Less than a year on from his promotion to the role of Recruiting Coordinator for NJ Thunder, he’s now seen his team take home the title of Myrtle Beach Classic Champions for the third year in a row.
Thunder’s showdown with Coastal Carolina Crush in the finals of the Beach Battle Classic was a true spectacle. Following an impressive display of well-played baseball at the start of their campaign against the Nationals, Rail Riders and Braves, they managed to start the game strong before a near-comeback brought both teams to a nail-biting finale.
From the beginning of the face-off, it was obvious that Thunder were on top form. They managed to seize control early on and led Crush until the 9th inning with a 6-1 lead. Even when it seemed a comeback was impossible, though, the challengers were determined to put on a show of heart.
Much more than a simple attempt at consolation, they took advantage of a few of team Thunder’s mishaps and managed to hit a couple of timely balls to bring the score back to 6-5. Coming down to the bottom of the 9th, it was Jeremy Brownlee — who led the team with stolen bases for the tournament — who came on to seal the deal and strike out the last batter, winning the game 6-5.
Both Kenny Kraddock and Nelms himself provided key hits, while Frank Barka had several power shots to deep centerfield (including a ground rule double that bounced over the centerfield wall to score).
Nelms’ impact as recruiting coordinator has become increasingly evident in the year following his appointment. With a wealth of pitching knowledge from his days playing at the minor league and semi-pro levels, he’s been using his experience to benefit all players on the team regardless of their position. Likewise, he’s been helping to mentor one of the nation’s top pitching staffs over the five seasons since he came to Thunder, which have also seen them take home the RHWS World Series championship for two of the last three years.
It would seem that the team are incredibly appreciative of his work since he joined, too. Manager Joe Rosado has been particularly complimentary of Nelms’ work, calling him “ridiculously intelligent” and “knowledgeable in all areas of pitching,” while stating that he considers him to be “one of the most talented coaches that I have been around in 22 years of coaching baseball.” Rosado’s gratitude for everything he’s done at the Thunder is obvious, and he considers him a key figure in helping the team win the championship for three years.
Since Nelms became one of the Coaching staff — following two seasons as the pitching coach for the Rangers — Thunder have managed to maintain a 2.64 ERA (which is second only to USOTB’s Sarinsin). In 2014, they led the country with an impressive 2.22, followed by a 2.45 in 2015 where they took second place. What’s even more impressive is that no program in the country has managed to better the Thunder’s record of 33 wins during the last three seasons.
However, it hasn’t been an easy ride. Nelms was faced with a new set of challenges last year when the team lost their three starting pitchers as well as their all-time saves leader following the conclusion of the 2015/16 campaign.
However, in the first tournament of the year, he helped the team to pull together and win the Beach Battle Classic. Along with fellow coaching staff members Billy Vitolo (who also had 2 standout pitching performances), Ricky Fernandez, Mario Lopez and — the star of the match — Jeremy Brownlee, the team demonstrated an awe-inspiring determination to succeed in the face of adversity.
When he’s not helping the Thunder, though, Nelms has a much more demanding job as the husband to his wife Rachel, and as the father to their two daughters, Amara and Ahyana. “My family and I are thankful for the faith that Coach Rosado and Coach Jones have put in us,” said Nelms when he joined the team back in 2012. His mission, he has always believed since joining, is to help to develop athletes at a high level and continue the tradition of the great NJ Thunder program.
With performances like the one we saw at the Beach Battle Classic, it’s fairly evident that his efforts are succeeding.