Baseball: Rich Central’s Justin Freeman a chip off the pitching block
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org April 8, 2014 9:52PM
Justin Freeman, of Rich Central | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 10, 2014 6:35AM
There never was much doubt when he was growing up that Justin Freeman was going to play baseball and become a pitcher.
Freeman’s father, Marvin, pitched in the big leagues for 10 years.
“I’ve never played any other sport,” Justin, a senior at Rich Central, said. “I’ve been playing baseball for 14 years.”
At one point Justin, who stands 6-foot-4 and tips the scales at 198 pounds, played some third base and first base.
However, since entering Rich Central, he’s focused primarily on pitching.
And why wouldn’t he?
In 1984, his father was the Philadelphia Phillies’ second-round draft pick. Two years later, the elder Freeman was in the big leagues. He went on to pitch for four major league teams, compiling a 35-28 record, including a career-best 10-2 in 1994 with the Colorado Rockies.
Justin acknowledges the benefits of having a father with big-league pitching experience. His dad has been his pitching coach most of his life, including the past four years at Rich Central. However, there are times when father and son are not on the same page when it comes to getting batters out.
“I feel like I have a couple of steps ahead of the other pitchers because of my father,” Justin said. “We have our disagreements, but I always end up folding and doing what he says. He knows what he’s talking about and his advice is only going to help me.”
Justin relies on a fastball consistently in the upper 80s (mph), along with a slider, curveball and changeup. In 2013, he was 6-1 with a 1.14 ERA.
Rich Central has won more than 20 games the past four seasons, though regular-season success hasn’t translated to the playoffs.
Justin is confident that will change this season.
“This will be the year we make a long playoff run,” he said. “We have three quality pitchers and we can hit. We just need to make the plays in the field.”
While baseball has been a major focus in Justin’s life, so have academics. Justin boasts a 3.68 GPA, scored a 27 on the ACT and is a member of the National Honor Society. He will attend Southern University in the fall. Marvin Freeman attended Jackson State.
“Education is first in the Freeman household,” Justin said, with a laugh. “Without education I wouldn’t be able to play baseball.”
While Justin is excited to begin his college career, he realizes the familiar face of his father inside the dugout will be missing.
“That’s going to take a while to get used to,” Justin said of not having his dad around. “But at the same time, I’m excited about it, too. It’s a new start for me. But I know if something’s not right (pitching), my dad’s taught me how to make adjustments and correct things.”