There are good seasons, and then there are off the charts insane seasons. Hosea Nelson had one of those insane seasons earlier this year while playing for Clarendon College in Texas.
As a sophomore, he won the conference MVP with a slash line of .531/.606/1.020, good for a ridiculous 1.626 OPS. Nelson slugged 20 home runs, 18 doubles, and 9 triples while walking 27 times and only striking out 30. Needless to say, he put himself on the Cleveland Indians' radar, but the road to being drafted had not been easy. Nelson had hoped to be drafted straight out of high school, and was frustrated with inconsistent playing time in his freshman year at Wabash Valley CC before taking a huge risk and moving to the other side of the country.
Nelson spoke with Let's Go Tribe about his expectations, his journey, and the people who've helped him along the way in this exclusive interview.
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Brian Hemminger (Let's Go Tribe): Let’s get the easy one out of the way. How did it feel when you found out you got drafted?
Hosea Nelson: Most people say excited or overwhelmed with emotions, but for me, it was relief. It was a weight lifted off my shoulders. All the hard work paying off.
Brian Hemminger: You grew up in Detroit, so here’s the big question. Were you a Tigers fan or an Indians fan?
Hosea Nelson: Honestly, neither. I’m a Yankees fan, actually. Yeah, I know (laughs).
Brian Hemminger : I saw you mention that you’ve actually played in Progressive Field in Cleveland before, so how did that happen?
Hosea Nelson: There’s this baseball program called RBI, which stands for Reviving Baseball in Inner cities, so there was a regional tournament, which was held in Cleveland and if you win your four games, they hold the championship in Progressive Field. The summer of 2013, we won all our games and made it to the championship and we won the championship in Progressive Field which qualified us for the RBI World Series in Minnesota.
Brian Hemminger: A bit off topic, but your Twitter game is strong as hell. The Indians had a prospect named Levon Washington who had quite the social media presence. You might put him to shame.
Hosea Nelson: (laughs) Honestly, I didn’t even think I was on Twitter enough, dude, at least compared to my friends.
Brian Hemminger: You bounced around a bit. After high school in Detroit, you committed to Oakland, but instead you went to Wabash Valley in Illinois for one year, then last year you attended Clarendon College in Texas and before getting drafted, you were committed to North Florida. Is there any reason you were going on a United States tour like that?
Hosea Nelson: When I committed to Oakland University, the main reason I committed was they offered me a nice scholarship at the time and honestly, I had intentions of going pro after my senior year of high school so I didn’t give it too much thought. I hit the circuit pretty hard the summer before my senior year and I was committed to a mid-major school but didn’t plan on going there but things didn’t happen that way and I went undrafted. Then summer comes and reality hit me, I realized I was going to have to go there.
My adviser at the time suggested that if I went to JuCo and did well, they could draft me the next year and even if I don’t do well, I’m still eligible for the draft every year. That sounded great to me so I went down to Wabash Valley with my family and I worked out for the coach. He offered me a full ride on the spot and me, not knowing any better, I signed right on the spot so that’s where I was going. I had a good fall season but then spring came around and I didn’t play at all or hardly played. We had some pretty good sophomores in front of me but with how things went down, I wasn’t happy with it.
I had my exit meeting and it didn’t go how I wanted to go so I told them I wasn’t coming back. Fast forward and I’m on my way home from playing summer ball in late July of last year and I still don’t have a school. I’m hanging with my roommate from Wabash in Ohio and he’s in the Great Lakes Collegiate League All-Star Game, his name is Dezon Cole and the coach of the team had just received the assistant coaching job at Clarendon two days before I met him. Coach Derek Hartwood, he comes up to me and finds out I’m not going back to school and he asked me how I felt about going to Texas.
He said they were looking for players so the next week, me and my dad drove four hours to work out with him and his summer team and I was still 18 at the time and everybody on his team was 19-22. After I was done working out, he said I outshined everybody there and they offered me a scholarship and I went home, talked about it with my dad and mother and I committed and signed my NLI a week before school started. That’s how I ended up in Clarendon.
Brian Hemminger: And that ended up being a pretty damn good decision. No joke, Hosea, I don’t think I could put up the numbers you put up in Clarendon if I was playing a video game on easy mode. What was the big change for you? What was the spark?
Hosea Nelson: What I would attribute it to, I knew my sophomore year that my next move had to be my best move meaning I couldn’t afford to lose another year of eligibility and not put up any numbers or not get any better. It sounds so simple, but I just learned how to handle my failure a lot better and I started working with coaches that didn’t try to change everything I did. Instead, they took what I did and made it better and they allowed me to go out and play and make mistakes.
My swing is not a carbon copy swing of every major league player. My swing is not what you would teach a kid. I kind of have a Josh Hamilton swing in terms of I do everything they tell you not to do. (laughs) But it works for me. When you have something or if you have a natural gift that works for you that you can’t teach, it’s gonna be a lot harder to coach it so growing up I’ve always had people tell me this and that to try to get me to swing like everyone else. I could never do it for a long period of time.
I got with these coaches in Clarendon and they saw my swing and they gave me tips with it instead of trying to change everything. I have a smooth, short swing and they just helped me let it work for me. They taught me how to cut out the extra pieces and I’ve never had that kind of support other than my first hitting coach Victor Roach.
Brian Hemminger : You’ve brought up the people who doubted you along the way when you first got drafted, was that huge motivation for you?
Hosea Nelson: Yeah, growing up on the west side of Detroit in the inner city and playing baseball, everyone told me I should play football. They told me to go do this or go do that, you don’t need to play baseball. When I was at the gym and people asked me what sport I played, they’d almost look at my like I was crazy when I said baseball. My whole life has been a struggle. What you saw last year was a little bit of talent, but I was never a Bryce Harper. I was never the best player on my team. This year has been my best year up until this point in terms of consistency and it’s all been due to hard work and being a hard-nosed grinder and it finally paid off.
Brian Hemminger: What are your expectations now, with the draft over and the half season leagues about to start for the Indians organization?
Hosea Nelson: I’m excited, I’m ready to go and play. I actually signed last night (Saturday) with the Cleveland Indians for a minor league contract so I’m ready to go and play and just see how good I really am against the best kids in this draft class and whoever else I’ve got to play against.
Brian Hemminger: Is there anyone you’d like to thank, who helped you along the way?
Hosea Nelson: Special shoutout to my dad. He was the one who spent the most hours with me, just helping me work on my game. When I was 12 years old, he bought a pitching machine and set it up in our basement and on Friday nights the day before a game, we’d hit from 10 pm until 12 am and he’d just come off a full work week wanting to relax but he’s down there working with me. In December, January in the cold, he’s long tossing with me in the streets because we couldn’t get out to the park.
My dad is by far the biggest contributor to this and I’d also like to thank my mother, because my dad would drive all the close trips, but my mom would take me on the big trips 12 hours away and whatnot, so special shoutout to my parents.
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You can follow Hosea on Twitter here. Manager Jordan Reid helped Hosea with his contract. Advisor Kyle Dison had this to say: "I think he can be just like Detroit outfielder Tyler Collins, who was promoted quickly through their system. Same numbers, same build, same aggressiveness and great athleticism."