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Journalism Showcase: Sunday’s E60 Profile Of NL MVP Freeman Peels Back Layers

Producer Jennifer Karson-Strauss explains how Buster Olney's long interview with the Atlanta star evolved into an hour-long special

Atlanta Braves star Freddie Freeman is the subject of a new edition of ESPN E60, debuting Sunday, April 11, at 2 p.m. ET and airing again at 5 p.m. before the Braves’ appearance on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball against the Philadelphia Phillies.
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The 2020 National League MVP opens up as never before on life, his battle with COVID-19 and his struggles with building a family, speaking candidly and emotionally with ESPN Senior MLB Insider Buster Olney.

Jennifer Karson-Strauss produced the Freeman documentary entirely from her home. (Jennifer Karson-Strauss/ESPN)

“Essentially, I was assigned to do a piece on Freddie Freeman that was going to be used in the 2020 show that we were doing at the end of last year, and the pitch to me was Freddie’s probably going to win NL MVP, and he had COVID during the season,” said Jennifer Karson-Strauss, who produced the program. “That was the story.”

Karson-Strauss said that in researching Freeman with Olney before the interview, they discovered there was more to the infielder’s story to explore. But they were unsure how open he would be since he had never done a full sit-down before.

“When we sat down with him, he ended up sitting in the chair with us for nearly four hours, and we covered his entire life in that interview,” she said. “When we walked away, my message to my team at E60 was we have something way more than just a seven-minute feature in this 2020 show, and we should look at this for next year.”

That’s exactly what happened. The story of Freeman and his battle with COVID aired in the year-end special, and Karson-Strauss and Olney continued building for a one-hour E60 special to tell more of Freeman’s story.

“It was basically told to me that Freddie hates the spotlight,” she said. “He doesn’t like talking about himself, he’s a very humble person, and he’s pretty guarded with his personal life. And that if he was going to sit down, he only wanted to do it once. That’s how we got exclusivity for this documentary.

“And credit to Buster Olney, who has such a great relationship with Freddie, and great rapport,” she said. “And once we sat down with him, he really did lay it all out on the table and completely poured himself out.

“I think his thought process through that was ‘if I’m going to tell my life story once, I want to show all of myself and give everything to it,’ and he really did.”

To see the 2-minute trailer, visit ESPN Press Room’s Vimeo page

– Mike Skarka

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