Freeman, Beesley named player and coach of the year

Published 12:47 am Sunday, June 15, 2008

NATCHEZ — The player got a hit more than half the times he was at bat this season while serving as the leader of his district-winning team.

The coach lead his team to the South State Championship game and was one run away from playing for a state title.

For those reasons, and more, Trinity shortstop and pitcher Matthew Freeman and Cathedral coach Craig Beesley have been named The Natchez Democrat’s All-Metro Player and Coach of the Year.

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Freeman batted .548 with 33 RBIs at the plate and was 6-0 with a 3.72 ERA on the mound for the Saints, but his best quality might have been his leadership ability.

“My role was to be a leader and make sure everyone was focused and ready to play,” the recently graduated Freeman said. “I expected them to do what I was doing and lead by example.”

Trinity coach Matt Mason said that Freeman was one of the main cogs in the Saints success, which included a District 3-AA championship with a 10-1 district record.

“You could always count on him to work hard,” Mason said. “We just wanted the rest of the team to get on base and we could count on Matthew to drive them in. He had a lot of big hits for us this year.”

While Freeman’s athletic frame might lead you to believe he’s a slugger, he hit nary a home run this past year, but according to him, that was actually the key to his success.

“I quit trying to yank the ball and hit home runs,” Freeman said of his hitting success this past season. “I just hit the ball wherever it was pitched. This was the best season I’ve had.”

Freeman starred on the football gridiron and basketball court in addition to the baseball diamond for the Saints, but said baseball is who he is.

He hasn’t decided on a college yet, but said he would likely attend Copiah-Lincoln Community College and play baseball there.

But wherever he goes, Mason said that he will be missed at Trinity.

“Matthew is a winner,” Mason said. “We’re going to miss his winning attitude. He brought a lot to the table.”

While Freeman was batting balls all over the park for Trinity, Cathedral coach Craig Beesley was coolly directing the Green Wave to the South State finals.

Cathedral made a cardiac run through the playoffs — at one point winning three consecutive games by a single run — before the ride finally ended in a 3-2 loss to West Lincoln in Game 3 of the South State championship series.

“We really came together as a team,” Beesley said of the Green Wave, who finished the season with a 24-7 record. “We had a bunch of kids who knew their role and did what they had to do to win.”

Beesley said the team atmosphere was the reason Cathedral was able to pull out so many close wins in the playoffs.

“We had someone else step up for us every game,” Beesley said. “We really played well when the game was on the line.”

Beesley said his coaching style was to let the players alone early in the game and then start managing a little tighter as the game goes along.

“Early in the game I try to let the kids play on their own,” Beesley said. “After about the fourth inning is when I start making some decisions like hit-and-run, bunt and the like.”

Beesley, who won the All-Metro Player of the Year 20 years ago, said nothing was quite like playing, but coaching this team was almost as good.

“I’d do anything to be playing again,” he said. “But it was a joy to be coaching kids that love the game as much as these guys do. It was fun being around the ballpark with them.”

Although Beesley was the one being honored for his coaching ability, he reflected the praise to his team.

“All the glory has to go back to the kids,” he said. “Without them playing as well as they did, I wouldn’t be the coach of the year. It’s great to receive the honor but it all goes back to the kids. The only thing I had trouble with was filling out the lineup card.”