|Wellesley’s Nate Freiman is playing Class A baseball. (Fort Wayne Tincaps)|
Freiman thriving with Ind.’s TinCaps
He grew up in Wellesley, tore the cover off the baseball at Duke, and last summer spent his first professional season in Eugene, Ore., where he hit 11 homers and drove in 68 runs in 72 games.
When Nate Freiman was promoted out of spring training to the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the San Diego Padres’ Class A affiliate in the Midwest League, he wasn’t exactly a stranger to the area. In fact, he was hoping the city in northeast Indiana would be his destination.
“I’d been to Fort Wayne a couple of times because my girlfriend’s family lived there,’’ said Freiman, whose significant other is LPGA Tour rookie Amanda Blumenherst, a fellow Duke University grad who ranks 35th in tour earnings ($81,397) this year and was the 2008 US Women’s Amateur champ.
Batting out of the cleanup and No. 5 spots in the order, Freiman has put together a solid first half: hitting .299 through 63 games with five homers, 17 doubles, and 38 RBIs. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound first baseman has been named to the Midwest League All-Star team and will suit up as a reserve for the Eastern Division squad Tuesday night at Fort Wayne’s brand-new Parkview Field.
“I saw Parkview a couple of days before the draft and thought it would be fun to get picked up by the Padres,’’ said Freiman, an eighth-round pick by San Diego last spring after breaking Duke’s career home run record (43) as a senior, and becoming only the second player in Blue Devil history to hit 20 homers in a season.
“We get great crowds, I’m staying with a terrific host family, and I get to see some of Amanda’s family, too, although her parents have since moved to Arizona,’’ he said of his stint with the TinCaps.
A standout pitcher and slugger at Wellesley High (class of 2005), Freiman injured his throwing arm as a college freshman, ending his pitching aspirations, but setting the stage for his development as a hitter and first baseman, skills that he also honed in the Cape Cod League.
“He’s just a workhorse, the first guy to arrive at our park and the last to leave,’’ said TinCaps manager Jose Flores, who said Freiman has fast become a fan favorite. “Nate’s power numbers are probably not where he would want them to be, but he got off to a great start this year, and his all-star recognition is well-deserved. Because of his power, teams tend to pitch around him, so he’s learning to pick out the pitches he can hit.’’
Freiman had been drafted in the 28th round by the
His transition to the pros was eased by Duke head coach Dean McNally, who also began his pro baseball career with the Eugene Emeralds, in the Class A Northwest League.
Now, Freiman is adjusting to the longest season of his baseball career — 140 games — with the TinCaps, whose nickname is derived from local legend Johnny Appleseed. According to legend, Appleseed, whose real name was John Chapman, wore a tin cooking pot on his head as he traveled about cultivating apple trees. Chapman died in Fort Wayne in 1845.
“Playing in the All-Star Game in a beautiful stadium that overlooks the downtown will be awesome. I can’t wait,’’ added Freiman. “I was just hoping to move up a level out of spring training after what I thought was a good introduction to pro ball last year, and this is a higher level of Class A. And although I’m far from the finished product, I’m confident that by the end of the season, I’ll have put up some good numbers.
“Our manager has really helped teach us how to carry yourself day in and day out as a pro, and our hitting coach has been working with me in smoothing out my swing. I’m still making the transition from the aluminum bat in college to the wood bat.’’
“My driving was a little shaky, but I hit some strong iron shots and sank some long putts,’’ said Shipman, who carries a 3.5 handicap and is a former club champion at Sterling Country Club.
Shipman had three birdies over the final four holes Monday, including a 20-foot finishing putt on 18, propelling him to medalist honors by one stroke.
Starrett, an all-conference hockey player who will attend Babson College, received the James R. O’Connor “Poise and Class’’ Award, while Butler, an all-conference soccer and lacrosse player who will play lacrosse at Lynchburg College, won the Edward McElaney “Commitment to Excellence’’ Award.
Marvin Pave can be reached at 508-820-4223 or marvin.pave@ rcn.com.