Freddie Freeman, as gifted at viewing the big picture as he is with a baseball bat in his hands, will not play the role of bedraggled parent, even with two newborns at home.
He hardly winces when he notes the challenges ahead in the next few years, with a 5-year-old already in tow and now two more boys to join young Charlie, whose swing already befits the progeny of a reigning National League Most Valuable Player.
Nor does Freeman hesitate to embrace the surprising and unusual circumstances that brought Brandon John and Maximus Turner Freeman into this world, envisioning the yarn they’ll spin someday.
“It’s going to be different to tell the story when they’re a little bit older – ‘Yeah, I’m only six weeks younger than my other brother,’” Freeman said Tuesday from Florida, after his first workout with the Atlanta Braves this spring.
“It’s a story to tell, but it’s our story and it’s a beautiful story and it couldn’t be any better for us.”
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The story is one of temporary heartbreak but also perseverance, of a family blessed with overwhelming prosperity but also the emptiness of unfulfilled dreams.
Simply, Freeman always wanted a large family and he and his wife, Chelsea, wanted to accomplish that sooner than later. Yet an emergency C-section when Charlie was born diminished their chances to conceive.
At work, Freeman’s production was almost numbingly brilliant: Between 2017-2019, he batted .303, posted a .935 OPS and home-run totals of 35, 44 and 34 and the Braves won NL East titles in ’18 and ’19.
At home, Freddie and Chelsea navigated pangs of grief as their attempts to conceive proved fruitless.
“When having Charlie happened so easily and so fast and then it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen – it takes a toll,” says Freeman. “It takes a toll on Chelsea, a toll on me. I can try to be as comforting as possible, but it was definitely one of the toughest situations I’ve faced in my life, trying to comfort my wife during such an emotional roller-coaster ride she was on.
“I don’t know if it was my fault because I’ve always said I wanted a big family. Obviously, I didn’t try to put that pressure on her, but she knew that’s what I wanted. There’s just so many different dynamics of what was going on.”
And then 2020 arrived.
A year so grim for so many worldwide did not spare the Freemans – Freddie contracted a vicious case of COVID-19 and battled it into July, reporting late to Braves camp. Yet their fortunes were about to turn.
The couple – Freddie is 31, Chelsea 29 – decided to arrange for a surrogate to carry their second child. They were just nine days from the embryo’s transfer, Freddie says, when Chelsea greeted him with stunning but welcome announcement.
Suddenly, the couple were imbibing in a most unexpected cocktail – two parts euphoria, one part oh-my -gosh-two-newborns-separated-by-just-a-few-weeks.
After years of sleepless nights, the logistics suddenly didn’t seem so hard, not by the time Brandon arrived Dec. 30, and Maximus Turner – the middle name commemorating the site of Freddie’s big league debut – followed him on Valentine’s Day.
“Not something we were expecting at all,” says Freddie, “but it’s everything you want and more.
“It’s just such a crazy situation, really, to try to wrap your mind around it, but when you’re in it, and both boys are here, it’s like the best thing that ever happened. It’s going to be a long couple of years, but it’s going to be awesome when it’s all said and done. We’re having a blast. They’re great babies.”
They arrive at a momentous time. After battling through several fever-soaked nights, Freeman conquered COVID-19 and then the National League, smacking 13 home runs and an NL-best 23 doubles in the 60-game season, along with a 1.103 OPS.
For the first time, he and the Braves found their way to the NL Championship Series, during which freeman batted .360 with two more crucial home runs as the Braves seized a 3-1 lead.
The Los Angeles Dodgers battled back, though, sweeping the final three games and then winning the World Series. Freeman claimed enough hardware to fill up a nursery – MVP, Silver Slugger, Hank Aaron Award – but hadn’t been at camp more than a few minutes Tuesday when Hall of Famer and former teammate Chipper Jones was in his ear.
“I was talking to Chipper today,” Freeman said of Jones, now a part-time coach for the Braves, “and he’s like, ‘You’ve got every award now, but you’re still missing one thing.’ I said I know it, and I’m coming for it, and we’re getting closer and closer.
“We’ve got the right team, the right personnel, right coaching staff, right front office. We’re just set up perfectly to achieve goals here. I can finally match Chipper in everything and finally get that World Series ring.
“The awards don’t change anything. Nothing changes anything. I got one goal and that’s to win the World Series. No accolades are going to make the pressure less than I put on myself.”
Indeed, the prospect of two more children occupied most of Freeman’s winter thoughts, but he made sure to keep an ear on the club’s negotiations to re-sign slugger Marcell Ozuna, who on Feb. 5 agreed to a deal that guarantees him $65 million over four years.
DH or no DH, the Braves will carry the most punishing lineup this side of Los Angeles – and the Dodgers might even concede the point.
“Everyone knew we needed Marcell back,” says Freeman, who says he anticipates “a bloodbath” in the loaded NL East as he plays his 11th full season as a Brave, and the final year of an eight-year, $135 million contract.
Through it all, Freeman will again aim for that work-life balance. He will not see Chelsea and the newborns again until after the Braves’ first road trip in April, but brought Charlie along to spring training with a village – father, grandfather, cousin and brother – in tow to help keep the little slugger occupied.
And you get the sense Freeman wouldn’t mind doing this all over again – even if it means, as he said, a sprinter van is in his near future.
“You could just see when (Chelsea) told me she was pregnant – a complete boulder falling off her shoulders,” he says. “It was just, ‘I got my wife back.’ She was great all the way through it, but once she was pregnant, it was just amazing.
“She had a great pregnancy, the birth was good, so maybe she’ll do it again. We definitely want to have a girl; kids are not done in our future.
“It was a tough, tough experience for two years – trying to be there, and play baseball at a high level, and try to win games and come home and comfort and be there for your wife. I was juggling the last couple years but it was a juggle that’s well worth it now – we’ve got Brandon and Maximus here now. We’re a family of five, now.”