ATLANTA – Shortly after his teammate Ozzie Albies helped dismantle the Blue Jays 9-5 with two home runs on Wednesday, the Braves announced Freddie Freeman would be participating in next week’s Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game.
Freeman said he got the invite last week while the team was in St. Louis, and wavered on whether or not to accept. He’s heard the chatter about the contest altering hitters’ swings, but was ultimately undeterred.
“My dad was there, (I) kinda talked to him about it,” Freeman said. “I kinda went back and forth because I’ve always heard of the ‘you don’t do well in the second half’ deal, this and that. I think that’s just all words. My dad said it’d be kinda fun to watch, so that was my ultimate decision when my dad said he’d like to see me in it.”
His manager, Brian Snitker, seemed equally unconcerned by one of baseball’s many unscientific theories.
“If he wants to do it, I hope he has fun doing it,” Snitker said.
Freeman has 16 home runs this season and has been the backbone of a Braves offense that ranks second in the National League in runs scored.
With 59 RBIs, a .313 batting average, and a .942 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS), Freeman has already started to garner accolades as the National League’s top vote-getter for the All Star Game and a strong early NL MVP candidate.
The Home Run Derby — while arguably less prestigious — is more recognition.
Freeman, the 7th seed, will square off against Nationals’ slugger Bryce Harper, the 2nd seed, in the first round. Freeman said he got the trash talk started earlier on Wednesday, sending a text over to Harper in anticipation.
Harper will have the home-field advantage, with this year’s contest taking place in front of his home fans at Nationals Park in Washington.
But Freeman holds another hypothesis for how that effect may play out.
“I’m hoping the fans are too excited for him and he gets nervous and hits zero,” Freeman said. “We’ll see what happens.”
The competition will take place on Monday night, with Freeman and Harper two of the participants in a field that also includes Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins, Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber, Dodgers infielder Max Muncy and Cubs infielder Javy Baez.
Freeman, sure to temper expectations, will simply enjoy the night for the showcase it is.
“I think everybody, when you’re a kid, to say you’ve competed in a home run derby is a pretty cool thing,” Freeman said. “We’ll see how I do, but I’m looking forward to it.”
This article was written by Max E. Marcovitch, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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