HOUSTON — The friendliest man in baseball is a champion. Freddie Freeman, the Atlanta Braves’ slugger identified for smiles, small talk and soft-serve ice cream, hit the final residence run of the season and caught the throw from shortstop for the ultimate out of the World Collection. Good guys end first.
That is the life Freeman wished — the baseball profession, sure, but additionally the status he has earned alongside the way in which. He owed that a lot to his mom, Rosemary, who died of melanoma in 2000.
“He felt like, to honor his mother, he needed to be an excellent child,” his father, Fred Freeman, mentioned on the Minute Maid Park infield late Tuesday evening, after Atlanta completed off the Houston Astros, 7-0, in Sport 6. “That was it. When he was 10, that’s what he determined he was going to be. He at all times mentioned, ‘I do know mother’s watching.’”
The roof was open on a heat evening right here Tuesday, excellent viewing for Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, Rosemary Freeman and so many extra. Perhaps you consider in that imagery, possibly you don’t. However the soul of the Braves does, and for now, he’s the one atop the baseball world.
“Imagine me, I want I used to be in a position to hug my mother on that subject,” Freeman mentioned. “However I do know she’s up with my grandma proper now, leaping up and down.”
Freeman mentioned his spouse, Chelsea, texted him two hours earlier than Sport 6 to inform him his mom can be pleased with him. It was not a message Freeman thought he wanted then, he mentioned, as a result of it made him emotional earlier than the largest sport of his life.
However it was acceptable, he added, and it labored. It was comforting, mentioned Freddie’s older brother, Andrew, to consider how their mom would have celebrated.
“She’d be the primary one on that subject, operating out to bearhug him proper now,” Andrew mentioned. “She did every little thing for us. She didn’t know baseball, so she purchased ‘Baseball for Dummies’ to understand how to do that factor. She would at all times put on our buttons — she was the ‘Button Mother’ in Little League — and to suppose that if she was right here at present, oh my gosh. It might be completely superb.”
Rosemary might need identified that her son was sure for stardom. In tee ball at age 6, Freddie hit the ball so laborious that he was deemed too harmful for that division of the North Dawn Little League in Orange, Calif. He practiced with the 12-year-olds as a substitute.
At age 7, Freeman performed with the 9-year-olds. At 9, he performed with the 12-year-olds. As a senior at El Modena Excessive Faculty, he was chosen by Atlanta within the second spherical of the 2007 draft. Fred needed to signal the contract — for a $409,500 bonus — as a result of Freddie was solely 17, and when Freddie grew homesick within the Gulf Coast League, Fred flew to Orlando for 2 weeks of ballgames on again fields and dinners at Applebee’s.
A sample was established: Freeman would wrestle, name dad and discover his approach.
“Even in Triple-A, when he was 20, he’d name me after two weeks and he was batting underneath .100,” Fred Freeman mentioned. “He mentioned, ‘Dad, I made a mistake, I want to return residence, I’m not ok.’
“So I flew out to Charlotte, as a result of they have been taking part in there, and I watched one sport and he struck out 4 instances. And I mentioned, ‘Freddie, you’re so excited, there wasn’t one strike that you just swung at.’ He mentioned, ‘Actually?’ I mentioned, ‘Freddie, they’re bouncing up there. Tomorrow, don’t swing. You may’t do any worse.’ So he walked the primary two instances on eight pitches, after which the third time up he hit one off the middle subject fence on the primary pitch.”
Freeman was within the majors by the top of that 2010 season, taking part in for a Corridor of Fame supervisor, Bobby Cox, and hitting his first residence run off a Corridor of Fame pitcher, Roy Halladay. In 11 full seasons within the majors, Freeman has by no means had a down yr.
“I don’t know what I’d do with out him, fairly actually,” mentioned Braves Supervisor Brian Snitker. “He’s my rock. I’m going to him with issues. I’ve been with him because the first day he got here right here within the massive leagues. He’s every little thing that the Braves stand for.”
The ball from the ultimate out — thrown by Will Smith, hit by Yuli Gurriel, fielded by Dansby Swanson, caught by Freeman — belongs to Snitker, Freeman mentioned. It was a typical gesture from Freeman, who additionally turned down Common Supervisor Alex Anthopoulos’s provide to purchase him an ice-cream machine for his residence as a present for successful the division.
That call, Freeman conceded, had extra to do with maintenance than humility. However he feels a powerful bond to the Braves, who rebuilt round him whereas buying and selling star teammates like Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Andrelton Simmons and Justin Upton. The staff endured 4 dropping seasons in a row throughout Freeman’s prime, and he by no means complained.
“They didn’t actually owe me something,” he mentioned. “I owed every little thing to them as a result of they gave me the chance to stay out a childhood dream. So in my thoughts, I wished to do every little thing I presumably may to assist get this staff again to successful, as a result of I got here up after we have been successful.”
This was Freeman’s sixth journey to the postseason, and probably the most unlikely. Atlanta had the fewest victories (88) of any staff within the playoff subject, and didn’t nudge their report above .500 for good till Aug. 8.
In a doubleheader sweep by the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks in April, Atlanta managed one hit within the first sport (by Freeman) and none within the second in opposition to Madison Bumgarner. Freeman completed that sport with a .205 common.
“After that sport, I used to be sitting there with him going, ‘My gosh, this could possibly be a really lengthy yr,’” Andrew Freeman mentioned. “And you recognize what? He’s like, ‘We’re an excellent staff.’ He believed it. He believed this was an excellent staff. He believed they’d what it took to win a championship.”
A barrage of accidents, most importantly to outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., may have challenged that perception. However, then, it’s laborious to pierce Freeman’s aura of positivity.
“Freddie was a believer all the way in which,” mentioned Terry McGuirk, Atlanta’s chairman. “Freddie’s by no means had a day the place he took off and didn’t play laborious. That’s the make-up that enabled this staff to construct round him and create what we have now at present.”
McGuirk added: “You don’t get right here with out the veteran leaders, and he’s the chief of the veterans.”
The tip of the World Series additionally introduced an finish to Freeman’s eight-year, $135 million contract. He received the Nationwide League’s Most Worthwhile Participant Award in 2020, thrived on this postseason (a .304 common with 5 homers and a 1.045 on-base plus slugging proportion) and can command a wealthy contract in free company.
Freeman has been open about his needs — “I feel everybody on this room is aware of I wish to keep right here,” he mentioned in a information convention throughout the World Series — and whereas McGuirk was coy in regards to the future after Sport 6, he did say, “Hey, I like him.”
McGuirk additionally mentioned Freeman deserves a spot within the Corridor of Fame, and he’s most likely proper. In response to Baseball Reference, probably the most comparable participant to Freeman at all ages, from 21 by means of 31, is Eddie Murray, a first-ballot inductee to Cooperstown.
If Freeman will get there, the 2021 championship can be etched on his plaque. It’s the success of a want Freeman shared at his locker in Atlanta someday in 2017, one other misplaced season, when an evening like Tuesday appeared as distant as a star above the Texas sky.
“All people talks about legacies and all that,” Freeman mentioned then. “What’s a legacy with no championship? What’s the purpose of that? I wish to win, and that’s all I care about.”