LOS ANGELES — They kept chanting his name Thursday night, over and over, louder and louder, reverberating throughout Dodger Stadium.–
Freddie Freeman stood on second base, looked around at the sellout crowd of 52,995, peeked up at the luxury suite high in the fifth level, saw his dad, grandfather, wife, kids, aunts, uncles and friends jumping around and pumping their fists, and he tried not to cry.
It was as if the entire city of Los Angeles, and the Dodgers’ passionate fanbase, wrapped their arms around their new first baseman, officially welcoming him home.
It was only a leadoff double. He simply represented the go-ahead run in a tie game. And it was just the sixth game of a long 162-game regular season.
No matter, the crowd still gave him a standing ovation, cheering and stomping their feet, as if they just saw a sneak preview what’s in store in October.
If he gets ovations like this for hitting doubles, can you imagine the euphoria for homers?
"That’s the first time I’ve seen something like that," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "It just speaks of the person, the player that Freddie is, that fans have admired him for so many years.
"And all of a sudden, it's kind of come out with his emotions. He wears his emotions on his sleeves, and I think our fans really appreciate that."
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Freeman, who doubled into the left-center gap for his second hit of the game in the eighth inning, raised his left hand in the air when he reached second base. He wiped the perspiration off his forehead. Put his cap over his heart. Raise his right arm in the air. And again put the cap over his heart, choking back tears.
"That’s as special as it gets right there," Freeman said. "It’s just really hard to put into words. I haven’t had fans chant for me before for just hitting a double.
"It’s special when 50,000 people can create a moment that you’ll never forget."
Freeman, playing in his first regular-season game at Dodger Stadium since leaving Atlanta and joining his new team on a six-year, $162 million contract, felt right at home in the Dodgers’ 9-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
Besides, if he needed any reminder what it was like to be at home in Southern California, all it took was the 10-mile drive with the family from their new rental home in Studio City.
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Freeman and the family decided to get a place close to Dodger Stadium, not wanting to suffer through the daily commute from their full-time home in Corona del Mar. Yet, after spending the first night in their new home Wednesday evening, the suffocating traffic still took him 1½ hours to get to Dodger Stadium.
Freeman couldn’t believe it. He was lamenting his traffic woes when teammate Justin Turner and his wife Kourtney came to the rescue, providing a secret traffic route which guarantees to cut the commute in half and eliminate road rage.
"We found a new route," Freeman said, "thank God."
Then again, considering the way Freeman played in his home debut, with two hits, two runs and the leadoff double in the eighth that helped break open a 3-3 tie, he may soon be getting a police escort to Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers have a new star in town, and his name is Freddie.
"I got goosebumps in the dugout listening to the fans," Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger said. "I really did. He’s a great player, a great teammate. That was special."
It was a moment Freeman vows he will never forget. He got the baseball from his first Dodgers’ hit in Colorado, and although he wasn’t presented with any memorabilia from Thursday’s game, he’s got the memories he’ll forever treasure.
"To look up and seeing my family jump up and down, with a lot of family friends here," Freeman said, "this is as good as it gets. It’s hard to put into words.
"To be able to share that moment with my family means everything."
Now, of course, Freeman can have his family at every Dodger home game. He is finally home.
He’ll get his 2021 World Series championship ring in June when the Dodgers visit Atlanta, perhaps giving him closure from the only organization he had known, and next year at this time, could have another World Series ring on his hand.
"He is very unique in the sense that he can be a superstar player," Roberts said, "but have no fear, anxiety, still be very affable, and have that ability to focus. He just has a way to check out, talk to people, and check back in, and keep that laser focus."
He’s a Dodger now, and although the contract might have been officially signed in March, it sure felt official Thursday for all of Southern California to witness.
"It’s just nice to be home, the place where I grew up," Freeman said. "This is where I belong."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Freddie Freeman gets standing ovation in Dodgers Stadium debut