Choo Freeman Keeps Things Lively

         VERO BEACH, Fla.- When Raphael Freeman was just becoming aware of the world he lived in, he began making sounds. A lot of them. His favorite was something like the Little Engine That Could- "Choo, choo, choo" and on and on. He did it so much that his dad began calling him that , shortening it in the process to one syllable. And, so, he's been Choo Freeman ever since.

         He hasn't quit making noise , either. In fact, one of things he thinks he can bring to a team, is "I like a happy clubhouse. I always keep it lively with jokes and stuff. "

       Now that's probably more of an asset that most people believe but it's not going to be the reason he'll make the team- if he does. No, there he thinks he can help by, "I can play all three outfield positions and I know how to hit coming off the bench."

        Right now, Choo's another one of the non-roster types, signed to a minor league contract but trying to make the big club as a spare. Last year he spent almost the entire season with the Rockies, batting .237 in the process. Not an average that will keep you in the comfort zone which is one reason why he's here rather than in Colorado.

       Another is, "I like the organization. They're a team with a winning tradition that could go a long way in the post-season."

     He's currently wearing a number in the low digits while most of his non-roster brethren are bearing those usually associated with football tackles or receivers- in the 70's and 80's. But Choo is sporting No. 13 although that may be a case of the fact that traditionally players, rife with superstition, avoid it.

   Choo first came to the Rockies in 1998 as a supplemental first round pick, the 36th player chosen overall. He broke in hitting .320 in the Arizona Rookie League. He's still waiting to hit .300 or better again.

   Through the years he's been an okay hitter, nothing sensational. Early on, he stole bases regularly but that hasn't been the case lately. Last season he swiped only five in 11 tries. He's hit home runs in double figures four times but power's not particularly his game either.

   So, it's that ability to come up and get a key pinch hit that may make him a Dodger. The competion is tough, though, so he might well be stashed at Las Vegas awaiting a break.

  In the meantime he'll keep loose- laughing and singing. Oh, yeah, Choo can sing, too. All in all, not a bad guy to have around .

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