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Monday, April 25, 2011

Jamie Nelson, Injuries and Expectations - 565

Selected away from the team that had brought him to the majors, Jamie Nelson was optimistic that he would get back to the bigs with his new team, the Brewers, The Milwaukee Journal wrote.

But he'd have to go back to the minors to get his shot at returning to the majors.

"It's always a shock when you get sent down," Nelson told The Journal as spring closed in 1984. "But I think it's good for me to get to stay in this organization. I think that will turn out to be good for me."

But his one lengthy stint with the Mariners that year before, in 1983, would be the extent of Nelson's big league career.

While going on to a playing career that wouldn't fully end until spring 1995, injuries and expectations would conspire to prevent Nelson from making that return trip to the bigs.

But his career in baseball continues into 2011, serving as a longtime coach and coordinator in the Rays system.

Nelson's career began in 1978, taken by the Mets in the 8th round of the January draft. He played three years in the Mets system, before signing with the Mariners for 1981. He played that year and the next at AA Lynn, then 1983 at AAA Salt Lake City.

It was in July 1983 that Nelson got his call-up to Seattle. In 40 games and 96 at bats, Nelson hit .219 and one home run.

Speaking to The Los Angeles Times in 1986, Nelson recalled his time in the majors. He remembered the food that, after one game, included a spread of turkey and dressing.

"I couldn't believe it. After a game down in A or Double-A, you get yourself a microwave burrito at 7-11 and you're happy as a lark," Nelson told The Times. "I said, 'God, no wonder everybody talks about getting here.' "

Nelson spoke to The Times while trying to get back, playing in American Legion ball. The catcher had blown out his arm early the previous season.

He returned to affiliated ball in 1987, in the Royals system. With the Royals system, Nelson got in line for another call-up when Jamie Quirk got injured. But Nelson missed that opportunity after getting injured himself in a home plate collision, according to The Associated Press.

After spending time with the Yankees and Angels systems, Nelson landed with the Twins at AAA Portland in 1990. By that time, the catcher had spent 12 years in minors, minus a year out on injury. The veteran Nelson served as a backup catcher to teammate and prospect Derek Parks.

Sports Illustrated noted comparisons between Nelson and the character Crash Davis, of Bull Durham. Crash Davis was the player big league clubs wanted him to be. But it wasn't the player Nelson wanted to be. It was his last season in affiliated ball.

"The last thing I wanted to do was play Crash Davis and go from Triple A to AA," he told SI. "That's not exactly a progression."

Nelson returned in 1994 playing independent ball as a player/coach for the Mobile Baysharks of the Texas-Louisiana League, for his final playing year.

Nelson even left baseball briefly, for a janitor's job. Then the Royals came calling again, this time for replacement ball in spring 1995. Nelson hoped his play might restart his career.

"I think the more I'm around here, the more I get to display my skills and talents to show them I can still play," Nelson told The AP that February. "It's a million to one odds that they will want to retain me."

Nelson did return to the field after the spring, just as a coach and manager in the Rays organization. These days, he's one of eight roving coordinators for the Rays.

In 2007, Nelson served as manager of rookie-league Princeton, with the veteran player trying to get his team through a rough spot.

"We made some very inexperienced mistakes today," Nelson told The Bluefield Daily Telegraph that June. "I firmly believe, as long as these guys continue to grow and continue to play, they won't make those mistakes in the future."
1990 CMC TallyCards Featured: 450/880 - 51.1%
Players/Coaches Featured:
461
Made the Majors: 312 - 68%
Never Made the Majors:
149-32%

5+ Seasons in the Majors:
128
10+ Seasons in the Minors:
113

2 comments:

  1. Jamie Nelson was the manager of the Palm Springs Suns in the California West Coast Independent League in 1995. I was 38 and pitching every Sunday in the old Angels spring training stadium/facility there. Great ballpark. It was an amateur weekend league of 5-6 teams. I'd won 17 and lost 1 that summer and Jamie came into the bar I worked at called the Beer Hunter in La Quinta, CA. I went to a try-out and then pitched in a couple of games against College of the Desert and a Riverside university. He offered me a contract of $800 a month to join the team and travel up and down the coast. I think they played 80-82 games. I had bills ! Car payments, insurance, rent, etc. The biggest regret of my life is not signing that contract.I was behind the bar and he put the contract on the bar for me to sign. It just seemed like so little money, but it would have been a chance, a last chance to play pro ball at 38! An unforgettable adventure and life experience. It might have led to a coaching, pitching coach job somewhere. I was released by the STL Cardinals in '79 for a shoulder injury. Jamie was amazingly supportive and kind. I don't think any of the kids on the team were over 25 years old. They all thought I was the crafty veteran pitcher. I'm 61 now. If you know Jamie Nelson, tell him thank you. I did win a World Series ring when I was 41 at the MSBL tourney in Arizona in 1998. But Jamie, I will always regret not playing for you ! Greg Balster. Hope you are well buddy.

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  2. I'm in Nicaragua. Still would like to coach !

    ReplyDelete

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