Superstars are the best on the field, besties off of it

May 29th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Juan Toribio’s Dodgers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PHOENIX -- On the fourth day of Spring Training, as the Dodgers were taking batting practice in one of the backfields at Camelback Ranch, Mookie Betts walked over to Freddie Freeman

“Hey, if you ever need to talk,” Betts told Freeman, “I’m here.” 

It was a quick message from Betts, but one that carried significant weight to Freeman, who had the toughest offseason of his career before ultimately signing a six-year, $162 million deal with the Dodgers and ending his 15-year career in the Braves organization.

“It’s almost not needing to talk, but knowing that somebody is there for you to talk to,” Freeman said. “It’s tough. We’re human. It’s been a huge transition and knowing that Mookie and all the guys have been there for me, it’s just been as smooth as it possibly can get in a situation like this.”

Betts can relate to some of the things Freeman has dealt with as he navigates through his first year in a different organization. After spending his entire career with the Red Sox, Betts was traded to Los Angeles in 2020. Though the outfielder was never opposed to changing teams, it was still difficult to leave the only organization he had known up to that point.

“It’s been great, it really has,” Freeman said of their relationship. “I think him coming from Boston and getting traded, my situation, he’s been in a similar thing and you kind of just hit it off and you have the same mindset in life.”

Though Freeman and Betts have spent some time together at All-Star Games, the two have naturally gotten a chance to know each other more personally over the last few months. When Freeman signed his deal in March, Dodgers reliever David Price told him he was “going to love Mookie” because of their similar personalities. As they have come to realize, the list of things they have in common runs just as long as Price and others told them.

Both take pride in being family-oriented people. Freeman always has his family around, as does Betts. They each take pride in putting in the extra work on the field, but don’t allow baseball to take over their lives off the field. And for being two of the biggest superstars in the game, they each prefer to fly under the radar.

“He’s just a friend of mine now,” Betts said. “We come to the field around the same time, our routines are very similar. We bat one and two, and we’re just enjoying the friendship.”

That friendship has included car rides to and from the ballpark, even on the road. Their wives, Chelsea and Brianna, have become friends, as have their young kids -- particularly Freeman's son Charlie and Betts' daughter Kynlee. Occasionally, the two have decided to fly to cities together in order to keep their families close to one another.

“It’s just kind of been a bond that has been fun to go through with him for the first couple of months, especially when you know you’re going to be together for a while,” Freeman added. “We’re just kind of on the same page in all areas.”

On the field, it took them just 46 games to become one of the most feared duos in the Majors. In 2020, Freeman edged Betts for NL MVP, and the two are setting themselves up for another run in '22, all while trying to lead the Dodgers to their 10th-consecutive postseason berth.

Whether they want the spotlight or not, both Betts and Freeman understand they’ll be the faces of the franchise for the foreseeable future, and their individual success could ultimately dictate how much team success the Dodgers have during their tenure.

“I have one job and he takes a lot of pressure off of me,” Betts said. “It’s just fun. It’s just fun knowing that I can get on base and there’s a really good percentage that I’m going to come around to score and help the team win. That’s just fun to be around.”

As they continue to develop their friendship and bond, Freeman and Betts hope that fun continues over, at least, the next six seasons.