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Nats' 4th-round pick part of storied LSU tradition

2B Freeman wears jersey number given to team leader; No. 8 was worn by Bregman and Mahtook
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Nine of the Nationals' first 10 selections in the 2017 MLB Draft have been pitchers, with the exception of one 5-foot-9, 175-pound outlier from Louisiana State University.

That player was Cole Freeman, who was busy refreshing his Twitter page from his apartment in Baton Rouge, La., during the Draft. Freeman was alongside his college teammate Kramer Robertson -- who had just been selected nine picks ahead of him by the Cardinals -- when he read the news that he was drafted in the fourth round by the Nationals, and the apartment erupted in joy.

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WASHINGTON -- Nine of the Nationals' first 10 selections in the 2017 MLB Draft have been pitchers, with the exception of one 5-foot-9, 175-pound outlier from Louisiana State University.

That player was Cole Freeman, who was busy refreshing his Twitter page from his apartment in Baton Rouge, La., during the Draft. Freeman was alongside his college teammate Kramer Robertson -- who had just been selected nine picks ahead of him by the Cardinals -- when he read the news that he was drafted in the fourth round by the Nationals, and the apartment erupted in joy.

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Freeman had bet on himself a year prior, when he elected to return for his senior year at LSU after being drafted by the Dodgers in the 18th round in 2016. But he was enticed to stay largely because of a special opportunity at LSU -- the chance to wear the No. 8. Each season, the LSU baseball team gives that jersey to a player who best exemplifies the spirit of the program, a sort of team captain for the Tigers, who are preparing for the College World Series this weekend in Omaha.

:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::

"I honestly never even dreamed about it," Freeman said about the No. 8 during a phone interview on Tuesday night. "Being able to throw my name with some of the best players in program history ... I'll carry that with me through the rest of my life."

The tradition began with outfielder Mikie Mahtook -- who wore the number from 2009-11 and is now with the Detroit Tigers -- and has also included Major Leaguers such as Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman.

"It has nothing to do really with you being the best player on the team or anything like that," Mahtook said. "Obviously, LSU has been kind of fortunate to have those guys that play well and are good teammates and are good guys and are leaders on the team that are that talented of players. But it has nothing really to do with their talent.

"It has everything to do with just a guy who goes there every day and plays hard and does those things. I'm glad it's caught on and still holds some weight. I'm anxious to see who Cole gives it to."

The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon ET.

The Nationals came into the Draft focused on restocking their pitching depth, taking advantage of a Draft they believed was deep in pitching and helping out their farm system after they shipped away their top three pitching prospects this past offseason.

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However, Freeman was the one position player they could not pass up.

He described himself as a gamer and someone whose biggest asset was going to be his attitude. Freeman is not going to overwhelm anybody with his size, but all he has done throughout his career is hit. Freeman was the Tigers' leading hitter and top basestealer this year at .327 with 18 stolen bases, and he won the Cape Cod League batting title this past summer when he hit .374. He was also named to the SEC All-Defensive Team in 2016.

"He's a really good player, good baseball player," Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of scouting Kris Kline said. "He can really run. Good defender. Really good hitter. Not a big power guy, but a guy you'd like to have at the top of your order."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

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