Where Are They Now?: David Nied
The Braves were in a bind following the 1992 season, one in which they lost the World Series to the Blue Jays in six games. Atlanta was so well stocked with talent and protecting just 40 players for the pending expansion draft was difficult.
The final protected spot reportedly came down to outfielder Deion Sanders, who was splitting time between playing for Atlanta’s major league baseball and football teams and had just completed his best full season in the big leagues, or righthander David Nied, a September callup and the Braves’ top pitching prospect.
“I kind of felt I was going to be protected,” Nied said. “There were a lot of rumors, and I don’t know what was right or what was wrong. I heard that (Braves owner) Ted Turner saw that Deion wasn’t on the protected list and he said, ‘We’ve got to protect him and somebody’s got to come off.’ ”
That somebody was Nied, whose subsequent five-year big league career left him pondering the age-old question: “What if?” What if Nied had been protected and joined an Atlanta rotation that included Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery? What if Nied did not have to pitch in Denver’s hitter-friendly altitude?
Nied, the No. 23 prospect in the game at the time, was the first selection in the expansion draft by the Rockies, who along with the Marlins began their existences in 1993.
Nied immediately became the face of the Rockies franchise. He threw the first pitch in franchise history, going five innings and allowing two runs, a performance that was no match for Dwight Gooden’s four-hit shutout for the Mets.
Then Nied learned firsthand the perils of pitching at Mile High Stadium, the Rockies’ initial home before moving into Coors Field in 1995. He was somewhat of a lab rat as pitchers and hitters quickly recognized that the ball traveled differently at that altitude—much differently—and pitchers found it more difficult to spin breaking balls.
Nied won nine of his 22 starts for Colorado and ultimately went 17-18, 5.06 in 52 career games.
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“The inability to throw certain pitches and miss the sweet part of the bat,” Nied said in summary of his big league career. “My slider wouldn’t break as hard or sharp. My fastball didn’t run in (on batters) as much . . . They could get on my slider and my fastball a little bit quicker.”
Only after he left baseball following the 1996 season has Nied begun to appreciate the marks he left on the Rockies franchise. He recorded the first strikeout in club history, first walk, first complete game and first complete game shutout.
These days, the 49-year-old Nied works for his father’s Cylinder Heads International business near Dallas. He is married with four children, the younger two of whom are participating this summer at the coach-pitch level of youth baseball with dad as their pitcher.
“There might not be as much (pressure in coach pitch), but you feel every parents’ eyes are on your every pitch to make sure it’s a good pitch,” Nied said. “And you know who’s going to get the blame if it’s not a good pitch.”