Freddie Freeman spent 15 years in the Atlanta Braves organization, but after they decided to move on by trading for Matt Olson, the star first baseman signed a six-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers to return to Southern California.
It didn’t take long for Freeman to face the club he built his reputation with as Atlanta traveled to L.A. for their fourth series of the season. While many would have seen it as a revenge game, Freeman was just happy to reunite with his former teammates.
“I just wanted to see them and hug them,” Freeman said. “When you go through the grind of a 162-game season, playoffs, and a lot of those guys I’ve been through multiple years of losing in the first round, lose to the Dodgers in 2020, and then ultimately win the championship together, that bond is there forever.
“We’re all going to be teammates for however many years, but we’re going to be friends for longer than we’re teammates. Now we get to do reunions together and all that as we get old. And hopefully I can come do some reunions with the Dodgers too.
“Our ultimate goal is to win the World Series, and we were able to do that, so it’s good to be able to see the guys I did that with.”
Freeman was drafted by the Braves and spent all 12 years of his career there prior to joining the Dodgers. During that time, he became a Braves legend, earning five All-Star Game appearances, three Silver Slugger awards, a Gold Glove, the 2020 National League MVP and capping it off with a World Series championship his final season.
At first, Freeman said facing his old club “didn’t feel normal” when he looked across the field and saw the gray Atlanta jerseys he had worn for so long. but once the game started, he began to settle in.
“Walking out and then walking into the box in the bottom of the first, I looked and Travis (D’Arnaud) and we both said, ‘This is weird. This is different.’ We had been teammates for a few years and now we’re not,” he said. “Once I stood in the box it kind of just went away and was a normal baseball game.”
Because of the MLB lockout, free agency and the offseason moved quickly once MLB and the Players Association (MLBPA) agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). While teams and players did a lot of the ground work prior to the lockout, Freeman still expected to return to the Braves through the three month work stoppage.
When the Braves made their deal for Olson, Freeman was blindsided and had to process the reality he would no longer be with their organization, but he quickly agreed to a deal with the Dodgers, bringing him back near the place he grew up.
Freeman describes himself as an emotional person, and acknowledged whole process has “been a lot” for him.
“Every day emotions are going in and out. I didn’t know what to expect coming in and how the emotions were going to play, but when I saw everybody it was just pure happiness,” he said. “It really was. Just seeing all the guys and staff members, giving hugs and saying, ‘I miss ya.’
“A couple guys wanted to show me the ring and I said no. I said I don’t want to see the ring. It’s more than a ring to me. I’ve seen pictures and videos, but it’s more than a ring to me because of everything that went into winning that.
“It means more and that’s why I talked to Alex, and we thought it would be best to do that in Atlanta because it’s more than a ring to me. A couple guys wanted to show me and I said, ‘No, no, no. Put it away.’ I’ve seen it on video and the first time I want to see it (in person) is when it goes on my hand.
“Today was just special. It really was. I know there’s storylines and everyone wants to run and say this and that, but the only storyline is I was just happy to see my friends.”
Freeman homers in first at-bat against Braves
When Freeman stepped into the batter’s box for the first time against the Braves, it didn’t take long for him to settle in. He never thought about the possibility of homering off the Braves, but that’s exactly what happened.
On the second pitch he saw, Freeman hit the ball into left-center field and it carried over the wall, giving him his first home run with the Dodgers.
It was a magical baseball moment and one that seemed to show the Braves they made the wrong decision, but Freeman did not view it as such.
“There’s no storylines, or poetic justice or anything like that,” he said about the home run. “I love the Atlanta Braves and always will love the Atlanta Braves. Just glad I was able to help the Dodgers win a game.”
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