Daniel Nelson :”Baseball brought excitement to my life”

“It’s our goal to be an All-Star, an MVP, the best hitter or the best pitcher, but a lot of times you’re the Player To Be Named Later, instead. Not everybody’s a star”, these words from Chris Davis sum up careers of thousands of baseball players. Some of them have seen theirs hopes broken by an unfortunate injury or misdemeanor. Some others remained stuck in the Minor League throughout the years, staying at the door of MLB’s glory. Daniel “Dan” Nelson is one of these. (Read in French)

From 2004 to 2012, he played for four different MLB organizations, at all the levels of the Minor Leagues and even had one spring training appearance with the Braves. But MLB remained a distant dream for him. Since his retirement, Dan Nelson has put his knowledge and his experience at the disposal of young baseball players. He is the owner of a baseball school, an instructor and also a college recruiting specialist. Additionally, this true baseball lover gives free tutorials via his Facebook account, for those who wish to improve their skills.

“The Strike Out” propose you to discover an experienced baseball player, a passionate man who is dedicating his post-baseball career to improving the skills of baseball players, thanks to his great philosophy of the game.


Biographical Notes of Daniel Nelson

  • Born in Los Angeles, CA in 1984
  • Positions : Third Baseman, Second Baseman and Shortstop
  • Drafted in 2004 by the Saint Louis Cardinals in the 13th round of the amateur draft
  • From 2004 to July 2008 : Saint Louis Cardinals (From rookie league to A+ level)
  • From July 2008 to August 2008 : Miami Florida (A+ level)
  • From 2009 to May 2010 : Washington Nationals (A+, AA and A+ level)
  • From May 2010 to August 2011 : Atlanta Braves (From A+ to AAA level), including one spring training appearance in March with the Braves vs Minnesota Twins
  • From July 2012 to September 2012 : El Paso Diablos (Independent League)

Daniel Nelson’s career statistics (8 seasons in the Minors)

  • 689 games
  • 626 hits
  • 35 HRs
  • 303 RBIs
  • .263 BA
  • .353 OBP
  • .373 SLG

Daniel Nelson’s career 

The Strike Out : First of all, thank you for accepting this interview, this is a privilege for our french audience…

Daniel Nelson : That’s no problem; I’m excited to do the interview. I appreciate the time you’re giving me.

T.S.O : You spent eight years in the Minors with some good and average seasons, one spring training appearance. Do you have any frustration about never being called up to play in MLB ?

D.N : I will never have frustration towards MLB. I just believe that a couple of adjustments in my life should have have been made earlier in my career.

“How I changed the direction of my career”

T.S.O : During these years, even in hard times, have you been hoping to Play in MLB all these years ?

D.N : Of course, that’s why I played the game. I had that dream since I was three and it never changed.

T.S.O : In a recent interview you gave at “Fox Sports“, you spoke about the things you “eliminated” in 2010 to find yourself. What are these “things”?

D.N : These things are the influences of others and following their footsteps instead of my own. I tried to fit in with other players that were having fun instead of being serious about their craft (all the time). Those players that weren’t like us, we thought they were too serious. The players we thought were too serious, they moved through the organization quick. Well, that led me down a road that I didn’t shake off until I was released for the second time.

T.S.O : So, could you say that your career turned a corner in 2010 ?

D.N : 2010 was a rocky year; a couple ups but a lot of downs early in the year. I started off the season in Double A for the Senator Nationals and I never played the field. Then I was sent down to High A with the Potomac Nationals. I started asking in depth questions and searching for answers. I wanted to grow because I was at a standstill in my life, I couldn’t make it pass High A baseball. Since that point, I don’t act like I know everything or I don’t want to stand out. Then, the Atlanta Braves signed me and I started in High A, AA, and AAA. Next year I got a chance to play in the MLB where I made the diving catch at Turner Field.

03/30/2011 : Nelson makes a diving catch to rob Valencia a hit

“I got released after hitting the go ahead homerun to win the game”

T.S.O : What did you learn about yourself in the Minors ?

D.N : I understood that it’s nobody’s fault but mine if I’m not prepared for the game. Once I began to think like this, my work ethic improved.

T.S.O : What are the pros and cons of the Minors ? 

D.N : The pros that I have for minor league baseball is the opportunity to communicate and create relationships with different cultures. I remember the first time I met a Dominican baseball player. We were both confused on if either one of us should speak our language to each other. It was hilarious and we are still friends till this day.

A con of minor league baseball knowing if you have the ability to move through the organization. Sometimes this can be a little confusing for some.

T.S.O : How could you describe the life and the atmosphere in the Minors ? 

D.N : Minor League Baseball is a grind, and if you slip up you could be released at any moment. I got released by an organization after hitting the go ahead homerun to win the game. Like, right after the game ! (laugh)

16118637_10154968887204570_199035244_nDan Nelson’s wearing the Gwinnett Braves uniform (AAA)

T.S.O : Do you think that it’s easier to create bonds with teammates or the competitive mind between players is too important ? 

D.N : I think that it’s easier to create bonds with teammates because they understand they’re in the same situation. We’re there to win together, so it’s easy.

T.S.O : With the benefit of insight, how would you assess your career and the strides you made ?

D.N : I assess my career as still incomplete because I wanted to stay longer. I also can say that those times of struggling and success has made me a more resilient person and I have thick skin because of my career.

“Albert Pujols is an amazing person he would always talk to the minor league players”

T.S.O : What did the game bring you ?

D.N : The game brought excitement to my life. I enjoyed every minute and second of the road trips. The game truly has given me a new perspective on life, what it takes to be resilient, and what it takes to be a competitor.

T.S.O : I suppose that during all these years, you played against and with fabulous MLB players, do you have any anecdotes about them ?

D.N : I remember playing against Jason Heyward for the first time. People were talking about him and I had no clue. Well, I found out quick. He hit two doubles and ran home on a ball that I tossed soft to Shortstop Danny Espinosa. I was playing second base at that time. Heyward has incredible awareness. Awesome person.

I played against MLB St Louis Cardinals when I was with the Double A Springfield Cardinals. Albert Pujols, what can I say but amazed in the response from the fans when he hit a homerun off of Jaime Garcia. Even I got excited because I’m a big fan of Albert. He’s an amazing person he would always talk to the minor league players. It meant a lot to me.

I’m impressed with Paul Goldschmidt too. I’ll never forget playing against Paul. My team would tell me about him and made him seem like a future MLB all-star. Needless to say, I was playing second base and he hit a ball that opposite field that I thought was a fly out. That baseball, landed at-least 70 feet pass the fence and I just stood there in amazement watching him run around the bases. Great ball Player.

T.S.O : Do you have any opinion about MLB’s will to reduce contact between players and length of games ?
D.N : I believe that the game should have some contact, especially at second base because it’s more exciting for fans in rivalry games. I do believe the game move slow sometimes and the speed of the game should be timed but once playoffs start, player’s need time to recuperate in the middle of an at-bat or pitching.

Life after baseball

T.S.O :  Since your retirement you’ve become a baseball instructor for teenagers, you are also the owner of the West Valley Training baseball school. You’ve done a lot of free tutorials via your Facebook account. Why do you feel this need to share your knowledge on to young players ?

D.N : Well growing up with my family in the inner city of Los Angeles, there was little instruction given out to the baseball community. My father and brother were the best instructors for me: my Dad taught how to be a man on the field, and my brother taught me techniques from the programs in which he played. But we still didn’t have professional instruction offered to us. So, I created a webpage on Facebook called Valley Training (an extension to West Valley Training) to answer any question and give tutorials for free, online, to anybody that is interested in developing their skills.

” I create a culture where failure is accepted and expected”

T.S.O : What are the goals with your West Valley Training Program ?

D.N : My goal for West Valley Training is to train and help develop a million players each year. Creating opportunities for others that will propel them to the next level. My passion for the development of baseball stretches past just helping out my community, I like to help out players hungry for more information.

T.S.O : Beyond batting skills, is there any mental approach ? 

D.N : The best mental approach is staying open for any instruction, because knowledge can come from someone you didn’t expect to know anything. In 2010, I learned weight transfer and how to hit homeruns/doubles from a hitting coach they said talked too much. He was a wise man.

                     Tutorial from Daniel Nelson to improve hitters’ plate discipline 

T.S.O : What philosophy do you teach to young players ?

D.N : Wow, good question. I create a culture where failure is accepted and expected. So they understand that it’s ok to play freely. If a child has added pressure from a coach, then they will shut down when they’re losing or making errors.

T.S.O : You are also recruiting specialist for college teams and a teacher at the “Odyssey Prepatory Academy”, could you explain to us what are your missions in these jobs ? 

D.N : Well, the job as a recruiting specialist is to provide kids the best opportunity to receive scholarship funding for college. Video is always recommended but they will create a profile and our team of recruiters will evaluate them. Then, we dispatch their profiles to colleges. Working at The Odyssey Institute for Advanced and International Studies in Buckeye, Arizona has been a blessing to my family and me. I’m the Head Coach and the team has grown because of how the school operates. Creating a culture of failure is our mission. A student needs to understand that they can fail; it’s a part of life. Just keep trying to succeed. We have a foreign exchange program and I trained my first exchange student from Spain last year. That was great.

T.S.O : Did you have, at the end of your career, any offer to stay in the Minors but as a coach ?

D.N : No, I didn’t. I actually attempted this last year and they chose a different candidate for the position. I’ll keep trying.

T.S.O : What is the main philosophic advice you give to players ? 

D.N : If you think of yourself as project, you’re going to make mistakes. There will be erased marks, thrown away papers, frustration, and stress; Do it again, do it again, do it again. When you look at the greatest to ever do it in anything, that’s what they are; a grade A+ project of resilience.

“The Strike Out’ would like to warmly thank Daniel Nelson for his time and his kindness. 

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