CUMBERLAND, Ga. -- Nigel Talton has been sprinting between innings at Atlanta Braves games for the past few years. But it took him putting on blue and white spandex and getting a cool nickname to become famous.
Talton is "The Freeze," who is part of a promotional race for the Braves and has gone viral over the past few weeks. Talton joined the Braves grounds crew in 2012. He was the one running from the foul pole in right field to third base after the third and sixth innings when the grounds crew freshens up the dirt. It's a job no one ever wanted because of how far it was.
But he did.
"No one ever wanted to go so the first time I did it, I had my rake and my base. I sprinted as fast I can all the way to third. And they were like, gosh he’s pretty fast," Talton told 11Alive's Wes Blankenship.
Last year, the Braves had Talton do the 20-second stolen base challenge to show off his speed. So before the 2017 season started, the Braves approached Talton about a new promotion and asked if he was interested. The rest is history.
Here's how it goes: Talton races a fan who is released early in the outfield track, and when the fan reaches about the halfway point, Talton is released. He always catches up and beats the fan, except for the first time he did it. They were still working out the timing.
But a race last week went viral when a fan, Alex Arrowood, started celebrating too early. Arrowood fell flat on his face when he realized Talton was catching up on him and eventually won.
"They told me he’s like an Olympic track star, or something like that," Arrowood said of Talton, whose identity was still a mystery at the time. "It worried me a little bit, but I was like surely there’s no way he can catch me from that far in the distance."
Talton said he didn't feel too bad about how that race finished.
"He was showboating twice," Talton said. "I was like, 'He trying to embarrass The Freeze.'
"Can't have that."
Talton is training to make the U.S. Indoor Track and Field team and hopefully qualify for the 2020 Olympics. He lifts weights a couple times a week, runs almost every day except on weekends; that's when the track meets are.
Having an alter ego known as The Freeze has helped his career.
"I’m just having fun. I don’t have no pressure on me. Win or lose, I’m entertaining the fans. Running tack, it’s kind of stressful, but I know this will take the stress away," Talton said. "Me running in front of a big crowd, I won’t be nervous."
There are some differences. The massive head start the fans get, the running towards the right instead of to the left to go around a track. But he's got it down, and with so many challengers out there, he's staying in shape.
But the only MLB player The Freeze has his sights set on racing is Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton, one of the fastest runners in the game.
"I wish The Freeze can get an opportunity to run, but I wouldn’t give him a head start," Talton said.
The Reds visit SunTrust Park Aug. 18-20. Seems like a perfect time for that match-up.
The Braves have enjoyed watching The Freeze from the dugout. Mike Foltynewicz and Dansby Swanson had the biggest reactions when Talton beat Arrowood in that infamous race.
"It feels good that they notice my speed and that I'm entertaining the fans," Talton said.
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