It was an emotional roller coaster of a move from Atlanta to Los Angeles last year for Freddie Freeman and his family. Now in his second full season with the Dodgers, Freeman is digging his cleats into 15-pitch plate appearances at the plate and in his new leadership role in the Dodgers clubhouse.
When Freeman commits to something, he commits wholeheartedly whether it’s a team for 12 seasons or a plate appearance that lasts 15 pitches. Freeman’s tenacity was captured in a singular battle during Wednesday’s 10-5 win over the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park.
Freeman drew a walk after he saw 15 pitches, scoring Trayce Thompson to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning against the rival Giants’ left-handed reliever Taylor Rogers. It was a long, drawn-out battle between the lefties.
Rogers threw a slew of sinkers and sliders at Freeman, but Freeman’s persistence paid off. At one point in the at-bat, Freeman fouled off nine straight pitches.
Freeman’s epic at-bat was a moment that really highlighted his dedication and leadership on the team. Freeman told Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic that it was one of his most memorable at-bats over his career:
“I’ve played a long time, and that’s gotta be up there for at-bats for me,” Freeman said.
It was the most pitches Freeman has seen in a plate appearance in his career, and he’s batted 7,431 times. You have to go back to 2014 for a longer Dodgers plate appearance, with Justin Turner’s 16-pitch walk on May 26 that year.
The longest in Dodgers franchise history was Alex Cora’s iconic 18-pitch at-bat that culminated in a home run on May 12, 2004.
Freeman has looked locked in at the plate and as a Dodgers so far in 2023. He’s slashing .309/.406/.436 with a home run and four doubles over the first 14 games of the season.
After last year’s MLB lockout ended, the Braves swiftly made a move to acquire first baseman Matt Olson in a trade with the Oakland Athletics, in the process severing their 12-year relationship with Freeman.
Freeman’s bottled-up feelings all spilled out when he cried during a press conference during his return to Truist Park in Atlanta last June. Although Freeman expressed that he enjoyed playing in his hometown in Dodger Blue, a piece of his heart remained in Georgia. Freeman, the franchise player of the Braves organization, was seemingly blindsided by his agent in contract negotiations during free agency.
Being the professional that Freeman is, he didn’t allow the off-field drama to affect his on-field performance in his first season with the Dodgers.
In 2022, Freeman led the National League with a .407 on-base percentage in 159 games. He was second in the NL behind MVP Paul Goldschmidt with a .918 OPS. Freeman fittingly finished first in the league, tied with teammate Mookie Betts, with 117 runs scored.
Freeman led MLB with 199 hits and 47 doubles in 2022 with the Dodgers. Freeman finished fourth in the NL in fWAR (7.1) and fourth in NL MVP voting, his fifth straight top-10 placing, including his 2020 MVP year.
He left the only major-league team he’s ever played with when he signed his six-year, $162-million deal with the Dodgers. The Dodgers and their fans welcomed Freeman to Los Angeles, but some questioned, including Clayton Kershaw, whether he had fully moved on from the Braves.
Kershaw’s initial comments spurred some regret later in the season by the Dodgers pitcher.
With some insight from teammate Betts who went through a similar situation when he was traded from the Boston Red Sox, Freeman has embraced his teammates and his new role with the Dodgers.
“The comfort level is right where I want it to be,” Freeman told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register last week.