Bobby Freeman, always ready, is sitting in his SUV in the parking lot of Sun Studios in Tempe. I casually walk by trying not to disturb him if he were busy on the phone, but I want him to notice me all the same. He has agreed to meet with me again for another interview, but this was not the 1st time I have hung out with Bobby at Sun Studios. Recently he donated his time to play piano during an art-event that Chris McLennan produced in support of Tom Deadstuff. With Bobby Freeman, it seems that friendship and availability are at the top of his list.
On Tuesday, February 19th 2019 Arizona Diamondback’s Organist Bobby Freeman was honored with induction into the Cactus League Hall of Fame. The league began in 1947 so if you are like me you assume there may be hundreds of inductees by the time the CLHOF calls on Bobby Freeman, respectfully. Looking into things I discovered the Cactus League Hall of Fame (we will call it CLHOF from this point) only began inductions in 2014, the same year the Cubs inaugurated Sloan Park in Mesa. The CLHOF is sponsored by the City of Mesa Historical Museum and inside it “has a room dedicated to the Arizona Spring Training Experience”.
As we sit in our directors chairs, Bobby explains to me that he had no prior warning and no idea he was going to be inducted, and that when he answered the phone call at home, he thought to himself it must have been a prank. After all, the CLHOF boasts names such as: Hi Corbett, who brought the Indians to Southern AZ for Spring Training, practically creating the Cactus League. Also Ernie Banks, Bob Ueker and Willie Mays. But for Bobby the honor was all his.
To effectively summarize Bobby Freeman’s career as an organist and figure within Arizona Baseball, I will quote from his CLHOF plaque. “..Bobby Freeman has provided the soundtrack to baseball in AZ since making his professional debut with the SF Giant’s AAA PCL affiliate, Phoenix Firebirds...in 1989.” Wow, 1989 I was 8 years old and going to those games at Phx Municipal Stadium. To continue; “ Freeman ushered in the inaugural AZ Fall League season in 1993 and began his long-standing Cactus League affiliation with the Padres and Mariners at the new Peoria Stadium in 1994”.
In the midst of his Cactus League career, Bobby Freeman met with Jerry Colangelo and was hired by him to be the ‘Official Organist of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ in 1998. Continuing from the plaque: “Freeman also played at the team’s Tucson Electric Park spring training site during the team’s 13 Cactus League seasons...”. Freeman’s favorite part of the entire of his induction ceremony was being introduced to the crowd by the same man who made him an Arizona Diamondback, Jerry Colangelo. Bobby’s CLHOF acceptance speech was described as “...Honorable, Charitable, and Noble!”.
Although Bobby Freeman works for the Arizona Diamondbacks (and is fiercely loyal), he played the Cactus League grand openings for Sloan Park in 2014, Maryvale Baseball Park in 2018, and also Goodyear Ballpark. Bobby of course has continued his Cactus League affiliation for the Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields since 2011.
Bobby Freeman never stops working and even played the 2019 CLHOF induction ceremony. You know, the same ceremony set-up to recognize him and others. Bobby loves the fact that he is the only organ player honored by the CLHOF, but remains humble when we discuss his 2019 CLHOF classmates. Which goes as follows: Ken Griffey Jr, Ferguson Jenkins, Roland Hemond, and some guy named Robin Yount. Ego has never been an issue for Bobby as he loves playing for the tradition to keep it alive and to share it with a new generation. As his career booms he is even beginning to explore teaching, and is already mentoring a small group of young students. His goal is to keep the long-standing entertainment of the baseball organist alive and well in present-day baseball.
The plaque that Bobby was awarded weighs about 25 pounds and is solid as it can get. When asked if he will take it home and hang it, Bobby reveals that he keeps the plaque in a hand bag - the same one it was in when he walked into the studios. He does not hang it when he returns home because he knows it will accompany him for the next interview, charitable event, or grand opening. Nope, for the time being there is no anchor in the wall above the mantel prepped and waiting for Bobby Freeman’s CLHOF plaque. Like Bobby, the plaque will keep on moving, and I think he prefers it that way.
What’s up next for Bobby Freeman? Aside from playing every single Diamondbacks game at Chase Field, Bobby is taking a small role in an upcoming movie that is being filmed right here in town at, you guessed it, Sun Studios. Freeman will be pursuing his next goal, an Academy Award, by playing a pianist in; “The Dark Side of Opulent 2”.
Condensed video interview - Bobby and edbigghead at Sun Studios.
A video clip from the 2019 CLHOF ceremony - never mind Sergey Lavrov at the bottom of the shot.
Big thank you to Jenna Man of The Brute Squad for travelling from Surprise AZ to Tempe to take photos and film the interview. HUGE thank you to the Dbacks for authorizing the interview and of course, BOBBY FREEMAN for his time and being awesome in general!