By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Kramer Robertson and Cole Freeman, LSU’s inseparable double play tandem, spoke constantly when making their decisions to come back for their senior seasons and make a run at Omaha.
So it makes perfect sense the two middle infielders would be drafted just nine picks apart.
Robertson went in the fourth round, No. 124 overall, to the St. Louis Cardinals, of the MLB Draft Tuesday. Freeman then went No. 133 to the Washington Nationals.
“It’s crazy,” Freeman said. “It just kind of sums up what our friendship has been the last two years. It was awesome to go through it together.”
It made for an emotional afternoon as the two, surrounded by teammates Alex Lange, Jared Poche’ and Antoine Duplantis, plus the Freeman family, monitored draft trackers through computers and cell phones in Freeman’s apartment.
Having a decent idea of where he could land, Robertson arrived there shortly before the fourth round began in the early afternoon. LSU coach Paul Mainieri pushed practice back until the afternoon to allow all his players to watch.
“I knew for about an hour that that’s where I might be going, but you just never know,” Robertson said. “As it got closer and closer, my heart started pounding really fast. I was getting nervous. We were sitting there refreshing and refreshing, and then we saw it pop up. It was a big relief.”
Not much time passed before Freeman got a phone call and subsequently saw his own name flash across the draft ticker.
It felt like less than two minutes, Robertson recalled. They’d only just finished celebrating one’s selection when the other was taken.
Both were taken considerably earlier in the draft than they were as juniors, though each knowingly left bonus money on the table that they’d never get back by returning for their senior seasons.
Freeman went in the 18th round to the Dodgers last year while Robertson, having made his strong feelings toward returning known, fell all the way to the Indians in the 32nd round.
In fact, troubled former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel even came off the board before him. His only stated goal heading into draft day was to go higher than the former Heisman winner this time around.
Robertson expressed gratitude for being selected by such a “first class” organization. The Cardinals offered him a $150,000 signing bonus, he said, far less than the pick’s assigned slot value ($424,800), but a reasonable haul for a senior with zero leverage to negotiate.
“More than I thought I’d get,” he smiled. “Being a senior, teams can really try to low ball you. But the Cardinals were fair and they were honest.”
Freeman hadn’t heard a number from the Nationals as of Tuesday evening, but it didn’t seem to be weighing too heavily on his mind. He turned down $250,000 from the Dodgers last summer, and is well aware he’s highly unlikely to get close to the allotted slot value of $390,000.
Both expressed relief at knowing where they’ll continue the next chapter of their respective baseball lives, but for now, they’ve focused on and savoring the task at hand, the mutual obsession that brought them back to LSU in the first place — Omaha.