By Joe Frisaro
Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman’s road to becoming the 2020 National League Most Valuable Player Award winner was anything but a smooth one.
That’s the irony of what turned out being a season in which Freeman made the task of playing baseball appear rather easy. The 31-year-old power-hitting first baseman was dominant at the plate, hitting .341 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs. He paced the league in doubles (23) and runs (51), leading the Braves to the National League East Division title.
Atlanta advanced to the NL Championship Series before being eliminated in seven games by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who went on to win the World Series.
Freeman was a model of consistency, and a runaway winner in the NL MVP race, garnering 28 of 30 first-place votes.
Making the year even more remarkable is the fact he tested positive for COVID-19 in early July, and lost eight pounds before returning to the field.
When his fever soared to 104.5 degrees, he told reporters later, he prayed: “Please don’t take me.”
Freeman is an inspirational story.
Born on Sept. 12, 1989, Freeman grew up in Villa Park, Calif. His parents were from Ontario, Canada. Because they were Canadian natives, Freeman has dual citizenship.
Freeman’s mother passed away when he was 10. When he was informed he was the MVP winner, he was surrounded by his family. A touching moment was when he hugged his father, Fred, on national TV.
The Braves selected Freeman in the second round in 2007, after he had a standout career at El Modena High School in Orange County, Calif.
One of the premiere left-handed power hitters in the game, Freeman is a four-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner. He also received the Gold Glove Award one year.
Freeman made his MLB debut on Sept. 1, 2010, 12 days before his 21st birthday.
“I think it’s time we start to hang out,” Hall of Famer Chipper Jones told Freeman when he arrived on the big-league scene.
Freeman’s first two MLB seasons were Jones’ last two.
The overlapping careers became a passing of the torch from Jones to Freeman.
Prior to Freeman taking home MVP honors in 2020, Jones was the last Atlanta Braves’ standout to receive the award, in 1999.
Since the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, Freeman is the franchise’s fourth MVP winner. Terry Pendleton (1991) and Dale Murphy (1982-83). Hank Aaron (1957) and Bob Elliott (1947) were the other two Braves’ all-time MVP winners.
In Braves’ lore, Freeman certainly stands in good company.
Joe Frisaro enters his 20th season covering Major League Baseball. The past 19, he was the Miami Marlins site reporter for MLB.com (2002-2020). Frisaro has 38 years of professional sports writing experience. His latest venture is his baseball/social media web site: www.ManOnSecondBaseball.com. Follow Joe on Twitter @ManOn2nd and @JoeFrisaro