A 6-foot-8, 250-pound Jewish baseball player who slugged four home runs while playing for Israel in the qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic has joined the Oakland Athletics.
On March 23, the A’s picked up first baseman Nate Freiman after the Houston Astros put him on waivers.
Freiman, 26, has never played in the major leagues, but he turned heads while suiting up for Israel last September in Miami. Although Israel was eliminated in three games, Freiman batted .417 in those games, and four of his five hits were home runs.
Freiman (pronounced FRY-man) is being considered by the A’s as part of a platoon situation at first base, according to MLB.com. Since he was picked up in the Rule 5 draft, he has to be kept on the major-league roster all season, or offered back to his former team.
Born in Wellesley, Mass., Freiman attended Duke University, where he was all-conference in baseball and a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-academic team. He is also the school’s all-time home run leader.
The right-handed batter had a big season with Double-A San Antonio last season, hitting .298 and slugging a career-high 24 home runs. In four minor league seasons, he has 71 home runs. When he played for Israel, Freiman was teammates with current A’s minor leaguers Max Perlman, Nick Rickles and Jeff Urlaub.
If Freiman blossoms, comparisons to former A’s first baseman Mike Epstein will likely follow. Nicknamed “Superjew,” Epstein hit 44 home runs in two years for the A’s (1971 and 1972), and was also a large specimen at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds.
Freiman gives the A’s a bonafide storyline for their third annual Jewish Heritage Night, which is scheduled for July 30 against the Toronto Blue Jays.