Nearly 15 years ago, the Atlanta Braves selected a 17-year old slugger from Orange County, California in the second round of the 2007 MLB draft. Just three years later, Frederick Charles Freeman would make his major league debut and begin a memorable career with the Braves.
Since then, the towering first baseman has become a fan favorite known for his leadership, good sportsmanship and philanthropy.
After Freeman elected free agency following the Braves’ World Series championship in November, news broke in the early hours of Thursday, March 17, that he had agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It sure won’t be easy seeing him in another uniform.
For over a decade, Freeman has been the most consistent force for an Atlanta team that experienced the full spectrum of failure and success since his arrival.
When Freeman made his debut on Sept. 1, 2010, the Braves were on the cusp of their first postseason appearance in five years. While Freeman would not be a part of that season’s playoff roster, he would become an important part of the team’s success in the next three years.
His rookie season was mostly successful, hitting for a .282 batting average with 21 home runs and 76 RBI as the Braves narrowly missed the playoffs.
After that, Freeman helped lead the Braves to two consecutive playoff appearances — including the team’s first division title in eight years occurring in 2013.
The 2013 season also saw Freeman make the first of five All-Star appearances for Atlanta, finishing that year with over 100 RBI for the first time in his career.
The following four years would be the most challenging for both Freeman and the Braves, as the team would go through a rebuilding phase and Freeman would face multiple injuries.
It was during that period of adversity, however, that the Braves organization decided to build around the clear centerpiece of the team — Freddie.
His commitment to the team and increasing leadership skills gave the team a foundation for future success.
By 2018, Atlanta’s fortunes began to rise, and so did Freeman’s. The Braves would win consecutive division titles and Freeman made consecutive All-Star appearances.
Even in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Freeman continued to play at his best by winning the National League MVP award that year while the Braves lost in the NLCS.
And then it happened.
Despite the demoralizing injuries to Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mike Soroka during the 2021 season, one man stood ready to lead the Braves and help them withstand the pressure from the other teams in the NL East division. Freddie.
In many ways it was a textbook Freddie season, with a batting average of precisely .300, 31 home runs, 83 RBI and a NL-leading 120 runs.
Of course, many other players deserve credit for helping the Braves to their first World Series title in 26 years. But could that have been achieved without the play and presence of Freeman?
It was only fitting that Freeman’s final hit as a Brave was not only a home run, but also the final run scored in the 2021 World Series.
It was also fitting that he caught the final out of that World Series, on that unforgettable toss from Dansby Swanson.
While Freeman may now be joining another squad, his contributions to Atlanta will not soon be forgotten.
He helped usher in a new standard of success for the Braves after a period of uncertainty had come over the organization. Now, Atlanta has four consecutive division titles and a World Series championship.
As head coach Brian Snitker so aptly put it, Freeman was “everything that the Braves stand for”.
Thank you Freddie, and farewell.