ATLANTA -- As the Braves' bullpen coach, Eddie Perez has become adept at chasing down important home run balls. With the help of the security guards and ushers in the outfield at Turner Field, Perez has secured the baseballs from important milestones, especially those off the bat of third baseman Chipper Jones.
So when Freddie Freeman's walk-off, two-run home run to beat the Marlins and clinch a playoff spot disappeared over the center-field wall and into the batter's eye Tuesday night, the ball eventually found its way into Perez's hands.
He knew just what to do with it.
"When I got the ball, I thought of Fredi [Gonzalez]," Perez said.
Perez had clubhouse manager Chris Van Zant tell the manager he was looking for him. Gonzalez came into his office expecting to hear bad news.
Once Gonzalez was in his office, Perez let him know there was nothing to worry about.
"I went and got the ball," Perez told Gonzalez. "This is for you, and the coaches want to give this to you."
Gonzalez said he first thought of giving the ball to Freeman, but Perez told him he deserved to have it to commemorate his first playoff appearance.
"For me, that was big that they would think of giving that ball to me," Gonzalez said. "That really touched me."
The ball now rests in a case on the credenza behind Gonzalez's desk. He said he will always cherish it.
"It will sit in my office, wherever I'm at, forever," Gonzalez said. "Because it's your first chance to manage a game in the postseason."