Battle Ground resident Don Freeman has had a passion for baseball since he started playing in the Cub Scouts in 1957. Like so many other starry-eyed youths, he had big dreams but a reality check set his life on a new course that made him a Hall of Famer in his own right.
“I wanted to be a professional baseball player. You know that’s what every kid wants,” Freeman said. “I couldn’t find a professional scout who agreed with me. Right out of the gate I knew I was going to be a coach eventually.”
And coach he has. From his first opportunity in 1972 as a gymnastics coach at Battle Ground High School (BGHS), continuing at Prairie High School (PHS) seven years later and adding a couple more sports along the way, Freeman then tried a brief stint at retirement and was then back at it in 2007 coaching baseball in Oregon for Hillsboro High School. He returned to Clark County in 2008 as Heritage High School’s baseball coach for three years. Sports is all about statistics so here’s the rundown; 38 years teaching high school, 35 years coaching gymnastics, 28 years coaching football and 30 years coaching baseball … and counting.
During his high school career, Freeman led the Prairie Falcons to state championships in 1986 and 1989. He was also the president of the Washington High School Baseball Coaches Association for 10 years. For his contribution to the sports and children he’s dedicated so much of his life to, Freeman was inducted into the Washington State Baseball Association Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Washington State Gymnastics Coaches Association (WSGCA) Hall of Fame in 2003.
While still coaching at PHS, Freeman led several student trips to Australia. After a teaching exchange program in the early 1980s, he returned from Australia excited to share the country with his players. From 1989 until he retired in 2004, Freeman figures he organized 10 trips comprised of baseball and gymnastics team members from PHS and BGHS, allowing over 140 student athletes to experience international sportsmanship.
Freeman was just the man to help reintroduce Clark College’s baseball program to the County after its 19-year lapse. He’s been their head baseball coach for the last four seasons.
With all the success he’s enjoyed stateside, Freeman caught the attention of Major League Baseball and USA Baseball. Back in 1999 he was asked by the National Federation of High School Athletics to be the pitching coach for USA Baseball’s under-16 team for the Pan American games in Monterrey, Mexico. His team earned gold in 2000 and silver in 2002.
In 2003, as the head coach for the under-16 team, they won the Youth National Team World Championships held in Taiwan. USA went on to win the World Championship title again in 2007 in Venezuela with Freeman as assistant coach and, in his first year coaching the Women’s National Team, they took the bronze in 2010.
“I was fortunate enough to do it (coach USA Baseball) five times and, when I was asked the first time, I thought I was the luckiest guy in the world,” Freeman said.
Commitments with USA Baseball kept opportunities to coach for Major League Baseball (MLB) at bay until 2009. Freeman is currently on his way to Germany for his fourth year representing America and coaching eager players in Europe. Past trips have been six weeks long but this year he agreed to stay on for eight. His primary focus is on coaching but he could be called upon to host school clinics and, in some areas of the world, envoys even help build ball fields and assemble teams.
“You’re meeting people from all over the world who love baseball and they’ll do anything for you and they really appreciate you taking your time to spend with them. It’s really a great experience,” Freeman said.