Stone Freeman didn’t come by his fascination with sports as a high school star.
Sure, the Warwick, R.I.,resident played Little League baseball and rec basketball, but he was more of a “softball sibling,” he says, spending a lot of his childhood traveling around New England with his family to watch his sisters play in tournaments.
“Growing up I was consumed with sports, but never exactly playing it,” says Freeman. “I watched a ton of baseball, listening to Don Orsillo, the Red Sox play-by-play guy. My thing, particularly in high school, was, if I can’t get into an arena by playing, how can I? It’s been by covering sports.”
In his four years at the University of Rhode Island, Freeman has seen the inside of a lot of arenas, and as he graduates on May 19 with a degree in journalism, he will be leaving as the resonant voice listeners tuned to for men’s basketball and football on student radio station WRIU.
But that just scratches the surface of a busy college career.
Along with doing play-by-play for WRIU, he’s written for the student newspaper, The Good Five Cent Cigar, including serving as sports editor his junior year, and GoRhody.com, the athletic department’s communications arm. For WRIU, he’s broadcast men’s basketball from three Atlantic-10 Tournaments and two NCAA Tournaments, and covered men’s soccer in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament in East Hartford, Conn.
He’s also wedged in internships with The Sport Hubs’ Patriots Radio Network, “The Andy Gresh Show” on WPRO and with the sports departments of ABC6 and WJAR-TV. That’s not to mention starting his own sports podcast, available on iTunes and SoundCloud, which has had about 2,700 listeners, and stoking a Twitter account that’s at more than 12,000 tweets (3,000 likes) and 1,200 followers.
In today’s sports media world, he says, having your hand on many platforms is important. “Everybody seems to flip to sports to see what’s going on. When you have so many eyes on you, you have to be on as much as you can.”
In the classroom, Freeman has also excelled, and will earn the Academic Excellence Award in journalism. Along with his broadcast classes, he credits the journalism curriculum for drilling in him the “nuts and bolts of being a reporter.” One of his favorite assignments gave him a chance to interview long-time Providence Journal sports columnist Bill Reynolds.
“I asked him a ton of questions,” says Freeman. “I asked him what his favorite part of working in sports was and his answer is something I will carry with me the rest of my life – ‘In sports and in journalism, you really get a chance to hear people’s stories.’ I think that’s the best part.”
The stories he’s been able to tell his senior year would be exciting to any URI fan or sports journalist.
“This year was really cool,” say Freeman. “Basketball is our premier sport, but soccer went to the NCAA Tournament and I got to cover that. This has been our first winning season in football in 17 years, and I was right at the center of that.
“But it’s also been a great year because of the people, in particular the people at the Harrington School of Communication and Media, but also down in the athletic department,” he adds. “It’s a real family feel. There are people who genuinely care about what I’m doing and how I’m doing.”
His personal highs this school year could fill any highlight reel.
Over Christmas break, Freeman covered the Rams at a tournament in Hawaii – broadcasting three games for men’s basketball’s flagship station, B101-FM. He filled in for veteran broadcasters Steve McDonald and Don Kaull, and is thankful for the help McDonald offered as he prepped for the big-time assignment. Also, Freeman’s family traveled to Hawaii, so he still got to spend the holidays with them.
But most of all, he felt the trip helped his transformation from being considered strictly a good student broadcaster.
“The thing that really stuck out the most about the trip was when I came back and there were people who felt I had surpassed that role,” he says. “There were people who were like, ‘Wait, this kid’s a student?’ That was rewarding to hear.”
Another highlight was interning for the Patriots Radio Network and working beside two of his broadcasting idols – Scott Zolak and Bob Socci. Freeman worked in the studio in Dorchester, Massachusetts, every gameday, preseason in August through the Super Bowl in February. Along with basic intern tasks such as running phone lines and ordering food, he monitored the phone lines for callers, edited audio, and posted podcast interviews on social media.
“The Patriots play a lot of primetime games, which meant a lot of nights coming home from Boston at 2 in the morning,” he says. “I was still able to wake up at 9 the next morning to get to class. I just like the vibe of working in this field, getting home late, getting a couple hours of sleep and starting up again the next day.”
And on Super Bowl Sunday, as the Patriots pulled out a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams, Freeman was right there in the middle of it, in the studio.
“It was an awesome experience. Without that internship, I wouldn’t have met so many connections and people that are really rooting for me. It made me realize how passionate I really am for what I do.”
As he approaches graduation, Freeman is waiting to see what’s next. Eventually, though, he’d like to be in the booth doing play-by-play.
“I think it’s the purest form of journalism,” he says. “Some people see a line between play-by-play and journalism, but to me it’s the same thing. In journalism, you have to be truthful, you have to be the eyes and ears of people who aren’t there. That’s what play-by-play is.