Braves 1B Freddie Freeman posting MVP-caliber season after battling COVID-19

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has put together an incredible season by many standards. In the shortened 60-game campaign, he hit a career-high .341 (third in MLB), drove in 53 runs (third in MLB), and led the majors in runs scored (51) and doubles (23).

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On Monday, he was named the NL Player of the Month after hitting .375 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs in September. His stellar production has him among the favorites for 2020 NL MVP, if not the leading candidate. And his team, most importantly, won the NL East for the third straight season. The Braves (35-25, No. 2 in the NL) will begin the playoffs Wednesday by hosting Cincinnati.

But the most impressive feat for Freeman might have been playing in all 60 games. He contracted COVID-19 in June, and wasn’t sure he’d be recovered in time for the Braves’ first game July 24.

Freeman, a four-time All-Star, battled the virus hard. He said at its worst, his fever reached 104.5 degrees. He also had body aches, chills, headaches and a temporary loss of smell and taste. But it was prayer that gave Freeman comfort when doubt crept in about whether he would survive the ordeal.

“I said a little prayer that night,” Freeman said on a conference call upon rejoining the Braves. “I’ve never been that hot before. My body was really, really hot so I said, ‘Please don’t take me.’ I wasn’t ready.”

That experience helped Freeman remember the joy of playing baseball, and may have contributed to his strong season after overcoming COVID.

“I feel like I’m a kid in a candy store again,” Freeman said in July. “You forget sometimes how much you love this game. I did truly miss it. I was so excited when I got to the yard.”

That joy for the game is being passed down to his 4-year-old son, Charlie, who recently started playing T-ball. On Freeman’s 31st birthday, he flew home amid a Braves road trip for only a couple hours so he could watch Charlie’s first practice.

Freeman and his wife, Chelsea, will soon welcome two more boys into their family. In late August, Chelsea announced that the couple was expecting twins (and later revealed they would be boys) with photos of shirts that read, “Prayed for one. Blessed with two.” She wrote in the caption, “A baby for each year we prayed,” and ended with the hashtag “#pregnancyafterinfertility” indicating the couple struggled to get pregnant again.

By the time the boys are born, Freddie will be back home with his family for an extended period. Before then, should the Braves advance in the playoffs, Freeman and the team will be required to play in one of the “bubble” locations, which will be in effect through the World Series. The Braves are seeking their first championship since 1995.

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