First baseman hopes to suit up for Team Canada in 2017 World Baseball Classic in honor of late mom
By Jamie Ross
TORONTO -- Freddie Freeman's visit to Toronto for the Braves' series against the Blue Jays was a homecoming of sorts. The 25-year-old first baseman isn't Canadian by birth, but he has a deep family connection to America's neighbor to the north.
"My parents, my grandparents, everybody's from Canada," said Freeman, who himself was born in California. "My dad would come up to Toronto from Windsor [Ontario] on the train to visit my mom. It's cool to be here, in a place where my parents were 40 years ago."
Freeman's parents met when his father, Fred, was only 15. After Fred moved to California in his late teens in the 70's, he'd make frequent trips back to Toronto to see Freddie's mother, Rosemary, who passed away in 2000.
It's in his mother's honor that he hopes to be able to suit up for Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic in 2017, something he's said publicly numerous times over the years. Because of his parents' Canadian origins, he's eligible to do so, but considering Joey Votto and Justin Morneau manned first base for Canada at the last WBC, he said he's still waiting his turn.
"I know my mom would be proud for me to wear the Canadian jersey, to represent her country, and it's something I always wanted," he said. "It would be special to me and my family if I could represent Canada."
He'd spoken to Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin and first-base coach Tim Leiper, who's coached Canada's WBC team three times, in an attempt to make his case for a roster spot in the future.
So how does Freeman shape up on an arbitrary, informal, honorary Canadian citizenship test?
On the Braves' three-game road trip here this weekend, Freeman said he did a little sightseeing, which included taking a trip up the iconic CN Tower, something his parents used to do together.
He gets a point for that.
He stopped short, however, of diving headlong into Canadian cuisine. Out for dinner at a Toronto restaurant Saturday night, Freeman said he passed on an opportunity to try out poutine, a french-Canadian dish consisting of french fries, gravy and cheese curds.
"I saw one, and had to ask the server what it was," Freeman said. "Needless to say I passed. Stuck to mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach."
That's minus one.
How about hockey?
Freeman said his dad went to a lot of Maple Leafs games in his youth, and took Freddie to see the Ducks play when they lived in Anaheim.
"I do like hockey," he said. "I was a big hockey fan growing up."
Score one for Freeman.
"I think that's a little slow for me."
Regardless of his interest for Canadian food and pastimes, Freeman seems genuine in his affinity for Canada. On a lighter note, he thinks if the Blue Jays faithful knew more about his Toronto roots, they'd go easier on him when he takes the field.
"Gotta get the word out," he said. "If they knew, maybe I'd be hearing fewer [calls of] 'Freeman, you suck,' from the crowd."
Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.