Every time he steps into the batting box, Kolton Freeman ’23 has a routine: He looks at the skyline of trees in the distance and imagines they are the modern houses of his hometown of Laguna Beach, California.
“It brings me back to center a little bit and calms me down,” Freeman said.
Freeman, captain of the baseball team, swears by this routine. His decision to reclass means he’ll step up to the batting box for another year. Although Freeman was admitted with the Class of 2023, he will graduate with the Class of 2024 to gain eligibility for an additional baseball season, giving him the opportunity to leave an even more lasting impact on the baseball program.
Like many Big Green athletes, Freeman had baseball seasons impacted by COVID-19. During his sophomore year, Freeman said that the athletic department failed to reevaluate player eligibility regulations, which meant that athletes did not receive extra time to make up for the seasons lost due to the pandemic.
According to Freeman, if student-athletes chose to continue taking classes at an Ivy League school while their sports season was canceled due to the pandemic, they would not qualify for an additional year of eligibility.
“I wanted to play all four years here obviously, and [that wouldn’t] work out with COVID,” Freeman said.
Due to Dartmouth’s COVID-19 protocols, Freeman was only allowed to be on campus during the winter and summer terms of his sophomore year. Since these terms did not include the spring baseball season, Freeman talked with Coach Whalen, and they decided that Freeman would take the 2020 fall term off in hopes that the regular baseball season would play out.
A few months later in February 2021, the Ivy League decided baseball would not have a proper season for the second year in a row. Freeman then made the decision to reclass.
“I want to spend as much time here as possible playing baseball because that’s what I came here to do,” Freeman said.
During his year off between the 2020-2021 school year, he competed in an indoor league, adding that he viewed his time away from Dartmouth as time to get stronger for his upcoming years on his college team.
“I played in an indoor facility league and had a job on the side, but things didn't get better [with COVID-19],” Freeman said.
According to Freeman’s teammates, Freeman’s work ethic and passion for the team made him a clear choice for one of two captains alongside Trystan Sarcone ‘22, who also reclassed.
“It was really honestly a huge honor,” Freeman said. “[Baseball] is such a big part of my life, and I knew it was going to be.”
Freeman said being captain fulfills a goal that he established as a first year student at the College.
“[I thought] one day, I want to lead this team, and it's going to be so special,” Freeman said as he reflected on his vision for the future as a freshman.
Nico Bañez ’26, a freshman on the baseball team, noted that Freeman’s leadership style makes him and the other freshmen feel more at home.
“On and off the field, I could feel his leadership since my official visit… at the time he wasn’t captain but his actions felt like it,” Bañez said. “From day zero, when he Zoomed the freshman class before orientation week, to having dinner with us on the first week, he’s [helped] us fit right in.”
Freeman said he has made it a priority to build relationships with his teammates on and off the field. He added that his favorite activity outside of baseball is playing Wii with his teammates at his off-campus house, joking that he takes it too seriously.
Milo Suarez ’26 confirmed that team bonding happens beyond the baseball field.
“During the fraternity ban period, [we] enjoyed going [to Freeman’s house] to get to know the team and our captains,” Suarez said.
Freeman’s role as captain has been no easy feat throughout this season, characterized by difficult losses. Despite their overall 1-31 record this season, the team has come together and focused on sportsmanship.
“This team is special because everyone can hold each other accountable and everyone can pick each other up,” Freeman said. “It's so unbelievably confusing, because we're so much better than what the record says.”
Bañez noted that the little things he does with Freeman have really helped, including outfield training drills where they both get extra defensive practice together. Bañez is happy that Freeman will be around for another year of his Dartmouth experience.
“Always great to keep a hitter in the lineup, and have another year to learn from him, too,” Bañez said.