Bennett Freiter’s long drive home to see family is about to be cut in half.
The St. Andrews, Manitoba native had become accustomed to the 1,350 kilometre trek between home and Okotoks while he has been rounding the bases with Dawgs Academy.
Starting in the fall of 2021, the catcher will see his commute distance hacked to 519 kilometres as he continues his education and baseball journeys at North Dakota State University.
Freiter is one of several Dawgs Academy products who has announced commitments to Division-1 schools over the past few months.
Not only are the Bisons getting a 6-foot-3, 210-pound behemoth who has caught for some of the best young arms the Dawgs have seen in recent memory, like Conor Pote and Simon Lusignan. They are also getting an academic standout who has set his sights on entering the electrical engineering program at NDSU.
We recently caught up with Freiter on Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast to talk about his commitment announcement, his journey in baseball and how it came to be that he made the long drive from Manitoba to Okotoks.
Q: Talk a little bit about this opportunity and how excited you are to be continuing your baseball journey with North Dakota State University.
A: Yeah, I’m super-pumped to go to North Dakota State. I feel like it’s going to be the perfect fit for me. They have the athletics there, being a Division 1 program and competing at the highest level of baseball. They also have the academic major that I’d like to take, which is electrical engineering. And the team has a lot of support for engineers as there are a lot of them on the baseball roster. There’s also a lot of academic support for people in our major. I also felt that the coaches, they were the most interesting. They really gave me the sense that they really wanted me to be there and that they were really excited for me to come.
Q: Did you talk to a lot of schools, were you checking a bunch out, did you go on a lot of tours? Walk us through that whole process.
A: Yeah, so I emailed a lot of schools that I was interested in. They had to have the program I wanted and North Dakota State was one of the first schools that I had emailed because I had actually gone to one of their prospect camps in my grade ten year so I got to tour the facilities and I really liked it. So I sent some corresponding emails to the coaches and I attempted to contact them by phone. Then I just kind of left it for a while, then this past summer, some of the Dawgs’ coaches sent out a lot of email and I asked them to send some to North Dakota State. I just wanted to try and get in contact again by phone and I spoke with one of the assistant coaches for a while and he arranged a call with the head coach a couple of days later. Then he made the offer there and I made my commitment about two weeks after that.
Q: What was it like to make it official and actually start planning ahead?
A: It didn’t really hit me for a while. I was kind of numb to it but then I just realized at a certain point that this is what I’ve worked for since I really had this dream. It’s been four or five years of playing baseball and practicing to get to this point.
Q: What’s the game-plan now? How do you prepare yourself for that eventuality of going to school?
A: I feel like the Dawgs are already really preparing me for what the college life will be like. Like the rigorous practices, the constant practices and just having to manage school and baseball, despite how much time is invested in baseball.
Q: Has baseball always been your dream or did you have other sports in mind?
A: Yeah, at first I played hockey until grade eight and then I realized it’s not going to work out so then I decided to focus on baseball after that.
Q: Do you remember the moment when you realized that this is something worth chasing?
A: Probably in my second year of bantam, so in grade nine, maybe. I had a really successful season and I started a new winter baseball program in Winnipeg called the Winnipeg Junior Goldeyes and it was really intense, kind of similar to the Dawgs but not at the same scale. They showed me what it’s going to take to get to the next level and they showed me a lot more of the details and the technical side of baseball. I really enjoy that part and I love thinking a ton about the game. That made me realize that this is what I want to do and I want to play college baseball.
Q: How is it that a kid from St. Andrews ends up in Okotoks?
A: With the Goldeyes, one of the head coaches, Jon Ali, was one of my biggest role models and one of the biggest people I could look at and say they helped me get here. He contacted Okotoks and said that, you know, “this Bennett Freiter is pretty good.” So then Coach (Tyler) Hollick arranged a call and I spoke with him. Then I went out in September for the Dawgs Fall Showcase and I played with the Winnipeg team. I did pretty good and had a lot of success. When I got home, I talked to Coach Hollick again and by December, I decided to go.
Q: What’s that experience been like for you, being away from home but still having good success here?
A: Yeah, it was tough at first. I was kind of left to make a lot of decisions for myself and become really independent. But as I got into, it’s been a really great experience, it’s been absolutely amazing and I’m really happy I did it.
Q: Anyone you would like to single out for helping make the transition a little easier?
A: All the Dawgs coaches have been absolutely amazing. They have all offered so much support to me and they are the reason why I’m committed right now and I’m very thankful for all of them.
Q: It’s also been cool to see so many others from the Dawgs Academy program sign their letters of intent and make commitment announcements. Talk a little bit about being able to share that experience with your teammates.
A: Yeah, it’s a really good feeling to congratulate a guy when he’s committed. We all worked so hard together, we all train all winter, all year and it’s a really good feeling. Like, you know, “I played with that guy and now he’s going to this school.”
Q: Who is the best player that you’ve seen with the Dawgs?
A: I would probably have to say Simon Lusignan, the pitcher from Quebec.
Q: What makes him stand out?
A: Just how advanced his thinking is. He has incredible stuff. Catching him, it’s to the point where I almost laugh when he throws some pitches that are impossible to hit. It’s really fun to watch how he carries himself and how he understands how good he is and then he just uses that to add to his confidence on the mound.
Q: Speaking of the thinking game, you kind of took me by surprise when you told me about your future field of study. So often you hear athletes go into general studies or kinesiology or that kind of thing. You’re very in tune with what you want to do and obviously you’re a thinking man as well.
A: Yeah, thank you! I’ve always been interested in designing things and that kind of went into baseball. I’m really interested in thinking about how certain plays could happen, just to keep stuff in the back of my mind. I feel really strongly that the main reason why I’m going to university is to get an education and I felt that electric engineering was the major I am most interested in and I will have a lot of enjoyment taking that and graduating with a degree for it.
Q: And obviously you get to play baseball while going to school now. What are your goals and aspirations within the game happen to be?
A: My biggest goal was obviously to get to college. But now that I’ve done that, I have updated my goals list and probably this year, I’m really hoping that I could either have a shot at getting selected to the Junior National Team but also try to increase any draft stock that I have and see what happens.
Q: Fantastic stuff. Well my final question, as always, is: what does the game of baseball mean to you?
A: I guess the game of baseball is fun for me and also means getting to do something I love. Everyone loves the success of having a good play. It’s just fun for me to play. I just enjoy playing and just enjoy being able to go to the field every day.