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How Being A Utility Player Shaped Sam Freeland's Career

sam freeland photo by marist athletics.jpg
(Photo by Marist Athletics)

Sam Freeland is a senior for Marist College playing at the Division I level of college softball.

As a multi-position player, Freeland has faced many shakeups in her college softball career. Coming out of high school, Freeland was the Delaware Gatorade Softball Player of the Year in 2019 at shortstop, but never limited herself to just one position. As she acclimated to the Division I level, Freeland found herself jumping from position to position every season and became a true utility player for the Red Foxes.

Seeing time in both the outfield and the infield throughout her collegiate career, Freeland had her best season yet in 2022, when she hit .306 with a .358 on-base percentage and only three errors in 110 chances defensively. Freeland looks to find her rhythm this season and use her well-rounded skills to help bring Marist back to the NCAA Tournament.

Softball America caught up with Freeland to learn more about her role as a utility player, the mentality she has and other crucial parts of her softball career to date.

Softball America: Why did you choose to play at Marist College and what is it like playing softball at the Division I level?

Sam Freeland: I chose to further my education and softball career at Marist because it has great academic programs, a beautiful campus and is a smaller school that accommodates students with small class sizes. I saw Marist’s softball program was successful within their conference and I wanted to be able to have the opportunity to be a part of that team dynamic and play in the NCAA Tournament.

Division I sports are very competitive, which is something I have always wanted to be a part of. Playing at the Division I level has allowed me to understand the game like I never thought I could. It is tough playing a Division I sport and trying to keep up with classes and maintain a good social life. Personally, I am studying biology, and during the season we are on the road three to four times out of the week, which is tough. Though it’s a little stressful at times, it has helped me improve my time management skills and organizational skills.

SA: You went through multiple position changes since you got to college. What was that experience like?

SF: It all started with travel ball for me in experiencing playing different positions. The Delaware Cobras coaching staff taught us to understand the importance of playing multiple positions from a young age. My entire team would practice both infield and outfield drills, which enhanced our abilities.

During my high school and travel careers, I was primarily at shortstop, but I got to play different outfield positions as well as second and third base, which really gave me different perspectives on the field. At Marist, I’ve played second, short, third and all outfield positions, which has been a great experience.

SA: You also went through a major injury prior to entering college. How did that help shape your mentality around softball?

SF: Breaking my arm my junior year of high school definitely gave me a different perspective on how the game works. I always understood the IQ of softball because my dad is a coach, but not being able to play opened my eyes to how the game really works. Obviously, I would have done anything to get back on the field playing with my teammates and it was devastating not being able to contribute, but learning a different side of the game has helped my mentality.

SA: As both a slapper and hitter, you’re able to take many different approaches to your at-bats. How have you used that to your advantage?

SF: As both a slapper and hitter, I am able to play all sides of the field. I also incorporate bunting into my hitting, which gives me an advantage. I really think that being able to slap, hit and bunt really improves your game as a well-rounded batter because it throws the defense off.

SA: What advice would you give to softball players getting started with their recruiting processes, who are looking at learning new positions and becoming utility players?

SF: Some advice I would give would definitely be to try and play multiple positions early in your career. Know the game and learn the ins and outs of different positions during practice. College coaches look for well-rounded student-athletes who can play more than one position or have the ability to play more than one position.

Don't be afraid to ask your travel coach to showcase you in these positions so college coaches can see all of your potential because you never know where you may end up at the collegiate level. Having the ability to be a multi-position player at the collegiate level sets you up for a better opportunity to be a crucial player on your team.

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