Edgewood's Freeman voted county coach of the year

Edgewood head baseball coach Sean Freeman watches the action during the Division III Niles District baseball championship game against Champion at Niles in May. Freeman was voted as the county coach of the year for the 2019 baseball season.

It was roughly a decade ago when Sean Freeman had back surgery. He had two vertebrae removed from his spine.

"It changed my life," the 1990 Pymatuning Valley graduate said. "No normal activity without a good amount of pain for years and still on going. Not a day goes by I don’t deal with it, so was even scared to coach for the pain involved with it."

He went to his alma mater for a fundraiser to put lights at the football stadium on a cold November night. One of the coaches there that night was Ken Parise, his high school football coach.

"I was a quarterback," Freeman said. "He was always tough on me."

The two talked.

Freeman mentioned to Parise he should get back into coaching.

"I could tell he loved being out there," Freeman said. "It was months later he called and said he thought about it. He put his name in (at Edgewood as football coach) and wanted me to coach with him. We had a big win at Niles, that win meant a lot to Kenny. His dad was very ill at the time and there to watch one last time.

"Even after I stepped away from coaching with him, he still kept suggesting I put my name in for the baseball job if it opened up."

It did open up and Freeman took over as Warriors head coach prior to the 2018 season. In his second season, he guided the team to a Division III regional semifinal appearance. It was Edgewood's first regional trip since 2015.

For the 2019 season, Freeman was selected as county coach of the year by the coaches.

Edgewood finished the season 15-9 and won three tournament games, including knocking off top-seeded Champion for the district title at Niles.

"It's not something you think about when you go about your business," Freeman said of winning the honor. "You look back and you're so appreciative. It's something that if I can help, it's a great honor."

The Warriors opened the season on an ominous note with a 10-0 loss to Newton Falls.

"We knew the potential was there," Freeman said. "I talked to a couple of the leaders and said, 'Guys you're the core. You can't wait for the weather to get hot.' We kept the message we could be something special if we believed in ourselves."

Edgewood had its ebbs and flows during the season. Players were injured. Games were lost, including two to eventual All-American Conference Blue Tier winner Champion.

But there were also wins, including 8-2 over Grand Valley and 7-4 over Jefferson. Frank Sloan pitched a perfect game against Brookfield in an 11-0 win in April.

"We beat a good Grand Valley team, which was one win away from going to state a year ago," Freeman said. "We saw the growth. We want to play good baseball and do something good every game. We ended games with double plays, diving plays."

In a four-game stretch, the Warriors scored 61 runs.

"That was the confidence-builder we needed," Freeman said.

Edgewood finished second in the AAC after Champion.

The Division III postseason arrived. The Warriors opened with a 3-0 win over Berkshire, which set up a second meeting against GV.

In a district semifinal on May 20, Edgewood tallied five runs in the sixth inning to post a 6-3 win over the Mustangs in Niles.

That win sent the Warriors into the district final against Champion again.

Champion held a 5-4 lead until the top of the sixth.

Once again, the Warriors struck for five runs, led Chris Morici's grand slam, and they eventually went on to claim a district trophy with a 10-5 decision.

Edgewood advanced to the Massillon Regional and went against Canton Central Catholic. After weather postponed the semifinal game a day, CCC ended the Warriors season with a 7-3 win.

"A lot of the credit goes to the kids," Freeman said. "They are the ones that step on the field, swing the bat and make the plays."

For Freeman, he comes from a family of athletes. His father, Paul Freeman, is in the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation County Hall of Fame. His two brothers and sister also played basketball.

In fact, Freeman's sister, Renee Drake, was inducted into the ACBF Hall of Fame in April.

"It's something that was in our family," Freeman said of athletics. "That's kind of how it was. My parents went to the regional games. It was neat for them to see it."

Sean was also a basketball and baseball player at PV.

Edgewood’s field was where Freeman had a tryout back in high school to make a travel team. He hit a home run off Geneva great and former Major Leaguer Brian Anderson 30-plus years ago. The coach of that traveling team was Bill Lipps — who Freeman replaced as coach at Edgewood. 

Freeman ended up playing baseball at Kent State. He was part of three Mid-American Conference championships and drafted by the Detroit Tigers.

Freeman was part of a Jacksonville Suns team that won a Double AA championship for the Tigers in 1996. An injury cut his career short.

Now, he works at an assisted living facility. He coaches quarterbacks at PV and watches his son, Daniel, 10, play sports.

For Sloan, Freeman made sure the Warriors were ready to go, especially toward the end when they made the regional run.

"He had a professional pitcher (Tom Kindler, Freeman's teammate at Kent who was drafted in the seventh round by the San Diego Padres) come to pitch for us before our tournament game, which helped out a lot to see that faster pitching before we had to see it in a game," said Sloan, who is going to school and play collegiately at Lake Erie College. "He made sure we did the little things right in practice, which helped us win more games that were really close.

"I can remember a couple of games where it came down to the wire and a good bunt helped us score to win the game."