When I was fifteen years old, my hometown LA Dodgers traded away my favorite player, Mike Piazza.
From my couch on the West Coast, I watched him play for the Mets in the World Series, and I watched him hit the game-winning home run at Shea Stadium during the first sports event played in New York after 9/11 in a moment that still gives chills to every peanuts and Cracker Jack loving American.
When that ball went over the left-center field fence, I knew that Piazza would never be considered a Dodger again. Sure enough, when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996, he sported a Mets cap on his plaque.
Freddie Freeman is a Dodger now, and I’m stoked. It warms my heart that the southern California native came home to finish his career and to further stack the West Coast’s Evil Empire in our pursuit of another World Series title.
But I feel your pain, Braves fan. Stars just don’t stick with their one and only teams anymore.
They’re employees on our local baseball clubs, and they’ll always make the career moves that make the most sense for them. It just never seems to make sense to that loyal fan base who yearns for a lifelong, hometown, homegrown hero. It wasn’t meant to be for Freddie, just like it wasn’t meant to be for Piazza.
Technically, Freddie Freeman is a more appropriate hometown hero for me than Mike Piazza ever was. Freddie’s from Fountain Valley, California while my childhood hero is from East Pennsylvania. But Piazza is still my hero, which is weird to say when you’re pushing 40.
Sports sure has a way of keeping you young and delusional at heart. I cringed when Dodger fans booed him in his return to LA as a Met. “It’s not his fault!” I wanted to say. But Dodger fans will boo someone who whiffs on a beach ball in the stands. That “traitor” Mike Piazza didn’t stand a chance.
I wonder if Atlanta will boo Freddie when he returns to Truist Park this season?
As a Dodger fan, I know exactly who I’ll boo this season: new Atlanta Brave Kenley Jansen (after one, and only one, standing ovation for his many contributions to Dodger history, of course). It’s what Dodger fans do. And I will cheer the LA club’s new employee, Freddie Freeman, loudly.
And after a long season, the playoffs will arrive, I’ll drink a few too many October IPA’s, and I’ll be primed and ready for the Braves/Dodgers NLCS rematch that every Atlanta-area Freddie Freeman fan both hopes for and dreads. I get it.
When it happens, I’ll be right there with you, cheering, booing, and shitting my pants when Freddie and Kenley face each other with the World Series on the line.