DENVER - Both Braves All-Star representatives, first baseman Freddie Freeman and second baseman Ozzie Albies, had All-Star experiences before, but they still enjoyed their latest time at MLB’s midsummer classic.

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Freeman started for the National League and hit fourth Tuesday night. Albies was a reserve behind starting NL second baseman Adam Frazier (Pittsburgh).

Freeman went 1-for-2 with an 0-2 single through the right infield against Red Sox righty Nathan Eovaldi in the fourth. Albies replaced Frazier to open the sixth. He went 1-for-2 with a two-out double off White Sox closer Liam Hendriks in the ninth. Freeman and Albies were the only pair of NL teammates with hits. The American League defeated the NL, 5-2.

It was Freeman’s fifth All-Star nod and the third consecutive year he started the game. He enjoys the festivities more now that his 4-year-old son Charlie is so baseball-obsessed. Freeman said he thinks this will be the first baseball memory Charlie will have.

“It’s just fun to be here,” Freeman said. “It’s getting more fun for me now that Charlie, my son, is of the age that all he cares about is meeting baseball players. … That’s what makes the excitement, that the kids are excited for it. When I was hitting .220 a couple months ago, all Charlie would tell me is, ‘Daddy, I need you to hit better so we can go to the All-Star game.’ I said, ‘All right, son. I’ll do my best.’ So I’m here, and I have to make his wish come true. That’s it for me. The young kids who are so excited for baseball.”

Charlie’s No. 1 wish indeed came to fruition. He wanted to meet Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis, one of baseball’s top young stars. The two met before the home run derby Monday, with Freeman and his wife, Chelsea, sharing photos and videos of the moment. Charlie and Tatis’ interactions went viral on social media.

“It was great; I feel like we were both star-struck by that moment,” Tatis said during a red-carpet interview on MLB Network on Tuesday. “That handshake he was giving me, so much power. It was real. We were having fun, watched a bit of the derby together and talked a little bit. It was just a good time all the way around.”

Charlie told his father at breakfast Tuesday morning, “Daddy, yesterday was a fun day.” Charlie wore a suit on the red carpet, helping him continue to garner social-media attention, and he gave Tatis another hug before the players entered the stadium, Freeman said.

Freeman’s season turnaround helped make his son’s dream come true. Freeman, the reigning NL MVP, had a dreadful start plagued by poor luck. Freeman hit just .233 over his first 43 games, which were littered with hard-hit balls directly at defenders.

National League players take the field during batting practice for the MLB All-Star baseball game, Monday, July 12, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Gabriel Christus)
Caption
National League players take the field during batting practice for the MLB All-Star baseball game, Monday, July 12, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Gabriel Christus)

Credit: AP Photo/Gabriel Christus

Credit: AP Photo/Gabriel Christus

But since May 21, luck has swung more his way, and Freeman is producing like himself. He’s hit .312/.407/.500 with seven homers, 11 doubles and 22 RBIs in 45 games.

Freeman’s All-Star experience has been tamer than years past. The former home run derby participant watched with his son from the sidelines Monday (“It’s by far the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done,” Freeman said of the 2018 derby). Unfortunately for Freeman, he didn’t get his wish to face two-way Angels star Shohei Ohtani, who was starting on the mound and leading off for the AL. Ohtani only pitched one inning.

Ohtani has been the top topic among players, reporters and fans in Denver.

“For him to be able to do this at this high of a level, it’s absolutely incredible,” Freeman said. “Hopefully I get to face him. I know I’m probably not going to hit him very well. But you want to be there and see him. (Braves catcher) Jonathan Lucroy was a teammate of his and told me it’s the most incredible power he’s ever seen. That’s what it’s all about. That’s another guy playing baseball who has an incredible gift, and now everyone gets to see it. Who doesn’t want to watch that?”

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Albies, meanwhile, is an All-Star for the second time after earning his first nod in 2018. He had something in common with Charlie Freeman: Albies finally met Tatis.

“I haven’t met him in person before,” Albies said, laughing. “We talk on social media but not much in person. He was the main guy I hadn’t seen. A lot of other guys I’ve played against or met already.” Tatis posted videos and photos with Albies on his Instagram.

The switch-hitting Albies is having another electric season. He’s hitting .262/.323/.500 with 15 homers, 61 RBIs and 53 runs. He’s added 25 doubles, five triples and 13 stolen bases. Albies, 24, is on pace to achieve his third season with 40 doubles, 20 homers and five triples. He’d become the 10th player in history to reach those numbers in three different seasons.

That list includes eight Hall of Famers and one active player, Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts, who’s well on his way to Cooperstown. The players: Stan Musial (six times), Lou Gehrig (6), Rogers Hornsby (6), Hank Greenberg (5), Chuck Klein (4), Betts (3), Joe Medwick (3), Ted Williams (3) and Al Simmons (3).

“I don’t know that (Albies) is nationally recognized the way we want him to be,” Freeman told the AJC. “For him to be 24, two All-Stars, he has like 45 extra-base hits. He’s a special, special player. Just because he’s not 6-foot-4 and hitting 500-foot home runs - I think every one of us knows how valuable and good he is at this. He’s already started one game. Adam is having a special season (earning the starting second base spot). I hope everyone gets to see on a national level (Tuesday) how good Ozzie is.”

After missing a chunk of the shortened 2020 campaign with injury, Albies said he’s the healthiest he’s been in a long time. That has been key in him becoming one of the Braves’ best run producers, and with outfielder Ronald Acuna now sidelined for the rest of the season, Albies’ importance grows.

“I just stick to my plan, stick to my same routine,” Albies said. “Doesn’t matter if the game is early or late. Just prepare for the game and do what I need to do.”

If the Braves, at 44-45, are going to surprise outsiders and work their way back into the postseason mix, Freeman and Albies will be spearheading their revival. But first, the two will enjoy the All-Star festivities and catch their breath before the second half begins this weekend.

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