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Freddie Freeman exchanges crunching numbers for putting them up

Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman takes batting practice on Feb. 20 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman takes batting practice on Feb. 20 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
(Curtis Compton / Associated Press)
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Fred Freeman, the dad, and Freddie Freeman, the son, had a plan.

The Atlanta Braves planned to draft the younger Freeman with their second pick in the second round of the 2007 draft. The money would be slotted, about $400,000.

“I told the Braves he wasn’t going to sign,” Fred said of his then-17-year-old son.

Freddie had committed to Cal State Fullerton, just down the road from his home in Orange and his high school of El Modena. He wanted to follow his father in the family business and be a CPA.

“He was going to be a business major with a specialty in accounting,” Fred said.

Then there was a knock on Fred’s door at 2 a.m. the day of the major league draft.

“He said, ‘Dad, the Braves said they will pay for 100% of my college. If I don’t make it in four years, I’m going back to college,’” Fred recalled.

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“I said, ‘If you do this, you wouldn’t be able to play college ball.’

“‘Dad, I want to be a major league baseball player, not a college player. It’s late. What should I do? It’s 5 a.m. back there, should I call the scout?’

“I said, ‘It’s the day of the draft, they’re awake.’ So he called the scout at 5 a.m. and said he was going to be a player for the Braves.”

And with that call, an MLB All-Star first baseman was set to join the organization.

Freddie made the major-league roster in 2010, and in 2014 was rewarded with an eight-year, $135-million contract extension.

When John Coppolella was brought in as general manager after the 2014 season to rebuild the team, it was clear the Braves were counting on Freeman to be the centerpiece.

“I cannot make it any more clear,” Coppolella told USA Today at the time. “We are not trading Freddie Freeman. … I’d give my right arm before we trade Freddie Freeman. It’s not happening.”

It’s neither Coppolella nor Freeman’s right arm that is so valuable. It’s the way Freeman hits from the left side.

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He has a career .288 average and should pass the 1,000 hit mark early this season.

Good numbers, but not the kind Freeman was interested in growing up.

“I remember after my wife died — Freddie was 10 — and I would bring him into the office,” Fred recalled. “He would ask, ‘Where is my desk going to be?’”

Freddie does not dispute his interest.

“I’ve always wanted to be a CPA, just like my dad,” Freddie said as he sat in front of his locker at the Braves’ spring training camp. “Sports was always just the thing that would get me out of the house. I obviously loved playing all sports.

He said he started thinking about baseball as a career in high school, when scouts started showing up at his games. “My dad and I had a vision of only getting my school paid for,” Freddie recalled. “Obviously, things changed after my senior year when I got drafted.”

Freeman went right from his high school graduation to the Gulf Coast League in Florida.

“He called two weeks later and said he had made a big mistake,” Fred said. “He was homesick. I got on a plane and went right to Florida and watched him play. I told him he was pretty good. He said, ‘But so are all these other guys.’”

Freddie moved quickly through the minors and received a September call-up in 2010.

“Obviously, my greatest moment was my big-league debut,” Freddie said. “You envision that moment every single time. You walk into that clubhouse for the very first time and [Manager] Bobby Cox had me starting at first base and hitting sixth. Right when I saw that, my heart just dropped into my stomach.”

Things went well from there.

In 2011, he was the starting first baseman for the Braves and finished in second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.

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In 2013, he was voted into the All-Star game in the fans’ selection, but he wasn’t able to play because of a thumb injury.

In 2014, he was selected for the All-Star game, and played three innings.

After that season is when the Braves decided to rebuild around him.

This season, he fulfilled another dream, playing in the World Baseball Classic for Canada.

Freddie’s mother, Rosemary, who died from melanoma skin cancer, was Canadian.

“She never became a U.S. citizen,” Freddie said. “She was Canadian through and through. I live my life honoring her. I wear sleeves in memory of her. I have a necklace that I wear with her hair inside the cross.

“I know that I was born here and grew up here, even played on U.S. national teams. But there is nothing you wouldn’t do for family. My mom is a big part of my life and who I am, so I wanted the honor to play for Canada.”

Canada was swept out in three games with Freeman going 2 for 10 with one run batted in.

“It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in baseball,” Freeman told Mark Bowman of mlb.com. “That first game, there were over 25,000 people playing music, dancing and cheering the whole game. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Freeman has returned to spring training, where the Braves are working to climb closer to .500 this season or even exceed it. Still, they may be too much in the rebuilding mode to contend with the Washington Nationals or New York Mets.

Meanwhile, Freddie, unable to fulfill his dream of being a CPA, will send his taxes back to his father’s Villa Park office.

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“It’s getting a little more complicated every year,” Fred said with a laugh.

john.cherwa@latimes.com

Twiter: @jcherwa

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