The New Old Guys: Don’t go sleeping on the bullpen bandit

Senior righty Logan Freeman has become a key piece in the Baylor bullpen after transferring from McLennan Community College and going trough an injury. DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor

By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor

Getting thrown into the rodeo in the middle of a bull ride isn’t an ideal situation.

Halfway through the 2019 baseball season, Baylor was holding on tight to the top spot in the Big 12 standings. They had all the right pieces: dominant pitching, a veteran lineup, a solid defense led by a Gold Glove-winning backstop.

Logan Freeman was going to have to play catchup. The transfer from McLennan Community College had been dealing during fall ball, but suffered an injury in his foot right before spring, leaving him indisposed through the first half of the season.

“Injuries are never fun and a lot of the time, not easy to deal with, and for me, that’s the first time that I’d been through that experience. It’s not an injury that you can work through,” Freeman said. “It’s like, you’re in a boot, and you’re on crutches for eight weeks. You’re not able to do anything necessarily baseball related.”

It took time for Freeman to get back in pitching shape, working with the coaching and training staff during his recovery, something he said he’ll always be grateful for because they stuck with him through the whole ordeal. He’d often just play catch, his knee braced on a scooter, his good leg keeping him steady.

“There’s a lot of things that go through your mind, as far as when I come back: What will it be like? How’s it going to feel? Is there any tenderness into, you know, the injury itself? Was my foot going to hurt? Stuff like that that you ask yourself,” Freeman said. “I just had to put all my faith in the man upstairs, the coaching staff and the training staff to get me back to where I needed to be. And, you know, it was definitely something that made me a better player, fighting through adversity and coming back from that was something that I’d never been through.”

Logan Freeman speaks about appreciating the trust that pitching coach Jon Strauss has placed on the veteran pitchers. 

Finally, on April 14, 2019, when the Bears were fighting to win the series over Oklahoma, the JUCO transfer got his first taste of Division I baseball, throwing 1.2 innings against the Sooners and allowing just one hit in what would be an epic extra-inning walk-off win for Baylor.

But starting in the middle of the conference season was a challenge, especially in trying to figure out what his role was to the team. Freeman had been a starter for most of his career, but because of the circumstances, he found himself with a spot out of the bullpen.

“What I know now, you know, being able to throw from the beginning, [was that] it was much different,” Freeman said. “It was definitely difficult to try to find a role in the middle of that season when you got guys like Kyle Hill and Luke Boyd that are pitching their tail off, so it was definitely different.”

Freeman made eight appearances out of the pen in 2019, tallying 10 strikeouts over 11.1 innings, which included four scoreless outings and a five-strikeout performance against Sam Houston two days after his Baylor debut.

Logan Freeman has primarily worked out of the bullpen during his career at Baylor after being a starter at MCC. The senior only gave up one hit during the 2020 season and is one of the Bears' go-to set-up guys this season. DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
Logan Freeman has primarily worked out of the bullpen during his career at Baylor after being a starter at MCC. The senior only gave up one hit during the 2020 season and is one of the Bears’ go-to set-up guys this season. DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor

Better a Big Fish in a Small Pond

Junior college bus rides are the stuff of legend. Ask any JUCO bandit, and he’ll confirm it for you. But what do you expect when you’re on a bus for two days on your way to compete for a national title?

“It was my freshman year of college, and it was incredible,” Freeman said. “Up until being able to go to the regional my junior year here, it was probably the coolest baseball experience that I had been a part of. It was an 18-hour bus ride to Grand Junction, Co. We stopped one time, when we stopped. It was a two day trip, nine hours a day, each day. But it was a really cool experience. You get to go up there with those guys and compete for a national championship, regardless of level, so that experience is one that I’ll cherish forever and never be able to forget.”

Logan Freeman talks about learning the ropes of being a reliever from his fellow bullpen pitchers.

After growing up in Buffalo, just an hour away from Waco, Freeman found it easier to transition into a smaller college rather than into a four-year university. It allowed him to adjust to college life as well as the college game at a different pace than at a bigger program like Baylor’s.

“I mean, you’re going into a place where you don’t have the bells and whistles that you have where I’m at now, here at Baylor,” Freeman said. “That experience made me really thankful for what I have now and the opportunity we’re presented with here at Baylor and what we’re provided with, and all that. It’s actually made me really thankful to have to work for everything that I’ve done into where I’m at now.

“That transition out of high school, it’s not easy. I think, for me, it worked better that I was at a smaller school with not as many people, coming from a small town in Buffalo, Texas. And it gave me a chance to get used to the college experience. you know, instead of jumping in head over heels at a giant university with a bunch of people. Kind of gave me a chance to, you know, wind things out and know what the college feels like.”

Freeman had stellar numbers coming out of Buffalo High School, hitting .390 and pitching 0.93 with a 9-1 record. He was District 23-3A MVP, first-team all-district in both baseball and football as well as first-team academic all-state. At MCC, Freeman started 10 games as a freshman, posting a 6-1 record with a 5.01 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 55.2 innings. As a sophomore, he made 11 starts with a 3-1 record, a 6.85 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 47.1 innings.

Having been in Waco for two years and being so close to his hometown, the move to Baylor was easy.

“I’m comfortable here,” Freeman said. “It felt like home, so it made that transition and that decision all the more easier for me.”

The 6-foo-1 righty from Buffalo graduated with a BBA in supply chain management and is currently in Baylor's sports management masters program. DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
The 6-foo-1 righty from Buffalo graduated with a BBA in supply chain management and is currently in Baylor’s sports management masters program. DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor

In the Bullpen Business

Unlike the rest of the New Old Guys, Freeman wasn’t a part of the staff during the era of the original Old Guys. But that didn’t mean he didn’t learn a thing or two from their legacy, picking up on what life in relief was like from his fellow bullpen arms. At the start of 2020, Freeman had finally settled into being a reliever.

“He was never really there [in 2019], because he kind of got thrown in the mix right in the middle of the season, and he just kind of wasn’t ready and so the next year, last year, he was ready, and he pitched to his capabilities,” pitching coach Jon Strauss said. “He didn’t give up a run. He’s mature, he knows what he’s doing, he’s self aware, and he’s got all the intangibles that you would want from an older guy coming out of the bullpen.”

In 2020, Freeman made nine relief appearances, giving up just one hit in 9.1 innings, and earned a win in the Shriner’s College Classic against Missouri. He was on his way to a stellar senior campaign as one of the set-up guys for closer Luke Boyd.

“Logan’s the type of guy where it took him some time again to figure out what type of pitcher he is because he just started his whole life,” Boyd said. “And he just goes in there, throws every single pitch 100%, as we all should.”

But just as the Bears were settling in and getting ready for conference to come around once more, the world came to a halt. Losing another season to adverse circumstances out of his control was not something that had crossed Freeman’s mind.

“It was definitely difficult to deal with as a senior,” Freeman said. “Your senior year is what you worked so hard for. You don’t have that senior campaign where, you know, it’s one for the books and I guess it was a relief to hear when they decided to give us all another year of eligibility.”

It took some thinking and a few insightful conversations with some former teammates before Freeman made the official decision to return. He had just earned an undergraduate degree in supply chain management and wondered what the next step was. But he knew he wanted to keep playing baseball for as long as he could.

“Everyone told me ‘Play as long as you can because when it’s over, it’s over.’ You know, Richard Cunningham told me, ‘I’d give anything to go back for another year,'” Freeman said. “Those are things that I definitely took into consideration and the coaches laid out a pretty, a pretty nice path for us guys that wanted to come back. And it was almost impossible to say no. So, we’re here.”

Here being a 3.48 ERA over nine appearances during the 2021 campaign, finally getting the chance at donning the green and gold for a full season.

“Being able to trust him going in before me,” Boyd said, “it’s a nice knowing that he’s got very high chances of getting the job done.”

Logan Freeman talks about joining the sports management program and what that could mean for him in the future.