ATLANTA — It was an emotional journey back to Truist Park on Friday for Freddie Freeman, the once beloved Atlanta Braves first basemen who now wears a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform.
Freeman, who helped lead the Braves to a World Series win last season, had been on an eight-year, $135 million deal with Atlanta that paid him $22 million in base salary last year. Negotiations on a new contract, however, seemingly stalled after the team's World Series victory. The news was later announced that Freeman would be joining the Dodgers.
Now, his past and present teams are meeting at a crossroad as they prepare for Friday's game.
Nostalgic memories of his time in Atlanta made Freeman emotional during a pre-game news conference. He briefly stepped out of the briefing room and came back telling the reporters, “I don’t know if I can get through this.” But in true sportsmanship fashion, he said he would try.
Filled with tears as he prepared to take on the Braves at Truist -- the place he used to call home -- Freeman said it was hard to put his emotions and feelings into words.
“I’m just happy to be back,” he said.
He said the fans have been there for him since he was 20 years old – and then some even followed his journey before he made it Atlanta.
“I love the Braves organization with all my heart,” he said. “That will never change.
While he’s here, he will also get the chance to receive his World Series ring.
“I think when you are a kid, all you dream about is making it to the big leagues. That’s everyone’s dream," he said, fighting back tears. "Then, when you get to the big leagues and then you just want to stay, and then when you’re lucky and blessed enough to be able to stay, your whole mindset changes and all you want to do is win."
"That ring is not just a ring to me," he said. "With all the sacrifices, all the missed family time, all the hours, the broken wrists, the14-hour bus rides in the minor leagues, the 4 a.m. get-in at hotels, the grind every single year -- to finally win."
Freeman even gave credit to Braves Manager Brian Snitker and his former teammates during the news conference as he talked about the World Series run.
After a few more questions, Freeman embraced some of the people in the room, laughing off the tears, "I'm sorry, guys," he joked. I tried."
Freeman is set to take the field against his former team at 7:20 p.m.