkin’ Tigers.
DIG: How did the “Cole Drank” nickname originate?
Cole Freeman: It was a nickname my dad gave me when I was younger. The nickname kind of stuck as time went on and my teammates and friends started calling me Cole Drank. As Twitter and Instagram blew up, I made it my user name on social media. Before you knew it, everyone was calling me Cole Drank and, eventually, just “Drank.” Everyone’s just gone with it.
DIG: How did you first get into baseball, and at what point in your life did you realize you could have a future in the sport?
CF: I started playing tee ball when I was four, pretty young. But it wasn’t till about eighth grade that I realized I could do something with [baseball]. My dreams were always bigger than people around me expected them to be. I was really undersized my freshman year. Going into it, I was 5’1, 97 pounds. I wasn’t even 100 pounds yet. I knew I wanted to come to LSU since the day I started playing baseball. That was my goal, and I kept plugging away. I played with a chip on my shoulder because people were always saying I wasn’t big enough, I wasn’t strong enough, I couldn’t hit the ball far enough. I let that motivate me, and luckily I had great coaches. My family always stuck by me, and I was able to end up here.
DIG: Are there any Major League Baseball players that you look up to?
CF: Dustin Pedroia (of the Boston Red Sox). One of the greatest second basemen in the game right now. Also, I got to meet Johnny Giavotella last fall and got to work out with him at the Duke Academy. I picked his brain a little bit. He’s about my size, maybe a little bit more muscular. Guys like him and Jose Altuve are great players. They’re starting to give smaller guys like me more looks. When they see a guy my size on the field, they’re like ‘Altuve, Giavotella and Pedroia are all doing great things at that size so maybe we should give him a chance’.
DIG: Do you have any type of pregame rituals, superstitions or routines?
CF: After BP I always have to sit by this trashcan with my back up against it. I tend to keep doing something if the team is winning. It’s not just me. But if we’re winning, I’m gonna wear the same sliders, put the tape on the same way, have the same grip on my bat. So if we’re winning I’ll keep doing stuff the same way.
DIG: Are you rooting for a certain team in this year’s NBA playoffs?
CF: I’m not a bandwagon fan, but I just really like Golden State. They really are fun to watch. I really like Steph Curry. Once again, he’s undersized. He went to Davidson. Everyone said he was too small or too weak. People thought he would get pushed around. He played with a chip on his shoulder, and he’s the best player in the NBA right now. I would have to say I’m rooting for the Warriors.
DIG: A lot of good players have come out of Delgado Community College including you and a couple of your teammates. Do you think Delgado is underrated as far as the talent that goes through there?
CF: I would say it’s a little underrated. The last five years or so [Delgado] has been up there, getting ranked No. 1. There’s a lot more people that need to end up doing what I did or what Cody Ducote did, go to [junior college] instead of getting wrapped up in the whole big D1 thing and possibly not playing for a year. You could sit out for a year and get bigger, faster, and stronger. But when you’re not playing the game, you’re not getting better. For me and my family, going there was the best decision of my entire life. They gave me the opportunity, and that’s why I’ve gotten to live my dream and play here.
DIG: What’s your all-time favorite hit on any level?
CF: I’d have to say it was during the regionals last year with Delgado. It was the championship game. If we won, we were going to the [Junior College] World Series. I had the game of my life hitting wise. I was five for five. I’m not a big home-run guy, but we were up by two in the top of the ninth, and I was able to pull it over the fence to kind of ice the game and solidify the lead. That topped off that day, and when I hit that, I knew I helped us punch our ticket to another World Series.
DIG: This LSU squad entered the season moderately young and had eight new every day players. Now that you’re a few months in, how do you think you guys have matured since opening weekend?
CF: It’s night and day. We’ve come through with two outs when we couldn’t get timely hits earlier [in the season]. We’ve gotten more runners on third with one outs or no outs, just buying into what coach Mainieri tells us every day. We’re taking advantage of more opportunities to score and getting it done. Our pitching’s been getting better and better, especially from the bullpen. If we could keep improving every month like coach says, we can hopefully make a deep run.
Photo courtesy of LSU Sports Information