"Tiny Oral History: That Day You Heard About The Freeze" | ESPN the Magazine
This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Heroes Issue.
Friday, June 9, was a mostly ho-hum sports day in 2017. The Cavaliers beat the Warriors in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, staving off the inevitable Warriors title for one more game. Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal advanced to the Wimbledon men's final. The Olympics added 3-on-3 basketball to the 2020 Tokyo Games.
So the most memorable thing from your timeline that night might actually be from an otherwise forgettable MLB game. This is the two-minute oral history of the one dizzying flash across the Atlanta warning track that turned The Freeze into a viral sensation -- the night that the Braves' costumed contest crusader ran down a poor fan who celebrated just a bit too early.
MIKE FOLTYNEWICZ, BRAVES PITCHER: It was a new contest we started doing at home games. [The Freeze races a fan from foul pole to foul pole; the contestant gets a five- to 10-second head start.] That race put The Freeze on the map.
ALEX ARROWOOD, THE FREEZE'S UNSUSPECTING OPPONENT: I talked to The Freeze in the tunnel beforehand and asked, "What is this all about?" He said, "Just run, man, and hopefully you can beat me." I was just hoping to not catch a cramp.
THE FREEZE, WHOSE MANAGERS AGREED TO THIS INTERVIEW ONLY IF WE DIDN'T REVEAL HIS REAL NAME EVEN THOUGH YOU CAN GOOGLE IT IN, LIKE, THREE SECONDS: I always shake my competitor's hand as I line up beside him. Then there's someone behind me who tells me when to go. I don't watch my opponent run -- I am looking at the ground because I get nervous every time.
ARROWOOD: Right out of the gate, I was booking it. I played baseball my whole life, but I'm not a distance runner. So I started to get a little tired because I didn't realize it was that far.
DAN WINKLER, BRAVES PITCHER: I've run many pole-to-poles in my life, so I knew he was gonna run out of gas. The Freeze is trained for that.
ARROWOOD: It got so loud in the stadium, and I was like, "I got this." It was an adrenaline rush like I'd never felt, and I raised my arms to pump up the crowd because I've always been a people person. Then I look beside me and there's The Freeze. I tried to turn on the jets a little more, and the top half of my body tried to go faster than the lower half of my body.
FOLTYNEWICZ: The kid is energetic, but he thinks the crowd is getting excited for him. Really, they're cheering because The Freeze is coming right up on him. All of a sudden, he sees Freeze and he tries to kick it into an extra gear, and his legs aren't processing enough.
DANSBY SWANSON, BRAVES SHORTSTOP: I just thought it was the funniest thing that this guy was showboating. Karma, you know? He thought he had it in the bag, but not even close.
ARROWOOD: It is what it is. I ate it. I hit the ground, and I put my head in the dirt.
THE FREEZE: I just knew that I won -- I didn't see him fall until days later. I told him, "Good job. Thank you for coming to the game and being a part of the Beat The Freeze event." I love being The Freeze.
WINKLER: Everyone wants to race The Freeze now. All my buddies ask if they can come to the game and race The Freeze.
ARROWOOD: My mom told me, "Up until you fell, nobody knew who The Freeze was." What made me mad was they cut the video off -- you don't see that I pushed myself back up and trotted across the finish line. I finished strong. Now it's my Twitter bio: "I tripped at a Braves game and ended up on ESPN. That's my life story."