Braves first baseman's father on hand for two NLDS games in Atlanta
LOS ANGELES -- Freddie Freeman earned his first All-Star appearance after garnering more votes than anybody in the history of the All-Star Game Final Vote balloting process. There is also a chance he could celebrate both a World Series title and a top-five finish in balloting for the National League MVP Award before this year is complete.
But regardless of what happens over the next few weeks, Freeman will always appreciate the opportunity he has had to spend this past week with his father, Fred Freeman, who flew to Atlanta for the first two games of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers and then returned to his Southern California home on Saturday to prepare to watch his son play Games 3 and 4 at Dodger Stadium.
"My dad hadn't been in Atlanta for two years," Freeman said on Saturday. "For him to come out and watch me in a pretty big situation is definitely special. It almost made it easier on me. I just had a comfort level knowing my father was in the stands. I just wanted to go out there and do good things for him."
Great paternal pride was felt as Fred heard the boisterous Atlanta crowds chant "Freddie, Freddie" and "M-V-P" when his son came to the plate this week. Freddie did his part to energize the crowd when he opened the fourth inning of Game 2 with a double that put him in position to score a go-ahead run that gave the Braves a lead they would not relinquish en route to evening the best-of-five series with a 4-3 victory.
"I think that is every father's dream, see their son succeed," Freddie Freeman said. "For him to be able to see that in a playoff game, I think that is pretty special."
After Friday's game, Freeman shared a hug with his father that certainly stirred more emotions than those that he freely gives teammates throughout the season.
"He was like, 'Thank you for everything, this has been awesome,'" the Braves' first baseman said. "I was like, 'No, thank you. This wouldn't have happened without you.' I think he was just so thrilled and so proud."
There is legitimate reason for the elder Freeman to be proud of all his son has accomplished through his first three Major League seasons. Freddie finished this year with the NL's third-best batting average (.319) and second-highest RBIs total (109). His journey toward eclipsing the century mark in RBIs for the first time was a product of his .443 batting average with runners in scoring position -- which also ranked second in the NL.
None of this came as a surprise to Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, who began referring to Freeman as an RBI hog when they first began playing together at the professional level in 2007, at the ripe age of 17.
"I'm a little more impressed for him to get that many RBIs, when at the beginning of the season he didn't have that many guys getting on in front of him, like he did once I started swinging the bat well," Heyward said. "He's definitely gained some respect throughout the league."
Braves hitting coach Greg Walker has said the sky is the limit for Freeman, who has shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields with power and also cut down on his swing when necessary in certain run-producing situations.
Along with having the power potential to hit a game-ending home run like he did against the Mets' Dillon Gee on June 17, Freeman has shown the ability to produce the awkward swing that allowed him to put the ball in play and produce a walk-off single against the Twins on May 21.
"I think the biggest thing I've seen in him is just another year under his belt in the Major League level," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think last year, he finished with  RBIs, and he really wanted to drive in a hundred runs. But I think his approach last year was different from this year. Now, whatever the defense is giving him, he'll take."
With the finest regular season of his young career complete, Freeman is hoping to have the opportunity to extend his success over the next few weeks and bring even more joy to his father, who also had to assume a maternal role when Rosemary Freeman died of melanoma in June 2000.
Since losing his mother when he was just 10 years old, Freeman has relied heavily on his father, who did far more than throw countless hours of batting practice.
After nearly losing his own life to congestive heart failure, a condition that developed after he and his sons began eating too much fast food after his wife's passing, Fred Freeman learned how to cook simple items and continued to provide the parental guidance that allowed Freddie to grow into the man that has become so beloved by Braves fans.
"In his mind, it has all come full circle," Freeman said. "But I still think it hasn't. For what he has done for me, seeing me play two games in the playoffs isn't enough in my eyes. So hopefully, I can give him a little bit more the next couple days here."