PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28: Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves plays first base during the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Braves defeated the Phillies 10-3. (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Rob Leiter/Getty Images
Drafted by the Braves in 2007, Freddie Freeman has established himself as foundation for the team to build around. Atlanta recognized that, rewarding Freeman with an eight-year, $135 million dollar contract extension heading into the 2014 season. Coming off of his second All-Star game appearance, FOX Sports Live caught up with Freddie, on behalf of ACE Brand products. Freeman is leading promotion ACE’s "My ACE All-Stars baseball card creator app", where little leaguers can make their very own baseball card.
FOX Sports Live: So who were some of the first basemen that you watched and learned from coming up?
Freddie Freeman: Growing up in California, I grew up a JT Snow fan. I grew up an Angels fan. Darren Erstad was special to watch when he moved from center field from first base. There are certain guys you just take from different teams that you watch. In today’s game, Joey Votto and Adam LaRoche are so smooth over at first base. It makes you want to work so much harder, so you can field like they do.
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FSL: So what exactly is the topic of discussion with an opposing player, in the first base conversion?
FF: Most of the time, I don’t really talk about hitting. I’m trying to get their mind off baseball, so I can pick them off. If they do get a hit, I’ll say ‘nice hit’, because getting a hit in the big leagues is very tough. I try to talk to them, get their mind off it and all of the sudden, they’re thinking of something else, and Julio Teheran or someone can pick them off…there’s always a little agenda behind me talking to them.
FSL: Who’s the best guy that gets on and you go back-and-forth with?
FF: It has to be Brandon Phillips. He’s always fun, always talking, and there’s a never a dull moment there when he gets there. Never.
FSL: We all know it’s hard to hit at the big league level, for you, who is the thoughest pitcher to face?
FF: For me, I would say it’s Jordan Zimmerman. For some reason, he’s a tough pitcher to get the sweet spot of your bat on. That ball that he throws–it’s a very heavy ball that he throws. It feels like when the ball hits your bat, it’s pushing your bat backwards. It’s like a bowling ball.
Really, he just knows how to pitch. He can go up and down, go in and out, he’s got great secondary pitches and a great change-up. I think he’s around the plate, and most of the pitches he throws are competitive. Sometimes pitchers can throw non-competitive pitches where it’s a ball right out of their hands. He rarely does that, so he makes you want to swing at every single pitch. His slider is something special, it kind of just disappears. You take a pitch off and it’s not good.
FSL: When you look at it now, there’s a long line of great Braves players across baseball history, what is their involvement with you and the team now?
FF: We see Hank every once and a while, and with Chipper retiring a couple years ago he still comes around. Terry Pendelton’s our first base coach. So, they’re always around. We get to see how they carry themselves in the clubhouse, with great pride and passion. They’re such great competitors and that’s such a great message that they give you. It’s not mainly hitting that they talk about, it’s the mental aspect going up to the plate. I think that’s a big part of the game that people forget about.
FSL: Your careers with the Braves overlapped a few season, while they were some of the first for you, and some of the last for him. What is the best lesson you took from Chipper completing his career as one of the Braves all-time best?
FF: With him playing with one team his whole career, I think that was cool to see, for what he meant to a lot of people. He told us he played this game to entertain people for three hours and was so thankful to do that in Atlanta for 20 years. He was that force in the middle of the lineup for 20 straight years with the Braves, and just did it, night in and night out, at the highest level.
FSL: So getting a front row see to that, what would it mean for you to play for Atlanta for your entire career?
FF: It would mean a lot. After this contract is up, it’d be 11 years for me, all with the Braves. I’d be 32 years old at that time. We’ll see how I’m playing in 8 years. You never know what would happen. I’d definitely love to be an Atlanta Brave for my entire career. They gave me the opportunity out of high school in 2007, and they’ve treated me with nothing but respect. They are a special organization.