A chat with Matt Olson on his historic season with the Braves and playing at Dodger Stadium

Matt Olson at Dodger Stadium. (By: Stacie Wheeler)

LOS ANGELES — Matt Olson hit his 44th home run of the season for the Braves against Bobby Miller and the Dodgers, the lone run for Atlanta in the 3-1 victory for L.A. The relaxed first baseman has gone on to casually slug nine more home runs, and is still counting, after the Braves took three of four games against the Dodgers. Olson now leads the majors in home runs with 53, a Braves single-season franchise record.

On the third of September, I ventured into the visitor’s clubhouse before first pitch. This was an unusual decision on my part. Curious about what the first-place Braves’ clubhouse atmosphere was, I took the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the other side of the story on this game day.

Matt Olson hits his 44th home run of 2023. (By: Stacie Wheeler)

Olson’s career season has been a large factor in the Braves’ domination in the National League East for the entire year. His teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. will likely and deservedly earn NL MVP honors in flashy style if the versatile Mookie Betts doesn’t edge him out, but Olson would be in discussion for MVP himself if Acuña wasn’t playing on another planet.

Olson’s predecessor, Freddie Freeman, will likely finish third behind Acuña and Betts in NL MVP voting. Freeman has set a new Dodgers franchise record with 56 doubles this season and continues to pad his future Hall of Fame numbers. Freeman’s emotional departure from Atlanta was a tumultuous time for the Braves, who replaced the franchise player with Olson. In a bit more understated fashion, Olson is having an MVP caliber of his own. His eight-year, $168 million contract looks like a bargain for the younger position player.

Olson’s offensive onslaught in 2023 earned him his second career All-Star nod and his first All-Star appearance representing the Braves. Acuña Jr. and Betts may be the two best all-around players in the league, but Olson is perhaps the top slugger. The 29-year old left-handed first baseman leads the majors not only in homers but also in RBI (132). His .605 slugging percentage and .328 ISO are the best in the NL, and his 6.2 fWAR is fourth-best in the league behind Betts (8.0), Acuña (7.8) and Freeman (7.3).

In person, Olson gives off the same vibes as he does in the batter’s box. The MLB home run king is remarkably calm, cool, and collected. It’s not too often one has the chance to talk with one of the best sluggers in the game.

I had to calm my own nerves, a skill Olson is obviously far better at than I.


Stacie: How is your season going from your perspective?

Matt: It’s been a good year for us. We just won our 90th game yesterday, I believe. You want to come out and put together a good season in hopes of winning a division. As of now, we’re in a pretty good spot to get into the playoffs and hopefully make a run.

Stacie: This Braves lineup is one of the best I’ve seen since the 90s. Is it one of the best lineups you’ve been a part of?

Matt: I think this one is probably the best I’ve been a part of. It seems like it’s a different guy doing it every night. We got the Rookie of the Year from last year in the nine hole (laugh). You know, All-Star shortstop in the eight hole. It’s always different guys contributing at different times. It takes a lot off you individually when you know all the other eight guys can get the job done.

Stacie: As a team, how do you sustain the pace, we’re at 90 games, about a month to go. How are you guys doing that?

Matt: To continue to treat each day like we have this season. It’s toward the end, and like I said, hopefully you get into the playoffs. You should treat it the same as any day you had at the beginning and middle of the season. I think we do a really good job of that here. It’s hard to walk into our clubhouse and tell if we won by 15 or lost by 15 the night before which I think is a great quality to have and part of the reason why we’re having the success.

Stacie: Do you like playing at Dodger Stadium?

Matt: I do. It’s always a cool vibe here. It’s one of the best surfaces in the big leagues and obviously a ton of history here.

Stacie: So as a first baseman, the surfaces for each stadium feels different for you? Dodger Stadium is the best?

Matt: Yeah, off the top of my head, I’m trying to think of some better surfaces. This might be the best in my opinion.

Stacie: As far as playing the Dodgers, the Braves and Dodgers have been the two best teams in the NL this year. So when you come into a series like this, what is your mindset?

Matt: I think you just try to keep it the same. Obviously it’s a really good team over there. You know it’s going to be a test, but whether you win four or lose four you kinda have to have the same approach each day and hopefully you see them again down the road.

Stacie: Who was your favorite player growing up?

Matt: It was probably Chipper [Jones]. I was a Braves guy. I grew up in Atlanta. I loved watching Chipper and Andruw [Jones] and [Greg] Maddux and [John] Smoltz and [Tom] Glavine and all those guys. There was a pretty amazing group when I was there, but I always liked Chipper’s lefty swing being a lefty myself.


The Braves won their 96th game of the season and clinched their sixth straight NL East division title last Wednesday in Philadelphia, the longest division title streak in MLB. Currently the Braves have a 4-game lead over the Dodgers for the NL’s No. 1 seed with the best record in baseball (99-55), and Matt Olson’s superb year is a big reason why.

The Dodgers and Braves have been the two top teams in the league, and an eventual postseason showdown looks inevitable if both teams can overcome starting pitching injuries to play deep into October.

About Stacie Wheeler

Stacie Wheeler, born and raised in So Cal, has been writing about the Dodgers since 2010. She wrote daily as the co-editor of Lasorda's Lair for five long years, and she has also written for Dodgers Nation, Dodger Blue 1958 and The Hardball Times. She currently contributes to True Blue LA. Stacie graduated from the University Of Southern California with a bachelor's degree in Cinema-Television. You can also watch her videos on her YouTube channel, DishingUpTheDodgers.