ST. LOUIS — Freddie Freeman can’t promise there will be no more tears. Playing in Atlanta will never be just another series for him.
But returning for a second time will be “a little bit different” than last year’s emotional weekend, which saw Freeman break down during a press conference and repeatedly shed tears on the field as he received his 2021 World Series ring and multiple ovations from Braves fans at Truist Park.
“Last year there were a lot of things going on and obviously I was really looking forward to getting my World Series ring and stuff like that,” Freeman said over the weekend with the Dodgers heading back to Atlanta for a three-game series beginning Monday. “It’s a special place, a lot of special memories.
“I got through it. We all got through it. We had a good year. I don’t think there’s going to be any crying this time around. Well, you never know. If something happens again, I can’t say that.”
At the tear-filled press conference before his first game as a visitor in Atlanta last year, Freeman was asked if he was “looking for closure” for that chapter of his life.
“There’s nothing to close for me here. Why would I close such a special time?” he said. “There’s nothing to close.”
By the time the three-game series was over and Freeman was on the Dodgers’ overnight flight to their next series in Colorado, he realized he was wrong.
“I wasn’t looking for closure. I definitely got it when I played those three games there,” he said now. “You never know what you need until you go through stuff. I think I just needed to go through the process of going there, playing there and leaving there.”
Freeman’s three-day emotional catharsis landed differently with some of his teammates. Clayton Kershaw was quoted by an Atlanta reporter, delivering an off-the-cuff comment that he hoped Freeman didn’t see the Dodgers’ organization as playing “second fiddle.”
The two talked about the remark. But even before that, Freeman sent a text in the team’s group chat thanking his teammates for “bearing with me” and apologizing for taking so long to get over the abrupt end to his 15 years in the Braves’ organization.
“Unless you’ve gone through it and done it … you’ve got to let the person go through it,” Freeman said. “When I said, ‘I’m sorry it took me three months.’ Andrew (Friedman) was, ‘Three months? I didn’t think it would happen that fast.’
“Every person’s different. There’s no playbook for anything. That’s how I felt. I did the best I could to come out here every day and play hard while I was going through that.”
Anticipation for this return to Atlanta has been building — in the Freeman family. His wife, Chelsea, and their three sons traveled to Atlanta while the Dodgers were playing in St. Louis. Freeman’s father (who missed last year’s visit) and “a lot of family” will also be in Atlanta.
The Freemans still have the house they custom built in Atlanta and spent several weeks there during the offseason. Now Freeman will be able to spend time with another loved one there.
“I’m looking forward to sleeping in my bed,” he said. “I love that bed.”
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