Twenty-seventeen had already been a heck of a ride for Nate Freiman.
Three seasons removed from his last major-league game, the 6-8 first baseman was a member of the scrappy Israeli team that became the darling of the World Baseball Classic and recently was tearing up the Atlantic League as a member of the Ducks before cooling off.
Then Saturday, before the Ducks’ game against the New Britain Bees, he left the team to play for Pericos de Puebla, a Mexican League team whose roster includes former Met Endy Chavez. Freiman was hitting .250 with four home runs and six RBIs after going 0-for-4 in the Ducks’ 4-3 home-opening victory over the Bees Friday night.
“We’re happy for Nate,” said Ducks president/general manager Michael Pfaff. “One of the goals each player has individually when they come to the Atlantic League is to be presented with greater financial opportunities. Nate got one and jumped on it. We wish him luck.” Freiman could not be reached for comment.
Freiman hit .273 with two home runs and six RBIs for Israel which went 4-2 in the WBC, losing 8-3 to Japan at the Tokyo Dome in a battle to reach the championship round.
Freiman batted .256 in 116 games for the 2013-14 A’s. He spent 2015 in Oakland’s minor-league system and split 2016 as a farmhand for the Red Sox and then the Nationals before signing with the Ducks, for whom he hit .381 with two home runs in six games.
Pericos, his new team, is managed by former major-leaguer Von Hayes, who also managed in the Atlantic League from 2008-11.
The Ducks have been dunked, beak-first, into the 2017 Atlantic League season. Thanks to two weather postponements, the team was forced to play two doubleheaders in four days on their first road trip of the year. In Wednesday’s damp double dip against the Liberty-division rival Somerset Patriots, both games went into extra innings.
Even though Atlantic League single-admission doubleheaders are limited to seven innings per game, that’s still a lot of baseball — especially considering that Wednesday’s games lasted 11 and 10 innings respectively, with the Ducks losing both.
“I think it would have been better had we not played doubleheaders,” Freiman said. “It’s difficult to play unscheduled doubleheaders this early in the year, as far as managing a pitching staff goes. But, we had guys really step up and pick up a lot of the load during those doubleheaders.”
The baseball-filled fun continues for the Ducks next week. After closing out their home-opening series with the New Britain Bees Sunday afternoon, the Ducks head to York for four games, including a doubleheader scheduled for Wednesday.
Catcher Alex Burg has been a tough out with two away. The 29-year old had three hits and five RBIs with two outs in the first seven games. Burg led the Atlantic League with seven RBIs entering Friday.
“I’ve been seeing the ball pretty well,” he said. “I’m just excited to play baseball. Early in the season is always fun. The legs are fresh and everything feels good. I think it’s a combination of both of those things.”
NEXT UP: New Britain @ Ducks, 1:35 p.m.
With Mike Ruiz