Even as he was preparing to play in the MLB All-Star Game for the first time Tuesday in Minneapolis, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman had no trouble telling the story of his fondest Little League memory.
Freeman's dad was pitching at batting practice. Freeman hit a home run. Freddie's mother, Rosemary, was walking the family dog along the outfield fence when the home run hit a light post that was only a few feet from her. The 8-year-old slugger was so happy he did not realize that the ball almost hit his mother.
Just two years later, Freeman lost his mom to melanoma. That anguish has given Freeman a special appreciation of the joy he gets from playing baseball that much more.
"Enjoy and have fun when you're a kid, because you are a kid," Freeman said. "And then when you get a little bit older, if you have a chance to take it to the next level make sure you just practice, and practice, and practice. Just have fun, and just play hard, and just practice a lot."
Freeman, who missed the 2013 MLB All-Star Game due to injury, is still involved with Little League. He is a partner with ACE Brand Sports Medicine Products, a sponsor of Little League Baseball and Softball that helps youngsters create their own digital baseball cards.
"When I played Little League, I looked up to the big leaguers too, and collected their baseball cards," said Freeman, who was a pitcher and shortstop before growing to be a 6-5 first baseman.
The My ACE All-Stars baseball card creator web app allows Little League players to customize digital baseball cards with their own stats and All-Star moments.
"Now what ACE is doing, to be able to give Little Leaguers a chance to create their own [cards] now I think is just a very cool idea,” Freeman said. “And something that I wish I had back in the day too.”
Even as a fourth-year major leaguer, Freeman savored the experience of seeing himself on a baseball card for the first time.
"It's definitely a huge, cool thing," he said. " Thrilling, thrilling to see yourself on a baseball card for the first time."
The Braves first baseman hopes to bring that sensation to Little Leaguers everywhere. “I think when they create their own digital baseball cards that it’s definitely going to be a cool sight for them too see themselves on a card," Freeman said.
Rooted in his childhood Freeman’s message about the Little League experience extends well beyond customized baseball cards.
“Obviously my love for baseball started at a very young age because my two older brothers played baseball," he said, "so I was always at their Little League games, practice wanting to be playing with them."