Nick Neidert Embraces New Opportunity
Growing up outside Atlanta, righthander Nick Neidert spent countless nights in his family’s basement, where he and his father Bill watched Braves games, golf tournaments and NASCAR races.
But on a memorable June night in 2015, the Neidert family and some close friends gathered to watch the draft on TV, and they were shocked when baseball royalty Ken Griffey Jr. stepped to the podium to announce the Mariners’ second-round pick.
Griffey called out Neidert’s name, but pronounced it, erroneously, as "Nee-dert” rather the correct "Nigh-dert.”
That faux pas drew a complaint from Neidert’s mother, Joyce, but it was fine by Nick.
"I said, ‘Mom, I don’t care—I just got drafted!' " Neidert said. "Secondly, I said, ‘That was Ken Griffey Jr. who just said my name!' "
Neidert, who attended high school in Suwanee, Ga., and had committed to South Carolina, opted to turn pro, and that draft day still stands as one of the most joyous days of his life.
But his career received another jolt last Dec. 7, when Seattle traded the 21-year-old and two other prospects to the Marlins for Dee Gordon. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Neidert said getting traded was a "shock” at first.
"But then I got excited because I knew they were rebuilding,” he said. "I knew this was a great opportunity.”
As a pitchability prospect in high school, Neidert's pro outlook improved in October 2014—just prior to his senior year—when he hit 97 mph. That flash of velocity contributed to him being drafted 60th overall the following year, because his higher peak velocity indicated he might be able to throw faster than 90-93 when his body matured.
While Neidert hasn't realized a velocity spike yet, he was named the California League pitcher of the year in 2017, when he went 10-3, 2.76 in 19 starts for high Class A Modesto.
He finished the season with six starts at Double-A Arkansas before his season was ended by a comebacker that struck him on his right forearm.
"It was terrifying because I didn’t have time to move, and my whole arm went numb,” he said. "Two inches higher, and it would have cracked my elbow.”
Neidert threw a bullpen session before the 2017 season ended, which gave him peace of mind entering 2018. He began this season at Double-A Jacksonville where he recorded a 3.71 ERA through five starts to go with a walk rate of 2.0 per nine innings.
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