GOODYEAR, Ariz. — When Cleveland Indians catcher Matt Treanor met his future wife, three-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, he was 27, broke and living with his parents down the street from Disneyland.
He had no inkling that a romance fit for a Walt Disney movie was in store.
It was 2003 and they were both going to physical therapy at the Sports Medicine Institute in Anaheim, Calif., next to Angel Stadium. Treanor was coming off surgery on his left knee. Misty still needed treatment for an injury from the previous year.
From October until the end of January, they barely spoke to each other. He respected the work she came there to do and figured she kept a busy schedule. He was at a crossroads in his baseball career, realizing he didn’t have much more time to break into the major leagues.
“I wanted to meet somebody and have a quality relationship for the longest time and it just wasn’t happening,” Treanor said. “I said, ‘I’m going to concentrate on my game and go home and focus on making this baseball thing work.’ Then all of a sudden, here she comes.”
All of a sudden happened one night when the athletes who rehabbed at SMI decided to go out as a group. The organizer was trying to set up Misty with a sales rep for Sharpie, so Treanor realized he’d better make his move.
“We hit it off right away,” Treanor said during a recent interview. “I asked her to marry me two months after our first date.”
As much of a whirlwind as their courtship was, Treanor had doubts. Not about how much he loved Misty, but whether he was worthy of her.
“At first the natural thing for a guy, you want to be able to provide for your girl,” he said. “She owned a home and had cars, plural. With my situation being uncertain, it almost felt like, ‘Why is she with me? Why is she hanging around?’”
This November, the Treanors will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.
Misty has retired from competition with partner Kerri Walsh Jennings and is an assistant sand volleyball coach at USC. She’s about to open a large volleyball facility that will have club and youth teams.
The couple lives in Long Beach, Calif., in a “little old house” built in 1949. Misty is seven months pregnant with their first child. They planned on starting a family sooner, but the 2012 London Olympics intervened.
Treanor, 38, has played for five major league teams in eight years, including more than four seasons with the Florida Marlins. In 2012 he caught 36 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers before being granted free agency. He spent last season out of baseball after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee, his third operation on that knee. He signed a minor league contract with the Indians in December, hoping that backup catcher Carlos Santana’s conversion to third base would open up a roster spot.
That hope fizzled Wednesday when Treanor suffered a left hamstring strain running the bases against the Oakland A’s. He will likely open the season on the Triple-A disabled list, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said.
Through it all, Treanor said Misty “has been nothing but supportive.”
Treanor said he and Misty clicked because of her down-to-earth nature and her interest in teaching young children. He is also considering coaching one day.
“She’s got a certain way about her, the material stuff in our life is not an important part to her,” he said. “She didn’t grow up with any money.”
Treanor said if he had approached Misty the day he first saw her at SMI, they might never have gotten married.
“Once we started dating, I realized probably the best thing I did was leave her alone and let her concentrate on her work,” he said.
He still respects those boundaries, saying he has never put on one of her gold medals from 2004 (Athens), 2008 (Beijing) or London.
“It’s not mine to put on,” Treanor said. “But Misty’s very generous with people, especially kids and people with special needs. It’s fun to see somebody’s face when she says, ‘Go ahead and put it on.’ She feels like it’s a United States medal, she just happened to be a representative of the country to win that medal.”
Treanor doesn’t seem to mind being overshadowed by Misty. He even went to a couple of practices when she competed on “Dancing With the Stars” in the fall of 2008 before rupturing her Achilles.
“I never did watch her dance, I was still playing,” Treanor said. “When she got hurt I went to the episode where they explained she wasn’t going to be dancing anymore. We went to the finale. It’s very Hollywood there, it’s a who’s who. They show up, it’s almost like people are plugging stuff.”
Even before he was hurt, Treanor knew the roster battle he faced with the Indians.
“I’m not even sure he quite knew where he was because he hadn’t played,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Treanor’s health. “We told him we would give him a good look, which we have. We love him.
“I’m not saying he’s done as a baseball player. I hope when his days are done, I hope he stays in the game. Guys like him make the game better. He’s very special.”
Told Treanor was considering coaching, Francona said: “I hope he does. I hope he does here.”
No matter where baseball takes him, Treanor said he was thrilled to be signed by a team as successful as the Indians. He didn’t like how he’d left the Dodgers, especially after a concussion cost him part of the 2011 season with the Kansas City Royals.
“Just walking into the clubhouse when nobody was here and seeing the jerseys and being part of something like this, not that you don’t appreciate it when you’re younger, but it’s something to walk into a big league clubhouse and see the way everybody takes care of their business, the professionalism. It’s not like going to play rec baseball with the men’s leagues. Coming back there’s a lot of emotion in it for me.”
If those moments are about to end, Treanor knows he’s found the perfect partner with whom to share those feelings.