FREDERICK, Md. - The Single-A Potomac Nationals have four players on the active roster for the Northern Division All-Stars in tonight’s Carolina League All-Star Classic.
P-Nats second baseman Cole Freeman, a fourth-round selection from 2017 out of LSU, is thrilled to be selected for tonight’s contest. He is starting at second base and batting seventh in the lineup.
“It’s a massive honor,” Freeman said. “When you break spring training, this is one of the goals as a player you have. Especially for me coming off last year, really my first half really didn’t get off to the start I wanted to. Got to see a couple of my teammates go to All-Star Game in Low-A. I’m just truly honored to be here with all these great guys and get to talk to them and have some fun tonight.”
Freeman boasts elite speed, with 16 stolen bases already this season, but admitted he had a gap of games without a theft these last few weeks.
“Honestly, I think I went almost a month without a bag till this last series (when) I finally got two,” Freeman said. “My biggest thing is everyone knows I can run, but I want to be smarter when I’m running. I want those caught stealings to be as low as possible. I don’t want to run just to run.”
Freeman has been caught stealing only three times this season, for a .842 success rate. That is a better mark to begin this season. In 2018, he was 42-for-53 in stolen bases (.792).
“I got off to a better start this year than last year,” he said. “It’s just being more smarter with stealing bags and reading pitchers and mainly in certain counts when off speed’s coming.”
Freeman, 24, credits teammate and fellow All-Star, 23-year-old Aldrem Corredor, for making it almost unnecessary to get to second base because of Venezuelan’s big bat.
“We got a guy here, Corredor, (who has) been hitting behind me, he’s leading the league in RBIs. And another thing, I’m in scoring position when he’s up and I’m at first base,” Freeman said. “Also, he’s a lefty, so I want to leave that hole open. There’s a lot of times when I’m on first base and I could probably go get the bag, but I don’t want to because it could help him out a lot.”
Corredor is 6 foot, 202 lbs., out of Miranda, Venezuela. He has 18 doubles, six homers and 47 RBIs in 64 games. He is batting sixth as the designated hitter in tonight’s lineup. Freeman appreciates having Corredor on his team.
“First off, he is an awesome person, an awesome guy,” Freeman said. “He’s got one of the prettiest swings you’ll see. Once you get on base, when he is up, you know you have a chance. It’s honestly fun being on the bases, watching him hit, watching him work counts. We have done a lot of hit and runs this year. I think it’s amazing his barrel control. He’s able to swing at any pitch, having to put it in play and how many times it’s worked for us tremendous. He is a heckuva talent. It’s going to be fun to play with him in an All-Star game.”
Joining Freeman and Corredor is outfielder Nick Banks, who is batting leadoff and playing right field tonight. The Texas A&M product is a 2016 fourth-round selection for the Nationals and has been on a hot streak at the plate: .405 (17-for-42) with two homers and 10 RBIs in his last nine games.
“Really, it was starting off slow this season, made some adjustments since early on and ever since I made that adjustment it just kind of clicked,” Banks said. “It’s been going pretty well since May. Everything is clicking right now, hoping to keep it clicking.”
Banks echoed Freeman’s thoughts as he looked around Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium prior to batting practice.
“It’s a big honor, especially with the best players in this league,” Banks said. “It’ll be fun to compete against them. I’ve known some of the guys since I was eight, nine years old. It’ll be nice to play with them again.”
The elder statesman, or at least the player with the most experience in the Nats system, catcher Jakson Reetz is also an All-Star. He’s only 23, but has 345 minor league games under his belt.
“I’ve grown a lot. I’ve been in the organization since I was 18 years old,” Reetz said. “I’ve learned a lot of stuff every single year, had new teammates, but I’ve grown as a person and as a player a lot in the last couple of months. Just continually trying to keep going and keep growing.”
Reetz said manager Tripp Keister and his staff have played a major role in his development.
“Absolutely. Tripp is the manager, but he’s also a great friend,” Reetz said. “He’s been really beneficial for me the last couple of years playing for him. Our whole coaching staff has. Sam Narron, our pitching coach, Luis Ordaz, our hitting coach, and our strength coach last year was Gabe Torres and this year it’s Shane Hill. They’ve done a great job of helping me get to what I want to do.”
Reetz said his focus as the catcher is to be the captain on the field and make sure the pace of the game is going the P-Nats preferred pace, committing to the pitcher and his focus to get hitters out.
“The biggest thing for me is leadership back there,” Reetz said. “Game management back there is the biggest thing that I worry about. Continually trying to get better with my receiving, my throwing, my blocking. All stuff that you have to do as a catcher. Keep trying to get better at that every day.”
Reetz is batting ninth in tonight’s starting lineup.
Right-hander Andrew Lee was also named an All-Star but is not participating.