Let the reign be­gin

Blue Crabs’ Nel­son be­comes At­lantic League’s hit king

Maryland Independent - - Sport - By AJ MA­SON aj­ma­son@somd­news.com

While much of the baseball world has spent this sea­son fo­cused on Ichiro Suzuki’s pur­suit of 3,000 hits in Ma­jor League Baseball with the Mi­ami Mar­lins, Bryant Nel­son of the South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs has been toil­ing away in quest to reach a mile­stone of his own.

Nel­son com­pleted his jour­ney a bit be­fore Suzuki, as the Blue Crabs third base­man’s two-out sin­gle to deep cen­ter field, on the sec­ond pitch of the at-bat, in the bot­tom of the first in­ning, of Game 1 of Wed­nes­day’s dou­ble­header ver­sus the Lan­caster Barn­storm­ers at Wal­dorf’s Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium was good for his 1,053rd hit, es­tab­lish­ing Nel­son as the At­lantic League’s all-time hits leader.

Nel­son, made his At­lantic League de­but in 2006, sur­passed the for­mer record, which had been held by Som­er­set’s Jeff Net­tles.

Af­ter go­ing 0 for 4 at the plate in a 4-0 loss to the Barn­storm­ers in Tues­day’s se­ries opener, the switch-hit­ting Nel­son fin­ished the opener 2 for 3 with a dou­ble. He added a first-in­ning sin­gle in Game 2 to stand at 1,055 hits en­ter­ing Thurs­day’s se­ries fi­nale with the Barn­stomers. “It is re­ally cool to fi­nally break the record and to get all the sup­port from the team, man­agers, fans and other teams from around the league was great,” said Nel­son af­ter Wed­nes­day’s Game 1 vic­tory. Lan­caster won Game 2, 4-0, to gain a split in the dou­ble­header. “Every­one gen­uinely wanted me to do this and it feels good that they have my back and sup­port while play­ing the game of baseball.”

Nel­son hit the 1,000 ca­reer hit plateau on June 2 against Som­er­set and knew from there that even­tu­ally he would soon break the mark.

“My goal in life when I be­came a switch hit­ter was to beat [for­mer Ma­jor Lea­guer] Pete Rose, but the ma­jors didn’t work out for me,” he said. “When you play you have to play hard no mat­ter where you are. You can’t con­trol where you are. I’m just thank­ful to be in the po­si­tion that I’m in and I’ve en­joyed play­ing

in this league.”

Nel­son, who has bounced around the At­lantic League for 11 years with sev­eral teams, was drafted by the Hous­ton Astros in the 1993 MLB Ama­teur Draft out of Texarkana Col­lege (Texas) and made his ma­jor league de­but with the Bos­ton Red Sox on May 14, 2002, play­ing in 25 games that sea­son.

Nel­son, 42, a na­tive of Cros­sett, Ark., made his At­lantic League de­but with Bridge­port in 2006, and he has since played with the Long Is­land Ducks (2007-2008, 2012-2013), the Cam­den River­sharks (2009, 2014), the Lan­caster Barn­storm­ers (2010, 2015), and the York Rev­o­lu­tion (2011, 2014) be­fore com­ing to South­ern Mary­land later last sea­son.

“Nelly shows up at the ball­park ev­ery day to get bet­ter, to com­pete and find ways to get bet­ter and that is what he is, a win­ner,” Blue Crabs man­ager Jeremy Owens said. “I couldn’t be more hap­pier for him, he de­serves it. He had a rough day yes­ter­day, but bounced back and had two hits [in Game 1 on Wed­nes­day]. It is just a tes­ta­ment to the type of player that he is. He’s a smart hit­ter and doesn’t ever panic and he is just a great leader in the club­house.”

Among many of his Blue Crabs team­mates, first base­man Zach Wil­son en­joyed the mo­ment of Nel­son reach­ing the spe­cial mark in the league’s hit depart­ment.

“It was awe­some. We’ve been watch­ing him climb up the leader board the en­tire time,” Wil­son said. “I know it re­ally means a lot to him and it is fun watch­ing a team­mate reach a mile­stone like that.”

Nel­son is also among the all-time league lead­ers in at-bats (3,796, first), games played (970, sec­ond), dou­bles (199, third), RBIs (503, fifth) and runs scored (488, sev­enth).

“I be­lieve I speak for the en­tire Blue Crabs’ or­ga­ni­za­tion, the At­lantic League, for­mer team­mates, and for­mer coaches when I ex­press how proud I am of Bryant,” added Owens in a Blue Crabs news re­lease. “His hard work, de­ter­mi­na­tion, and lead­er­ship is some­thing that all play­ers should as­pire to reach.”

PHOTO BY BERT HIND­MAN

Blue Crabs third base­man Bryant Nel­son sur­passed Som­er­set’s Jeff Net­tles to be­come the At­lantic League’s all-time hits leader with a two-out sin­gle in the bot­tom of the first in­ning of Wed­nes­day’s 3-1 vic­tory over Lan­caster in Game 1 of a dou­ble­header at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf. Nel­son went 2 for 3 in the con­test and added an­other hit in Game 2 to reach 1,055 hits through en­ter­ing Thurs­day’s play.

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