COBB COUNTY, Ga. - There's a mystery man blazing his way into the hearts of Braves fans at SunTrust Park. "The Freeze" is a costumed sprinter taking on fans in a race during breaks in the action.
The sprint is from foul pole to foul pole along the warning track. Contestants get to run nearly two hundred feet before the announcer proclaims, "Release the Freeze!" At this point, The Freeze takes off at world class speed and usually catches the fan before reaching the finish line.
The Freeze is actually a quiet young man named Nigel Talton. He grew up in Fort Valley, Georgia near Macon. His mother ran track all her life, but Talton didn't become interested until his junior year in high school. He truly caught the fever as a senior and even went on to set a school record in college. In 2013, he placed eighth in the Men's Indoor Nationals. He says this is where he realized he could, "Run with the Big Guys!"
Talton is also a member of the Braves' ground crew. At Turner Field, he would help maintain the bases during game breaks. He was one of the few who could make it to third base and back before the game resumed.
"I sprinted the whole way there and the whole way back," says Talton. "So, over the summer, they were like, 'You're doing a new promotion in the new stadium. You're racing a fan!'"
The Freeze provides the speed. His competition provides the laughter. One fan thought he had the race won. The Freeze surprised him by catching up. When The Freeze passed him, he fell to the track as The Freeze sped by.
"When I came around the curve, he's literally pumping up the crowd," says Talton. "In my head, I was like...'Nigel, get your knees up as high as you can!'"
There have been challenges with speed. A couple have even beaten him to the finish line.
"Some races, I can tell whether I'm going to win or catch them at the end." Says Talton. "Some, I just wish I had more room."
Talton is a serious sprinter. He trains daily and hopes to make a competitive career. He says there are children who recognize him during batting practice at Braves games, even when he's not in the Freeze costume. They tell him he should be in the Olympics.
"I'm praying," says Talton. "I'm working toward that goal."
For now, Talton is soaking up the love he receives from the crowds.
"It's not about me winning or losing. It's about the fans getting entertained during the stretch between the innings."
Talton's character is sponsored by Racetrac convenience stores, which sell a line of cold drinks they refer to as "The Freeze."