Braves first baseman upsets phenom Puig in Final Vote, will join Kimbrel at Citi Field
ATLANTA -- Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has gained his first All-Star selection with the thrill of knowing the honor came courtesy of the record-setting support he received from fans over the course of the past few days.
When the 2013 All-Star Final Vote balloting process concluded on Thursday afternoon, Freeman learned that he had garnered more votes than heavy favorite Yasiel Puig and each of the other three National League candidates -- Hunter Pence, Ian Desmond and Adrian Gonzalez.
In fact, the 19.7 million votes Freeman received were more than any Final Vote candidate has ever collected since the competition began. Puig also surpassed the previous record vote total (15.6 million) Shane Victorino compiled in 2009.
"It's just an amazing thing," Freeman said. "I didn't even know fans knew about me. I just try to stay low and play baseball. To get this much love and support from everybody is just unimaginable."
Freeman could not stop smiling as he spoke to media members approximately 20 minutes after Braves general manager Frank Wren pulled him off the field during Thursday's batting practice to inform him that he would be joining Craig Kimbrel as the two players who will represent the team at next week's All-Star Game at Citi Field.
"It's unbelievable," Freeman said. "I never ever thought I would make [an All-Star team]. I just wanted to get to the big leagues, and then once I got here, I just wanted to help my team win ballgames. All-Star Games were not on my mind."
As Freeman thought about sharing this All-Star experience with his father, Fred, he also thought about his mother, Rosemary, who lost her battle against melanoma when he was just nine years old.
"I know she's up there jumping up and down," Freeman said. "I wish she was here to be a part of this. But I know she is a part of it with me."
This surprising development in the balloting process might not have equaled the magnitude of the United States hockey team beating the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics. But if Al Michaels were announcing the results, he might have uttered the words, "Do you believe in miracles?"
When Freeman learned he was a candidate on Saturday night, he was among the many who assumed the contest would simply affirm how popular Puig has become since making his Major League debut for the Dodgers on June 3.
"It's the Puig campaign," Braves pitcher Kris Medlen said on Sunday. "Honestly, [Freeman] has no shot. Whether he hits six home runs and has 20 RBIs in Miami [this week], he's not going to make the All-Star team."
But over the past five days, Medlen and many others have come to realize the power of social media and the passion shown by the Braves' loyal fan base. Freeman was leading the competition when the results were released on a daily basis going back to Sunday.
Still, before Thursday morning, Freeman was preparing himself for the possibility that Puig would win with a late push.
"It kind of hit me this morning when [the updated results] said I was still leading," Freeman said. "I was like, 'I actually might win this thing.'"
Freeman's optimism grew on Thursday as he saw his Twitter timeline filled with #VoteFreddie messages during the six-hour period (10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET) in which fans could cast votes by including the hashtag designated for each of the candidates in their tweets. The program drew a sustained average of more than 4,200 tweets per minute and accounted for 13 percent of the record 79.2 million overall votes that were cast.
Freeman playfully estimated that one female Braves fan he follows flooded his timeline with 300 consecutive tweets on Thursday afternoon.
"It's just an amazing thrill that I even got on that Final Vote [ballot]," Freeman said. "[To get] 19.7 million people, or it could have been just one person, it's just amazing that I won."
Freeman entered Thursday hitting .307 with nine home runs and a .858 OPS. He stands as one of just eight NL players who have hit at least .300 with an on-base percentage above .380 and a slugging percentage above .450.
But he had stood as the only member of this group who had not gained an All-Star selection. This was influenced by the fact that he plays the same position as Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt and Allen Craig, who all gained deserved selections on Saturday.
Freeman's teammates campaigned for him with cardboard signs they made and displayed in the dugout. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and rapper Lil John were among the celebrities who showed their support for Freeman on Twitter.
"It's just been an amazing thrill seeing all the comments on my Twitter," Freeman said. "Seeing some of the other athletes and celebrities that came out and said vote for me, I never thought anything like this would happen to me."