The Truist Park field was soggy Monday afternoon, but it was just rain. No tears this time.
First baseman Freddie Freeman signed with the Dodgers before last season after an illustrious 12-year career with the Braves that saw him win an MVP award and World Series championship. When he returned to Truist Park last June, Freeman broke into tears during his press conference and remained emotional throughout the series. It was a heavy few days for everybody involved.
This time, in his second return to Atlanta, Freeman wasn’t nearly as emotional. This visit didn’t come with the unknowns of his first. This visit didn’t come on the heels of a messy departure. Freeman is also much more established and comfortable as a key figure for the Dodgers. This felt like a series between two excellent teams without any other storylines.
Freeman stood at his locker Monday and addressed a throng of reporters who wanted to know the same thing: How are you feeling this time?
“Much better,” Freeman said with a smile. “A little bit different feelings coming into this one, but it’s good to be home. I got to spend the night at my house last night. So that was nice. And my dad drove me to the field (Monday). … So it’s been good.
“Obviously, it’s a massive difference (from returning last year). It’s all smiles coming in. Last year, I didn’t know what to feel going into it. I just let emotions go. Most everyone in here knows, whatever happens happens for me. I don’t care. I’m not going to try to control anything. This time, it’s been all smiles. It’s been good to see a lot of guys.”
Freeman and the Braves’ breakup felt like it generated as many headlines as Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn’s. It was highly publicized and fans wanted the details: How did this generation’s most iconic Brave wind up in Los Angeles, against his and the team’s declared wishes, right after the team won a title? The story has been rehashed dozens of times. Bottom line, both sides have since moved forward and thrived.
The Dodgers have undergone a lot of changes since Freeman arrived. This past offseason, they bid farewell to several mainstays like Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger. Freeman, alongside Mookie Betts and Will Smith, is a foundational piece for the lineup. He’s become for the Dodgers what he formerly was for the Braves, an extremely reliable presence on the field and in the clubhouse.
Dodgers 8, Braves 6
Freeman has hit .324 with a .924 OPS in 207 games for the Dodgers. Los Angeles won 111 games last season, though like the Braves, experienced an early postseason exit. Yet both clubs remain the class of the NL. The Braves and Dodgers entered Monday each with 29 wins, tied for most in the league.
After receiving a lengthy ovation during his return last summer, Freeman said he wasn’t sure what to expect this time. On Monday, he received another ovation, tipping his helmet to the crowd and taking in the moment. He struck out in that at-bat but got the last laugh: Freeman went 3-for-5 and launched a three-run homer off Charlie Morton in the Dodgers’ 8-6 win.
“I spent so many years here, won a championship here and so many cool things happened,” Freeman said. “I just hope (the fans) know I appreciate them. I tried to make that clear last time I was here that fans make this game go around. I appreciated it in all three games I was here last year and how they made me feel. No matter what happens (this series), I appreciate the Braves fans.”
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Credit: Channel 2 Action News