The 36-39 Atlanta Braves, in second place in the NL East, are struggling to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. And the most exciting part of their games isn’t the baseball being played, but a masked sprinter known as the Freeze.
The Freeze, whose real name is Nigel Talton, is a grounds-crew member for the Braves, but between innings he becomes a superhero. Fans challenge him in a race from foul pole to foul pole, and the Freeze gives his opponents a sizable head start — often five or more seconds — before turning on the jets.
Talton is a track athlete who has his eyes set on the 2018 World Indoor Championships in England. On the latest Ringer MLB Show, he spoke with Ben Lindbergh and Michael Baumann about how he became the Freeze and whether he could take Billy Hamilton in a foot race.
"There’s no pressure to me," Talton said. "Win or lose, I love entertaining the fans, and I love running. So me winning or losing, that doesn’t phase me. … I love it."
Talton really does have to love it, because he works a second job that often keeps him up until the early morning.
"I’ll do a night game, for example. I get here around 4, or 3, until whenever the game ends," Talton said. "If it goes to extras I have to leave around 12:15, to get my job that start at 1am to 6:30 am. I get out, take a little quick nap, eat, go train, and then do it again if the Braves have another game. It’s kind of tough, but I can do it."
"This is the last home stand [for a while], so I’m excited."
Talton’s favorite race is the 60-meter dash, but the distance he sprints against fans — about 225 meters, per his memory — is considerably longer, and he trains differently for it.
"I just do overspeed training, more distance, so I can hold my speed. I do a lot of speed endurance, or speed training."
Though he became a sensation in the race where his opponent fell into the dirt, his favorite race is one he lost.
"My favorite one was yesterday’s. It came down to the wire, a photo finish. But he reached with his hands, so he got me. But it’s fun though, I love all the races. I love seeing the fans, how they act when the Freeze is on the track."
He hasn’t raced any MLB players yet — and, as he noted on the podcast, their contracts likely prohibit them from taking place in that type of competition, especially during a game — but that doesn’t stop him from thinking he could win in a foot race.
"I think I could take all of them. … I could take on Billy Hamilton. I could take on anybody. You put your mind to it, you can do anything. You have to have faith in yourself."
And he won’t stop there. Put him on the field, and he thinks he could play baseball with the major leaguers, too.
"If they gave me the opportunity, I think I could lead the MLB in stolen bases in that short amount of time. … I can bunt, I can hit. It won’t take me too long to learn. I played baseball in high school, my senior year. I was an outfielder then [and] I [would] pinch run and did track. I could do it. I have faith in my ability."
Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.