ATLANTA – Freddie Freeman walked into the interview room in Truist Park on Friday afternoon and could not include his emotions. He took a deep breath, turned away from the cameras, crossed his arms over his head and walked out.
“Give me a second,” he mentioned. “Catch.”
Minutes later, Freeman returned and did his greatest to navigate the emotionally charged interview that marked his return to the place he nonetheless adores. Via trembling speech, trembling arms, and good eyes, Freeman—a lifelong member of the Atlanta Braves till signing a six-year, $162 million free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 17—has performed every little thing he may to precise. Tried what it’s Metropolis and people followers and that workforce nonetheless means to them.
“I at all times advised you guys how a lot I really like the courageous of this metropolis,” Freeman mentioned. “I assumed I cherished this metropolis and this group a lot, however I assume you possibly can inform how a lot I actually love this group and this metropolis. I do not even know I’ll be this week How in regards to the finish of the day, guys, if I am being trustworthy.”
Solely an hour earlier than Friday’s first pitch, Freeman spent almost 20 minutes signing for younger Braves followers at each ends of Truist Park. The Braves later performed a video tribute on their large center-field display, then Freeman exited the dugout and headed to the pitcher’s mound to obtain his World Sequence ring—which he did not wish to see till He did not come again. Atlanta as a customer – from Courageous supervisor Brian Snitker. After an extended, tearful embrace, Freeman addressed the standing stadium crowd.
“I do know I’ve a distinct uniform,” he mentioned at one level, “however I nonetheless love every of you.”
Freeman had reunited along with his former teammates in L.A. simply two months earlier, however he hoped to make extra sense this weekend. As his much-anticipated return drew to a detailed, some folks near Freeman urged that the collection would symbolize some much-needed finale for a person who nonetheless is not taking part in for the Braves.
Freeman rejected it.
“There’s nothing for me to cease right here,” he mentioned, nonetheless preventing again tears. “Why would I shut such a particular time within the 15 years I spent right here? For me, there may be nothing to shut. The query of remorse is a distinct facet of the story that I’m not right here to speak about as a result of I really feel ‘Face-to-face, everybody I’ve talked to is aware of this can be a completely different facet of it.’ As a result of if I had been concerned, oh, we might be right here longer. And that feeling may change – large Time .”
Freeman, 32, first joined the Braves in 2007 as a second-round select of highschool. He emerged as a star towards the top of the workforce’s long-running success, establishing himself because the face of the franchise by way of subsequent reconstructions, then setting the tone because the franchise returned to competition. 4 consecutive run division titles that culminated within the 2021 World Sequence Championship.
The hope was that Freeman would return as a free agent, however no deal was struck till the homeowners applied a lockout on December 1. Shortly after baseball resumed in March, Freeman’s agent Casey Shut made two presents to the Braves. Sources advised ESPN’s Buster Olney that basic supervisor Alex Anthopoulos described it as a take or go away state of affairs.
Anthopoulos then went forward and traded a bundle of prospects to the Oakland Athletics to accumulate Matt Olsson rather than Freeman on March 14. Freeman signed with the Dodgers, who had grown up in Orange County, and left three days later. Shocked by the best way every little thing performed out.
On Friday, nonetheless, Freeman turned his consideration to what was accomplished simply earlier than that.
“We have gone by way of numerous ups and downs in our 12 years, and whereas we peaked final 12 months of profitable all of it, that ring simply is not a hoop to me,” Freeman mentioned throughout his pregame information convention. “It is all sacrifice. All of the household time missed. All of the hours. Damaged wrists.” [in 2017], The 14 hour bus rides within the minor leagues. Reaching resort at 4 o’clock. Grind, each single 12 months. To lastly win it – man. There isn’t a higher feeling within the recreation than this.”
Freeman scored 270 dwelling runs in .296/.385/.510 and 940 RBIs in his 11 full seasons with the Braves, capturing the Nationwide League Most Worthwhile Participant award within the post-COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. In the course of the Braves World Sequence final fall, Freeman was at his greatest, batting .304 / .420 / .625, 5 dwelling runs and 11 RBIs in 16 playoff video games.
The Braves organist performed “We Are the Champions” as Freeman got here to bat on the prime of the primary inning, and Braves followers stood up and cheered once more. Freeman took his time to settle into the batsman’s field, dodging his helmet to acknowledge the group and his former teammates, earlier than ultimately operating in opposition to Ian Anderson.
Freeman ultimately made two walks and lined up a pointy single in 5 plate appearances, serving to the Dodgers win 4–1. However he admitted that “could not really feel my toes for a couple of innings.”
“I attempted to think about what tonight could be like, and it exceeded my expectations,” Freeman mentioned. “It was only a particular, particular night.”