Freddie Freeman planned to address the media before tonight’s game. Then Bobby Cox told him he was starting at first base. Then Freeman decided he had better things to do before his first major-league game, like learn the Braves’ signs. All of which tells me this guy has a bad case of misplaced priorities.
Yes, I’m kidding. But everybody’s a little giddy out here today. Both Frank Wren and John Schuerholz were behind the batting cage at 4:30 p.m., watching Freddie swing. (He has, as you’ve heard, a good swing.) He was loosing liners to all fields in batting practice, and a rope into the right-field corner prompted this from Brian McCann: “The best player in the IL [International League]!”
Since Freddie wasn’t speaking, at least until after the game, his dad hustled down to the field and did the honors.
“It’s hard to believe it,” said Fred Freeman, speaking of the reality of young Freddie about to start in the first major-league game for which he has been eligible. “It was almost yesterday that he was in high school.”
Someone noted that Freddie Freeman exited high school in that long-ago year of 2007. Right, said Fred, who added: “It was almost yesterday.”
Not much riding on Freeman’s first at-bat: Just the fate of his professional career. Given that Freeman’s (slightly) older buddy Jason Heyward hit a three-run homer on his first big-league swing, Freeman has no recourse but to hoist a four-run job — does he not? And if he doesn’t?
“We send him back,” Wren said. “We can still send him back.”
Yes, he was likewise kidding. But the neat part about Freeman making his long-awaited debut in the same calendar year that Heyward made his is that a season that started as hot as Georgia asphalt keeps burnin’ rubber. We’ve got a team in first place; the 24 last at-bat wins; the crusty skipper in his final voyage, and a slew of daring deeds by the most extraordinary folks …
Wren again: “We’ve had a lot of things happen, and most of them have been good. Every season you have a lot of things happen, and it’s not always this way.”
Wren said he had no input on Freeman’s insertion into the lineup. That was all Bobby Cox, who said of his thinking: “Just put him in there. And Derrek [Lee] needs a day off.”
Cox said he told Freeman he was playing before the game. “I kidded around with him.” Did that mean Freeman arrived as early as Cox, the man ahead of whom nobody arrives? “He was here early, but not that early.”
And how did Freeman take Cox’s news? “He was excited.”
What, Cox was asked, were the chances of Freeman one-upping Heyward with a first-swing grand slam? “He might. Wouldn’t shock me.”
The 2010 Atlanta Braves: In a season that has defied credulity, that’s as good a slogan as any. Nothing’s shocking anymore.
And with that, the figurative floor is again open for questions, comments and sightings of men in neon yellow shirts. (Y’all know what I’m talking about.) I’ll be here all evening, the Good Lord willin’, and we’ll see if the new man can give us another moment.