Los Angeles Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman says ovation on home debut ‘something I’ll never forget’

LOS ANGELES – The baseball ricocheted off the warning track and sailed into the bleachers, causing a change in pitch, sending a capacity crowd into a frenzy and leaving Freddie Freeman alone at second base in the middle of Dodger Stadium, with his family roaring from a luxury suite and his new fans loudly chanting his name.

Fre-ddie! Fre-ddie! Fre-ddie!

“I got goosebumps in the dugout,” Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger said late Thursday night. “I really did.”

It was the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ home opener, the score was tied and Freeman had thrown a baseline double into the left center field gap, on a cutter that tracked a slider near his head. Play stopped, but the chants continued, growing louder as a new Cincinnati Reds reliever entered the game.

Freeman, the local product who felt rejected by the Atlanta Braves and signed a six-year, $162 million contract with the Dodgers largely so his family could be there on nights like these, couldn’t help but admit it.

He raised his left hand to the sky, grabbed the top of his helmet with the other, and patted his chest in appreciation.

“It’s as special as it gets,” Freeman said moments later, after his first double kicked off the six-run inning that sent the Dodgers to a 9-3 victory. “You had those feelings before, coming out on the line for intros, but usually once the game starts those feelings go away. For the fans, being able to create a moment for me in the eighth inning is something I won’t forget. never .”

Freeman’s wife Chelsea handled home debut ticket requests and packed a suite along the third base line with father, grandfather, aunts, uncles and brothers and Freeman’s sisters. Freeman didn’t know how many family members eventually came out, but said he knows it was a lot – just like it was throughout his abbreviated spring training.

“That’s what it’s all about for me — family,” Freeman said. “And for them to be able to share this moment with me tonight was something special.”

Freeman attended high school in Orange, Calif., about 30 miles south of Dodger Stadium, before the Braves drafted him in the second round of the 2007 draft. As his career progressed and he established himself among the sport’s greatest hitters, Freeman was most reviled in the Dodgers’ ballpark. He hit .296/.353/.512 in 33 regular-season games as a visitor there and continually terrorized the Dodgers in the playoffs, batting .308 in four separate encounters — including the Championship Series. of the 2021 National League, which the Braves won on their way to a championship.

The off-season that followed was as stressful as it was uncertain. A 99-day lockout has prevented teams from engaging with players. Before and after, Freeman claimed, the Braves only checked in twice, both times informally, though Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos disputes that accounting.

When the Braves traded for replacement first base Matt Olson, Freeman described being “blindsided.” When Anthopoulos shed tears following this, Freeman fired them. He’s here now, in a new place that in some ways feels familiar, doing his best to move on.

Thursday was a big step.

“It’s been really good,” Freeman said. “Last month was pretty special, from the first game to [the team’s spring training complex] until tonight, they welcomed me with open arms.

“First game at Dodger Stadium with the Dodgers, I don’t think it could have gotten much better than that.”

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