In the first part of our interview with James Nelson we discussed his path to professional baseball, the adjustment he had to make as a professional and getting traded to the Yankees. You can read that here. Below James discusses a few of the familiar faces he already knew in the Yankees system, staying in shape through the pandemic shutdown and providing a positive message to young minority players.
Dan Kelly – You had played with Michael King a little bit in the Marlins system, is he someone you reached out to when you heard the news, or did you know anyone in the Yankees system that you could call to get a feel for how things go?
James Nelson – King… I love King that’s my boy, when I told him he was excited. We talked on the phone a little bit. Then I also knew Isiah (Gilliam), its like the other story with Taylor (Trammell) and them, we all grew up playing with each other or against each other. So that was somebody else that I reached out to and told him. Those were the only two people really. Everybody else I met them in spring training.
DK – You only had a few weeks on the field during spring training. How acclimated to the Yankees’ coaches and players did you feel by the time the COVID situation began to play out and everything needed to be shut down?
JN – I mean, when I first walked in it felt like I was there for years. Everybody welcomed me with open arms. The coaches sat me down and they said we are going to do “this, this and this with you.” Here is what we see as your strengths and weaknesses. I just felt like part of the family and I hadn’t even been there for, I mean we were only there for a month.
DK – How do you feel like your training has gone with the shutdown, and how has the constant flow of communication worked with the organization? How has training on your own gone? Do you feel like you are in a good place physically?
JN - When we first shut down I was working out on my own, I’ve got some workout and I was doing that on my own. Then I found this place down in Tampa, Diesel Fitness and they are the best that I’ve worked out with in a long time. They are helping me a lot to figure out some of the movements I didn’t know I had. Then on the baseball side of things, when it shut down I was doing a lot of things on my own. Then I have some of the Yankees coaches that reach out to me and they put me on a program to give me some drills to do. I’m just trying to stay prepared, I hit off the machines when I get a chance just to see a ball coming at me. Just stuff like that, little stuff that I can control.
DK – During the season with the playoff run with the Marlins making it, were some of the players on the Marlins guys that you know and had played with? Also, how did you follow the situation with your former team where you know some of the guys, but also your new organization both in the playoffs?
JN – Braxton Garrett, Jorge Guzman, Sixto Sanchez… I didn’t really play with Sixto that much, and Jordan Holloway. Every time they pitched or played that is when I tuned in and wanted to see those guys do well. Other than that I was watching the Yankees or watching them pitch.
DK – It has to be interesting to see some of those guys that you played with contributing to the Marlins, as it was a surprising playoff run.
JN – Definitely.
DK – I have one more set of questions and I’ll understand if you want to stick to baseball on this, but 2020 is going to be known for more than just the pandemic and a mixed up season. You are a young black man in America, there was a lot of stuff over the summer and still in the national conversation that played out. I’m curious what are your thoughts and what were your emotions as you watched events play out this summer? Is there anything you are actively doing to participate in the conversations that are going on?
JN – I don’t want to comment too much on it, but I can tell you that the things that I do as far as that is when I go home, or go to my little brother’s games, I’ll speak to the kids sometimes, or even if I see, minorities in general I’ll stay on them, because at the end of the day there are not many in baseball. I try to stay on those guys and tell them it’s fun, it’s fun to be in pro ball and do this for a living and not have to go to a 9-to-5. So any advice I can give to those kids I’m more than happy, not even just the kids some of the older guys. I just tell them to keep on going every time I come home or even if I see something on social media, I tell them to keep it up.
DK – That is great, sounds like you are a very positive influence on them. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
James Nelson is likely to be playing in the northeast this coming season either as a member of High-A Hudson Valley, Double-A Somerset or both as the season progresses.