By KORI RAYBORN
For the Baker City Herald
Two decades have passed since Amy Freeman lived in Baker City, but after all this time away, her view of Baker hasn't changed a bit.
"I absolutely wouldn't trade growing up in Baker for anything," she said in a telephone interview from Beaverton. "I still have lots of family and friends there. I'm very happy to be coming home, I have fond memories of Baker and my time growing up there."
Freeman has no children, that is, apart from her dogs Boomer and Belle. In her free time, Freeman volunteers with the Cascade Beagle Rescue and is on its board of directors. She lives in Beaverton and works as a retail brand manager for Nike.
Freeman's parents, Dave and Betty Freeman, lived in Baker City until 1989, the year before Freeman graduated from Baker High. They now live in John Day.
Her dad, Dave, is a certified public accountant and owns his own business; her mom, Betty, is the office manager for her dad's business. Her sister, Jodie, is a 1987 BHS graduate and lives nearby in Beaverton working as an elementary schoolteacher.
Amy Freeman said the invitation to speak at this year's BHS graduation ceremony was quite unexpected.
"I was a little surprised, of course. My first reaction was that it was a nice feeling being asked back. I know it really is quite an honor."
Commencement will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Baker Bulldog Memorial Stadium.
Freeman, 39, is a 1990 BHS graduate, and went on to Oregon State University in Corvallis. She graduated in 1996 with a major in merchandising management and a minor in sports administration.
After college, Freeman landed a job with Nike at Niketown Portland and also for Niketown Atlanta in Atlanta, Ga.
She spent more than three years working in Nike's retail division before returning to Oregon State to work as the Assistant Marketing Director for the athletic department.
The next year she was promoted to marketing director of the OSU Athletic Department where she stayed for four seasons.
In 2002, Freeman decided to work again for Nike, this time as the company's retail brand manager.
"Working as marketing director for almost four years in the OSU Athletic Department was a pretty intense job," said Freeman.
She decided to go back to Nike because she felt she was ready for a new challenge.
As brand manager for Nike, she works with all of Nike's accounts and with its licensed apparel division, working alongside the National Football League, Major League Baseball and college teams on their retail programs.
"This is really what I've been doing for the last ten years - working in retail marketing," Freeman said.
Working for Nike, Freeman has had many opportunities through the years to meet professional athletes through working at event clinics and photo shoots.
"One particular highlight I remember is when I met Matt Holliday from the St. Louis Cardinals at a kids event clinic we were putting on. He was our athlete appearance for the clinic."
Freeman was quite impressed when she was reintroduced to Holliday at another Nike event and he remembered meeting her from the other event.
"I was so surprised that he still remembered me, after meeting so many people I didn't expect he'd remember, so it's always stood out to me," she said.
Freeman also recalls meeting Boston Red Sox baseball center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, like Freeman an Oregon State Beaver, at the same clinic.
"I remember telling him that I was from Baker City and he was like, 'Wow, I'm from Madras, Oregon,' and then we kind of had one of those small town bonding moments," she said. "He was very down-to-earth, a really nice guy."
Freeman said most of her experiences meeting professional athletes have been very positive interactions.
"It's always good to remember that professional athletes are just normal people too."
She hasn't decided exactly what she would like to say to this year's BHS graduates, but she has been brainstorming some ideas.
"Right now as I've started formulating what I'd like to say, I have been searching for words of wisdom to pass on to this year's graduates," Freeman said. "From my personal experience, I'd advise current graduates to work hard and to be true to themselves. One thing that hasn't changed for me in all these years working in Portland, Atlanta and in other places is that I've always stayed true to myself."
Freeman hopes to encourage graduates as they take this next big step in their lives. She knows for most, this will be a time of heading out into the world.
"There really is a world of opportunity out there," she said.