The tears commenced just before he could even say a term.
Freddie Freeman knew he would be emotional this weekend as he returned to Atlanta for the initially time as a checking out participant.
He knew his thoughts would continue to be uncooked after he and his cherished former club unsuccessful to access a new agreement this previous offseason, leading the 2020 National League most worthwhile player to signal with the Dodgers instead.
But when he walked into the news conference place at Truist Park hrs prior to the Dodgers’ 4-1 victory Friday night — Braves staffers, Atlanta-based mostly reporters and other faces from his past life staring back again at him — Freeman could not keep it together.
He set his palms on his head and briefly remaining the home, collecting himself in a hallway corridor in the vicinity of his outdated clubhouse.
“Give me a moment,” he sighed as he walked out.
He carried a towel when he returned a minute later, wiping absent his tears as he held his gaze to the facet, concerned seeking forward would induce a further breakdown.
“I never know if I can get as a result of this,” he said, his voice cracking. “OK, I’ll attempt.”
Then, for subsequent 15 minutes, Freeman tried using to assemble his inner thoughts and describe his ideas — working via a blend of gratitude, appreciation and like for the franchise for which he performed 12 several years but also sorrow and heartache above no more time being a portion of it.
“Man, I love the Braves group with all my heart,” said Freeman, who had just one hit, two walks and two operates scored Friday. “That will hardly ever improve.”
Up until eventually Friday afternoon’s information meeting, Freeman claimed he had been holding his thoughts in check given that the Dodgers arrived in Atlanta the night time prior to.
He and his family members went back to stay at their aged house, which they still personal.
They went to breakfast in the early morning at their favourite place, Cupanion’s, where by Freeman reported every person in the restaurant stood and applauded when they walked in the door. (With a snicker, he added that they still had his “Freddie omelet” on the menu.)
After acquiring a haircut from his outdated barber, he showed up at the ballpark and counted 14 people sporting his previous jersey outside the house — one thing, he claimed, he “never took that for granted” in the course of his dozen many years with the Braves.
But as the to start with pitch drew nearer, the thoughts started out to bubble up.
He experienced been getting ready for this reunion all season. He continue to could not aid but truly feel overwhelmed.
“I assume you can inform how much I truly do love this corporation,” he reported. “I do not even know how I’m gonna get by means of this weekend, to be sincere.”
This was a condition Freeman was under no circumstances anticipating — returning as a customer to the position that, regardless of growing up in Southern California, had develop into his house.
When he was drafted by the Braves in 2007, Freeman was only 17. He experienced just completed higher college in Orange County. He understood little about the franchise, or the town it played in.
“You’re just satisfied to get picked, no make any difference by who,” he explained past 7 days, the imagined of his impending return to Atlanta currently creeping into his intellect. “You just want the chance.”
That arrived immediately. In 2010, Freeman built his significant league debut at just 20 several years previous. The up coming yr, he began a 10 years-prolonged operate as the Braves’ day-to-day 1st baseman.
He started out living in Atlanta complete time in 2011, at first as a way to perform out with additional skilled teammates this sort of as Dan Uggla and Brian McCann in the offseason but finally because it is where by he felt he belonged.
At very first, he was a secondary star on the group, rising as an All-Star-caliber slugger to support the club to playoff berths in 2012 and 2013 but also serving in a supporting management role behind local icons this kind of as Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson.
That improved in 2014. Freeman signed an 8-yr extension that cemented him as a franchise centerpiece. And for the duration of the club’s rebuild more than the following half-10 years, he grew to become a person of the couple of dazzling places of a shedding — but nevertheless regionally beloved — team.
“I feel fans just seriously take pleasure in the simple fact that, for a few or four many years they had been terrible, but he nevertheless performed fantastic, he played hard,” said Jeff Francoeur, Freeman’s previous Braves teammate and a latest Bally Sporting activities South broadcaster. “The Braves have often been king in Atlanta … so Freddie, he took on that purpose for the metropolis.”
The metropolis began ingrained in him way too.
It’s in which he began a family, marrying his spouse, Chelsea, in 2014, with whom he now has three children.
It’s wherever his eldest son, Charlie, 1st performed T-ball, signing up for a workforce that also incorporated Uggla’s son and was coached by the former All-Star infielder.
It’s exactly where he grew to become ingrained in the neighborhood, many thanks in aspect to his charitable get the job done with the Children’s Medical center of Atlanta.
It’s even the place some of his other relatives users relocated, like his stepsister, sister-in-law and more mature brother Andrew, a banker who moved with his wife and two children to the area in 2020.
“It’s bizarre when you drive all over and you’re seeking at your brother on a billboard as you go to do the job,” Andrew said with a chuckle during a telephone phone this week. “It was type of surreal.”
And like absolutely everyone else in his loved ones, in the metropolis and all close to baseball, Andrew believed Freeman was likely to stay with the Braves his whole career, unable to imagine his brother ever donning a diverse uniform.
“Atlanta turned a part of Freddie,” Andrew mentioned. “His complete entire identification had been Atlanta.”
The previous time Freeman was in Truist Park before Friday, it was a person of the proudest times of his vocation.
At the close of the team’s Entire world Series championship parade — a title operate that experienced bundled a defeat of the Dodgers in the Countrywide League Championship Series — the Braves held a rally inside Truist Park.
And even while it had been days since he caught the Globe Series’ closing out, Freeman was however numb.
“Today, it’s hit me,” he mentioned that afternoon. “We’re entire world champions without end.”
His tenure with the Braves, even though, was about to access its finish.
All yr, Freeman’s expiring agreement lingered in the background.
When negotiations commenced in the offseason involving his brokers and the workforce — a contentious process reportedly provided an ultimatum from Freeman’s brokers, a lack of communication involving Braves brass and Freeman instantly, and a cling-up more than a prospective sixth year on the offer — hit a wall.
At last, for the duration of the to start with 7 days of spring training, it all arrived to a head, with the Braves trading for an additional first baseman, Matt Olson, days prior to Freeman made the decision to indication with the Dodgers on a 6-12 months, $162-million deal.
Questioned Friday no matter whether he had any regrets about how his time in Atlanta ended, Freeman’s tone sharpened. His tears briefly stopped.
“There’s nothing to shut for me here. Why would I shut these types of a specific time?”
— Freddie Freeman, Dodgers very first baseman, on his return to Atlanta
“I think that the regret issue is a full unique side of the tale that I’m not — I’m not right here to converse about,” he mentioned. “If I bought into that, we’d be right here a prolonged time.”
And what about the require for closure?
“There’s very little to shut for me in this article,” he claimed. “Why would I near such a special time?
In fact, regardless of his uncomfortable ending with the Braves, Freeman’s appreciate for the club, for the town and for a lover foundation he proudly notes stretches all across the South, clearly hadn’t dissipated.
Just after he walked out of the media home — hugging all of the staffers, reporters and other acquainted faces he has extensive identified — he was greeted by the cheers of an early arriving crowd on getting the field for batting follow.
He signed autographs for fans all the way until an hour just before the recreation, then teared up once again when a scoreboard tribute online video played right before to start with pitch.
He received his Globe Collection ring in the course of an ensuing ceremony from his former manager, Brian Snitker, a longtime Braves mentor whom Freeman had vouched for to grow to be manager in 2016.
Then he tackled the crowd over the PA technique, his voice cracking amid the cheers from supporters in a sold-out stadium who even now taken care of him as their personal.
“I know I obtained a distinct uniform on, but I however really like each and every and every single 1 of you guys,” he stated. “This is one particular of the most difficult times of my existence but one particular of the most astounding days of my lifetime.”