Freed says he didn’t want to regret passing up opportunity to play in Canada
Jackson Freed, a senior catcher at Franklin College, remembers game four of the Western Division Finals in the Western Major Baseball League well.
As he walked up to bat for the Medicine Hat Mavericks, he heard 4,000 fans in Alberta, Canada, chant two words over and over again.
“Jackson sucks! Jackson sucks! Jackson sucks!”
As he stepped into the batter’s box, he saw his teammates on the first and third bases. When the pitcher threw the ball, he swung and hit a line drive to second. The player on third scored, and the entire crowd went silent.
Freed said it was an unreal moment—one he will never forget.
His journey to Medicine Hat started when the Franklin College baseball team’s assistant coach Grant Beling asked him and senior infielder Frank Podkul if they would like to play on a college summer team.
“He asked if we were interested in playing in Canada, and said he needed to know by tomorrow,” Freed said. “So, I called my parents, and my dad said, ‘Absolutely, I think you should.’ I realized that 10 years down the road, I might regret not doing this, so I said absolutely.”
When he arrived in the Medicine Hat locker room, he said it was a completely different atmosphere.
“They treated us like professional ball players, which was super cool coming from a Division III program,” Freed said.
Most of Freed’s teammates were from colleges in Texas, California, Alabama and Canada, to name a few.
“We had to really understand who the guys were in the first few practices before we started playing,” he said.
Freed said the experience that meant the most to him was the game he played July 16—the four-year anniversary of his aunt’s death.
Freed had been in a batting slump up until this point, and on his fourth at bat, he blasted his farthest home run that season. He dedicated the homer in memory of his aunt.
Lance Marshall, head coach for Franklin College’s baseball team, said he thinks sending players to different teams during the summer improves their skills.
“We have had many players play in different leagues around the country,” Marshall said. “It’s a great opportunity for guys to learn. It’s a very similar experience to the professionals.”
Marshall said he is not the only one decides where Franklin College players compete during the summer program.
“Sometimes we try to find a place for the players to play, but the teams also call here and ask for players to come to their teams,” Marshall said.
Of all the things that Freed learned in Canada, one skill he said he hopes to bring back to the Grizzlies is confidence.
“What we need to understand here at Franklin is that we have really good players. We just have to believe in ourselves. When we believe that, we can come every day to the ballpark and play to the best of our abilities.”