LAKELAND, Fla. -- Freddie Freeman would gladly welcome the opportunity to participate in another World Baseball Classic. Along with having the opportunity to honor his late mother's Canadian heritage, the Braves' first baseman appreciated the chance to escape Spring Training's monotony and compete within an environment more similar to what he may experience during the regular season.
"It was one of the coolest experiences I've had in baseball," Freeman said. "I never got to play winter ball or anything [before I got to the Majors]. That first game [of WBC '17], there were over 25,000 people playing music, dancing and cheering the whole game. It's something I'll never forget."
Though he and his Canadian teammates lost each of the three Classic games played in Miami this past weekend, Freeman returned to Braves camp on Tuesday with nothing but good memories regarding the event. He reintroduced himself to Grapefruit League action on Wednesday, when he singled off Jordan Zimmermann during the first inning of Atlanta's game against Detroit in Lakeland.
"I think a lot of people should say yes to [competing in the Classic], position-player wise," Freeman said. "You play nine innings and you face some pitchers that are trying to get you out. Here in Spring Training, they're trying to get their work in. I don't think I faced anybody throwing over 92 or 93 mph until I got to the [Classic], where everybody was throwing 95 and 96 mph.
"I think it can only benefit you. You're playing meaningful games. A lot of people aren't mentally ready for that, but I got off to such a slow start last year that I was willing to try anything this year."
While Ender Inciarte is still competing in the Classic with Venezuela, Freeman and Julio Teheran both returned to Braves camp on Tuesday and expectedly continued to exchange fun-loving barbs regarding the matchups they experienced against each other on Saturday, when Colombia beat Canada with the help of Teheran's five stellar innings.
After chuckling when the first pitch he saw was up and in, Freeman recorded a first-inning RBI single that accounted for the only run and one of the two hits surrendered by Teheran, who found better fortune in the fourth inning, when his longtime Atlanta teammate lined out against a defensive shift.
"He threw the first pitch in on me, so then it was even more of a laugh," Freeman said. "I'm just glad I got him. I should have been 2-for-2, if they didn't play 14 right fielders. But I got a little bragging rights [on Tuesday] in the clubhouse."
Freeman will also always treasure the emotions he felt as he honored the memory of his Canadian-born mother Rosemary, who passed away in 2000 after a long battle with melanoma.
"There's no greater way for me to honor her and my family than to play for her country," Freeman said. "It was a pretty emotional day for me on Thursday to hear the Canadian national anthem. It was just a pretty special moment for everybody."
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games in San Diego's Petco Park and the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.