NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Not long before Braves manager Brian Snitker hosted the first team meeting of spring training Monday morning, he texted Freddie Freeman, who was on the other side of the country. Snitker mentioned that he was about to talk to the players, joking that Freddie still had a few minutes to join the group.
Underneath the humor, the outreach was more about a deeply cherished shared history between Freeman and Snitker. But as they spoke, both player and manager probably already knew that Freeman's old locker -- a space between those of Charlie Morton and Travis d'Arnaud, empty Monday except for 10 dangling white hangers -- will remain unoccupied indefinitely.
Even before the seismic news of the trade that seemed to seal Freeman's fate, that context was felt deeply in Snitker's conversation with the team. Snitker focused on great Atlanta players who have moved on before -- Henry Aaron was traded, Chipper Jones retired, etc. In all of those cases, the rest of the players had to move on, as well.
Just a few hours later, outfielder Cristian Pache walked out of an office on the fringe of the clubhouse and told Ozzie Albies and others that he had been traded for another All-Star first baseman, Matt Olson. Albies knew instantly that Freeman's time with the Braves was over. The next time Freddie Freeman -- a lifelong Brave, the team's starting first baseman for the past 11 years -- dons an Atlanta uniform will likely be after he retires.