LOS ANGELES – The baseball player bounced off the warning lane and sailed through the stands, making a pitch change, sending the ample crowd into a frenzy and leaving Freddy Freeman Alone at second base, in the middle of Dodger Stadium, with his family swinging from a luxury suite and his new fans chanting loudly his name.
Fre-ddie! Fre-ddie! Fre-ddie!
“I got goosebumps in the dugout,” LA Dodgers quarterback Cody Bellinger He said late Thursday night. “I really did.”
It was the eighth round of the Dodgers’ home opener, and the score was even, and Freeman fired double the ground base into the left center field gap, at the cutter following a slider near his head. Play stopped, but the chants continued, getting louder as a new loyalist from the Cincinnati Reds entered the game.
Freeman, a local producer who was scorned by the Atlanta Braves and signed a six-year $162 million contract with the Dodgers largely so that his family could be there on nights like these, couldn’t help but admit.
He raised his left hand to the sky, grabbed the top of his helmet with the other and patted his chest in appreciation.
“It’s as special as it is going on there,” Freeman said moments later, after sparking a sixth-half lead that led to the Dodgers’ 9-3 victory. “You’ve had these feelings before, going out on the line for the intros, but usually once you start the game those feelings go away. For the fans to create a moment for me in the eighth inning, it’s something I will never forget.”
Freeman’s wife, Chelsea, handled ticket requests for the first time at home and packed a suite along the third base line with Freeman’s father, grandfather, aunts, uncles and siblings. Freeman didn’t know how many family members eventually came out, but he said he knew it was a lot — just as it was during his brief spring training.
“That’s all about me – the family,” Freeman said. “And that they could share that moment with me tonight was something special.”
Freeman attended high school in Orange, California, about 30 miles south of Dodger Stadium, before the Braves drafted him in the second round of the 2007 draft. As his career progressed and he established himself among the sport’s greatest hitters, Freeman was damned mostly on the playing field. Dodgers. He hit .296/.353/.512 in 33 regular season games as a visitor there and continued to terrorize the Dodgers in postseason, hitting .308 over four separate meetings—including the 2021 National League Championship, which the Braves won while They were on their way to the tournament.
The inconvenience that followed was as stressful as it was uncertain. The 99-day shutdown prevented teams from engaging with players. Before and after that, Freeman claimed, the Braves only checked in twice, both times unceremoniously, although Braves’ general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, disputes this accounting.
When he replaced the brave with his first base, Matt OlsonFreeman described him as “shocked.” When Anthopoulos shed tears in the aftermath, Freeman rejected them. He’s here now, in a new place that seems familiar in some ways, and he’s doing his best to move on.
Thursday was a big step.
“It was definitely cool,” Freeman said. “Last month has been very special, since the first match in [the team’s spring training complex] Tonight, they welcome me with open arms.
“The first game at Dodger Stadium with the Dodgers, I don’t think it could have been much better.”
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