OMAHA, Neb. -- Needing just one more victory to advance to the college baseball's national championship series, Clemson senior captain Mike Freeman said Thursday, verbatim, that it's exactly where he envisioned being.
Well, that can't be entirely true.
Freeman's career started off at another Southern school with big-time baseball tradition. Freeman enrolled at Georgia in 2007, thinking that's where he'd make his mark and reach Omaha, with the Bulldogs.
"When you go to a school like Georgia," the second baseman said, "you never plan on leaving."
But he did. Mired in a logjam for innings after his freshman season, Freeman saw a chance to play every day at Clemson and went for it.
He was referred to the school, actually, by former Tigers Ben Paulsen and Matt Vaughn. Freeman, as it just so happened, was on a summer league team with them.
Wearing orange instead of red, Freeman watched as his former team and teammates went to the College World Series in 2008, in what would have been his sophomore season.
Georgia went to the national championship series, actually, before losing to Fresno State in the deciding third game. Even then, as he watched and rooted for his friends, it was easy for Freeman to justify his decision.
"As much as I would've liked to have played there with them," he said, "I had found a new family and a new home."
Still, Freeman was left hoping he'd get the chance, one day, to touch cleat to field at Rosenblatt Stadium. Now, in his last shot, he is.
"I couldn't be happier than to be at Clemson," said Freeman, who is from Orlando, Fla. "This has been the most incredible experience of my life. To come back for my senior year, this is exactly how I wanted to go out."
It's not just about what Freeman is getting by being at Clemson. No, he's given the Tigers a lot the past three years.
He's a steady bat, an improving defender, and, perhaps most importantly, a cooling force in the locker room. That's why he was voted a captain as a junior, despite it being only his second year in the program.
"He's a valuable leader and has played a lot of games for us here at Clemson," said Wilson Boyd, the team's other senior captain. "I think the young guys, and older guys, look to him. ... He shows us how to play out there."
When Freeman first transferred, Boyd said coach Jack Leggett used to get after Freeman about his lackadaisical approach in the field. Now, Boyd said Freeman is one of the most fundamentally sound glove guys he knows.
"You could make a highlight tape of all the plays he's made for us this spring," Leggett said. "He's been really consistent."
Freeman scuffled with the bat his freshman season at Georgia, but he found life with the move up Interstate 85.
He hit .332 as a sophomore, .328 as a junior and is at .334 as a senior.
"He's really been a great addition to our program the last three years," Leggett said. "I'm glad he's getting a chance to experience Omaha. I'm glad he made it out here."
Freeman's pretty happy about that fact, too. Even if the path wasn't necessary a straight one.
"It's definitely a different road than most people take," Freeman said, "but the way things worked out, for me to be at Clemson, it's about as perfect as it gets.
"It's just a blessing I made it here."
Reach Travis Haney at firstname.lastname@example.org.