Emotional Freeman gets ovation, ring in exchange for Atlanta

ATLANTA (AP) — Freddie Freeman expect to be emotional during his anticipated return to Atlanta.

He was unprepared for the flood of feelings – and tears – that returned before his first match as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers on fridaynight.

A stampede from them forced him to leave his pregame press conference before it even started. Freeman had to meet several times to discuss his continued love for the braves and Atlanta. He then wondered how he would get through the three-game streak.

“I don’t even know how to get through this weekend,” Freeman said.

He was surprised how well he did in the series opener. He reached base three times, on two walks and a single, and scored twice in the Dodgers’ 4-1 win.

“I did well,” he said. “I’m picking up three bases and two runs scored. … The best thing that happened was running in that first at bat.”

Receiving his 2021 World Series championship ring, presented by Braves manager Brian Snitker at a pregame ceremony, sparked more emotions in Freeman. After a tribute video to Freeman, he took a slow walk to the field to join Snitker, who was standing in front of the mound next to the World Series trophy.

Braves fans stood and cheered, some chanting “Freddie! Freddie!” Freeman replied by removing his cap and raising both arms to the fans. Freeman hugged Snitker twice, including once after putting on his ring, then grinned and gave the ring a kiss.

Minutes later, Freeman held up his batting helmet to the fans after another ovation for his first at bat. Braves righthander Ian Anderson walked Freeman, who later scored on a sacrifice fly by Justin Turner for a 2-0 lead. Freeman struckout in the second inning.

Freeman hit a home run in his first reunion game, a 7-4 win over the Braves in Los Angeles on April 18.

Freeman, the 2020 NL MVP, led the Braves to their first World Series title since 1995. He was widely expected to re-sign with Atlanta, but instead signed a six-year $162 million contract with the Dodgers after he could not reach an agreement with the Braves.

After 15 years in the Braves’ organization, including 12 with Atlanta, the 32-year-old has had a productive first half with the Dodgers. He hit .303 with eight homeruns and 45 RBIs coming in on Friday and is third in the NL All-Star voting among first basemen.

Atlanta’s Matt Olson, who took over from the Oakland Athletics two days after Freeman’s loss, is fourth in the voting.

Constantly fighting his emotions, Freeman made no eye contact with Braves reporters during the opening minutes of his press conference.

“I can’t even look at you guys because I don’t know how to get through it,” he said.

Even starting the press conference was difficult. When he first entered the interrogation room, Freeman said “give me a second” and then turned and left the room for several minutes.

Upon his return, Freeman said, “Man, I love the Braves organization with all my heart. That will never change.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he was not surprised by Freeman’s declaration of his continued love for the Braves.

“I think it’s something Freddie has been waiting for a long time,” Roberts said. “Everyone here loves him. I still know he will be ready to play a baseball game.”

Seeing the large group of reporters ahead of the game, Snitker quipped, “Is something wrong?”

Snitker held other ring ceremonies for returning players earlier this week, including San Francisco’s Joc Pederson.

“I’m happy, just as I’m happy for all the guys we gave them to,” Snitker said of Freeman.

One of Freeman’s friends, Brave’s shortstop Dansby Swanson, said on Thursday: “It’s always good to see old friends, but I’m still looking forward to beating him.”

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