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BRAVE NEW WORLD
Ben Reiter
February 28, 2011
Few teams groom young players for the majors as well—and as fearlessly—as Atlanta. In a pool of strong Rookie of the Year candidates, one stands out above the rest: first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose big bat might remind you of last year's spring phenom
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February 28, 2011

Brave New World

Few teams groom young players for the majors as well—and as fearlessly—as Atlanta. In a pool of strong Rookie of the Year candidates, one stands out above the rest: first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose big bat might remind you of last year's spring phenom

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Even as Freddie skyrocketed up the California youth baseball circuit, and then as scouts started scribbling furiously during his at bats, Fred, standing further and further back, continued to throw to his son every afternoon. "Count the days we didn't," Fred says. "I'd like to take credit for his swing"—a smooth, mechanically enviable effort that is far more artful than Heyward's violent lash—"but I didn't do anything. I just threw to him."

Of course those sessions were about more than just throwing and hitting. Just last week, as Freeman prepared to leave Orange County for spring training, he and his dad went out to their old field. Fred threw and Freddie hit, and afterward Freddie picked up balls down the rightfield line and Fred those that had settled along the leftfield line, and they threw all the balls into center and then picked them up.

The Braves have no desire to change what Freeman has always done. "There's not a part of his game that I think he needs to focus on and improve," says Wren. "He has a very good swing and uses the whole field. I think that's going to help him at the next level. I think what we hope will develop is something that will happen naturally, not something he needs to work on—more power. We're not going to spend time trying to teach him how to hit with more power."

Controlled, natural cycles are what Wren seeks—not the sine curves of rebuilding and competing that some other organizations follow but a fluid process whereby young stars are constantly complementing and then replacing their aging predecessors. It's a formula that has helped the Braves to 18 winning seasons in the last 20 years. "The way our club is balanced, I think it sets us up for the future," Wren says. "Now and the future."

The plan is that Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward will be integral to both, together.

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