Friday night the Los Angeles Dodgers opened a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves, and Freddie Freeman returned to Truist Park for the first time since leaving as a free agent this past offseason. Freeman played parts of 12 seasons for the Braves and helped the club win the 2021 World Series, their second since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1966.
"I was doing pretty good about an hour ago. I still love the Braves organization with all my heart. That will never change," a teary-eyed Freeman told reporters, including the New York Times, on Friday. Freeman had to exit the press conference room to collect himself before speaking to reporters.
"For me, that World Series ring is more than a ring," Freeman said about receiving his 2021 World Series ring on Friday, per 680 The Fan. "It's all the sacrifices, the 14-hour bus rides in the minor leagues, the grind every single year."
A second-round pick in 2007, Freeman broke into the big leagues with the Braves in 2010 and was a middle-of-the-lineup mainstay for the next 11 seasons. He authored a .295/.384/.509 batting line with 271 home runs with Atlanta and was named the 2020 NL MVP thanks to a .341/.462/.640 line with 13 homers, 45 walks, and only 37 strikeouts in the 60-game season.
A free agent for the first time this past season, Freeman certainly had discussions with the Braves, though the two sides were fairly far apart in contract talks. Atlanta closed the door on a reunion when they traded for Matt Olson in March. Freeman eventually signed with the Dodgers, his hometown team, on a six-year contract worth $162 million.
"I have no regrets and I'm not looking for closure," Freeman said, per The Athletic. "There's nothing to close for me here. Why would I close it? It's such a special time, the 15 years I spent here."
Not surprisingly, the Truist Park crowd gave Freeman a warm welcome when he was presented with his 2021 World Series ring by manager Brian Snitker:
Then the emotions took over once again as Freeman addressed the crowd:
Finally, the feting continued leading up to Freeman's first plate appearance of the night:
The Braves franchise has been around more than a century and Freeman is all over the franchise leaderboards, ranking top 10 in games (1,565), hits (1,704), doubles (367), home runs (271), total bases (2,934), on-base percentage (.384), slugging percentage (.509), OPS (.893), and WAR (43.1), among other things. He is quite simply one of the greatest Braves ever.
This season Freeman, 32, owns a .303/.386/.494 batting line with eight home runs in 68 games. So a typical Freeman season, basically. The Dodgers (43-25) and Braves (41-30) are separated by only a few games in the standings, it should be noted.
The Braves lost two of three to the Dodgers in Los Angeles in April. Freeman went 4 for 11 with two home runs in his first series against his former team.