Since his baseball coach at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts was also the track coach, Nate Freiman was encouraged to stay in shape in the offseason. He became an accomplished indoor runner.
But Freiman wasnt really interested in high hurdles and middle distances.
As a 6-foot-8 freshman at Duke, Freiman looked more the part of a certain successful basketball team on the Durham, N.C., campus.
But he didnt like the game his father played, either.
Baseball has always been what mattered, particularly since age 16 when Freimans height and strength began to rapidly advance.
Height doesnt necessarily beget success in baseball. It worked in favor of 6-10 Randy Johnson, who won 303 games and accumulated 4,875 career strikeouts. But a half-dozen other current and former major-league pitchers 6-10 and taller have had varying success.
But on April 3, 2013, when he made his major-league debut with the As, Freiman became the tallest non-pitcher in major-league history.
Ive had people joke about it, said Freiman, primarily a first baseman. But I honestly have no idea if its true. But it would be cool if it is.
The right-handed-hitting Freiman began this season with the River Cats. On Friday night, he was the teams designated hitter. One phone call and an overnight flight to Florida later, Freiman was in the As starting lineup at first base Sunday afternoon against the Miami Marlins.
Sporting a new swing hes used for about six weeks, Freimans three-run homer propelled the As to a 4-3 win.
Ill probably have to not make it a habit of sleeping half an hour, Freiman told reporters in Miami after not getting much sleep while traveling from Sacramento. There was too much adrenaline going. I was wired.
Freimans unique status in baseball has another component. Hes married to LPGA Tour player Amanda Blumenherst.
The couple met as freshmen at Duke and had several classes together throughout college and while their athletic careers were developing. Freiman was the 2005 Massachusetts High School Player of the Year; Blumenherst tied for 10th and shared low amateur honors in the 2006 U.S. Womens Open. She has four top-10 LPGA Tour finishes. They also were Dukes Male and Female Athletes of the Year as seniors in 2009.
The couple married in December 2012, and the following fall Blumenherst left the LPGA Tour to support her husbands career. Theyre expecting their first child in November.
Freiman has caddied for his wife several times and knows his limits.
It was great, Freiman said at Raley Field shortly before his call-up to the As. I got to travel with her to different places. But I dont know anything about golf. I did the best I could. I didnt tell her anything golf-related. I just did the yardages and got out of the way.
Now a one pro-sport family, Freiman is the traveler. He played in 80 games with the As last year, batting .274 with four home runs and 24 RBIs in 208 at-bats.
It was difficult being apart, he said. Golf unto itself is a very stressful game. Its a tough lifestyle. It wasnt easy on either of us. I am a lot happier the more I get to spend time with her. But it was something (two pro sports) we were both doing and she was doing amazing.
Steve Scarsone, the River Cats manager, witnessed Freimans 76 games and 296 at-bats with the As Triple-A team this season. Freiman batted .277 with 14 home runs and and 69 RBIs.
I dont think (his height) gives him an advantage or anything, Scarsone said. Weve seen that baseball isnt necessarily a tall man's game. The small, spry guys have just as much opportunity. Baseball is an equal opportunity game in terms of size, unlike some other sports.
But to be able to manipulate yourself on the field and make those quick adjustments defensively and be able to handle pitches in and away with those long arms, that shows quite a bit of dexterity. Yes hes tall, but he also has great athleticism.
Freiman, who is scheduled to play against left-handed starting pitchers, also may be the As designated hitter, as he was periodically last year in Oakland.
I can stretch pretty well (as a first baseman), he said. But it takes a lot to move right and left. I just have to learn to stay on top of my range. I just have to take a lot ground balls everyday and do my work in the weight room.
With his family soon to expand, the soft-spoken Freiman has his preferences. If his child is athletic, hed prefer a baseball player rather than a golfer.
Oh, a baseball player, definitely, he said. I just think it would be fun to take them out and play catch and stuff.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.