Braves’ Freddie Freeman calls Shohei Ohtani’s two-way talents ‘mind-blowing’

The Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman reacts after hitting a double against the Miami Marlins.
Freddie Freeman, an All-Star first baseman with Atlanta, also pitched at El Modena High in Orange. “I don’t know if anybody is ever going to do it like Shohei [Ohtani],” Freeman said of the two-way star, “... but at least that door has opened.”
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

Freddie Freeman could have pitched beyond high school. He threw 96 mph during his senior season at El Modena High in Orange, and scouts took notice.

“I’m playing for one of two teams that wanted me to hit,” Freeman said Monday.

The Atlanta Braves clearly made a good call, drafting Freeman as a hitter and developing him into a five-time All-Star first baseman. But, when he signed in 2007, he never considered the notion that he could hit and pitch in pro ball. Either he would pick one, or his team would pick for him.

On Monday, virtually every All-Star sat at an interview table and was asked some form of “How awesome is Shohei Ohtani?”


Said Freeman: “What he’s doing is so incredible and special. It’s mind-blowing. It really is.”

Ohtani, the major league leader in home runs, is the starting pitcher and designated hitter for the American League in Tuesday’s All-Star game. Perhaps no one can play both ways at that elite level, but Freeman wonders whether Ohtani’s success might persuade teams to try to develop more two-way players, or at least not to be so quick to define prospects as a hitter or pitcher.

Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani will be the starting pitcher for the American League in the All-Star game Tuesday at Coors Field.

July 12, 2021

“I don’t know if anybody is ever going to do it like Shohei is doing it,” Freeman said, “but at least that door has opened.

“I’m glad the door is open for that to happen. Look at how much excitement he brings, day in and day out on the baseball field. Why wouldn’t you want more of that?

“I hope that door is open, and more guys are given the opportunity to do that. But I could never do that.”


He threw 96 mph in high school, yes, but he said his elbow was hurting. Two ways in pro ball?

“My elbow would have blown,” he said.

MLB donates $100 million to Players Alliance

Major League Baseball announced what Commissioner Rob Manfred said was the largest charitable donation in league history: $100 million to the Players Alliance, the organization founded last year to “elevate racial equality and provide greater opportunities for the Black community.”

MLB also committed to match up to another $50 million in Players Alliance fundraising, meaning the league could donate as much as $150 million over 10 years. Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort said owners approved the donation unanimously, and Dodgers chairman Mark Walter and manager Dave Roberts were among those on hand for the announcement.

The donation will be directed in part for camps, clinics, player showcases, community events and diversity training and seminars, with particular efforts toward increasing Black representation on the field, on coaching staffs, and in front offices.

As an example, Manfred said, MLB putting on a clinic with former players and staff members is nice, but working with the Players Alliance to put on a clinic with active major leaguers is much nicer.

“From our perspective,” Manfred said, “players alongside or involved makes everything we do better and more effective.”


The league and its players’ union combined for an initial $10 million donation to the Players Alliance last year.

Paying tribute to Hank Aaron

Every player wore 44 on his jersey for Monday’s workouts and home run derby in tribute to Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who died in January. On Tuesday, before the All-Star game, MLB plans a pregame tribute to Aaron.

“He’s one of the greatest players of all time, if not the greatest player of all time,” Freeman said. “Honoring him in this way is the least we could do.”

The Angels' Shohei Ohtani jokes with the Washington Nationals' Juan Soto.
The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, right, jokes with the Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto during the home run derby Monday in Denver.
(Gabriel Christus / Associated Press)

Freeman said he had gotten to know Aaron well over a decade in Atlanta and said he shared “so much love and care.”

“One of the nicest human beings you’ll ever meet,” Freeman said.