05/26/11 2:21 AM ET
Nimmo's journey from obscurity stuff of dreams
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
A young man, trying to live out his dream of being a baseball player, without a high school team and on the frozen tundra of Cheyenne, Wyo., where it snows 14 months out of the year. Yet the young man perseveres, excels and goes on to a storied career in the game he loves.
Brandon Nimmo is just writing the first chapter of that true story, one that the folks in Hollywood would just love to call "Finding Nimmo."
"I guess I can see where you're coming from, but I haven't known any different," Nimmo said. "Wyoming is not known for baseball. If anyone comes out of Wyoming, it's a shot in the dark."
Nimmo doesn't want to ruin the storybook nature of his tale, but he does want to throw a splash of reality on it. Yes, it's true, his high school does not have a baseball team and despite that, Nimmo has risen as one of the more intriguing young bats in the Draft class, one that could get taken in the first round.
But he wants to set the record straight. It's not like some scout saw him swinging an ice-fishing pole and sent him on his path to stardom (though that would be a nice touch in the screenplay).
"It's not like I haven't played baseball just because I don't have high school baseball. I still play 80 games a summer. I just don't get to play year-round like the other guys do.
"It just seems normal to me, in the winter, to go indoors and work harder because you know the other guys are getting the reps, getting the at-bats. I have to be better, stronger, faster because I don't get to play year-round. In my family, you work as hard as you can in anything you do. That's all I've done."
Nimmo had a very good role model. His older brother Bryce, eight years his senior, helped pave the way by getting from Wyoming to Division I baseball at the University of Nebraska. And while Nimmo played other sports -- he had to find a way to pass the non-baseball months somehow -- there was never any question where his passion was.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to play Major League Baseball," Nimmo said. "I don't know why, but I just loved it. I watched my brother play ever since I was a little kid. He was levels away from me, and I wanted to one-up him. He was always setting the standard for me and breaking the standard for what Wyoming kids could do. I thought if he can do it, then I can, too. And I would one-up it.
"I was good at baseball, and that helps. When you're good at stuff, you like it."
Scouts have liked it, too, when they've been able to see him. A year ago, Nimmo was a relative unknown, one of the better players on an American Legion team few knew about. But his American Legion coach, Tagg Lain, happened to be a part of the USA Baseball extended family and was able to get an invite for Nimmo to the Tournament of Stars. While Nimmo didn't make the U.S. National Team, he did open the eyes of the folks at the Baseball Factory, who run the annual Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley Field.
"A lot of the credit goes to his American Legion coach and Jim Peck, one of the main guys who oversees selection of those teams to the Tournament of Stars," said Steve Bernhardt, Baseball Factory's executive vice president of baseball operations. "I'd heard his name, but hadn't seen him play. I got to see him in person for the first time at Tournament of Stars. When I saw him, I thought right away he belonged in the game.
"I was excited to give him an opportunity. I like the story as well. We want the best players, and he was one of the best players, but there was also a little innocence there, because he hadn't been on a big stage like that much before. But he wasn't fazed by top-flight pitching, a Major League stadium or the hype or anything."
To the contrary, Nimmo thrived on it, earning co-MVP honors in the showcase. From there, things took off, with scouts waiting eagerly to get a chance to see him in action, waiting for the ice to thaw. When the left-handed-hitting outfielder and his American Legion teammates went to Arizona for their version of Spring Training in April, they were met by a swarm of scouts. According to Nimmo, one of the parents counted as many as 90 one day.
That's continued, to an extent, as the weather has warmed in Wyoming and Nimmo's American Legion Post 6 team has been playing. He's done nothing but receive rave reviews and has been moving up Draft boards. As much as he's dreamed of the possibility, the fact being drafted will likely become a reality is sometimes hard to grasp.
"It's very surreal to us," Nimmo said. "I look back to the spring, when no one had even really heard about me. Now to the point where we are, talking about getting drafted, starting the dream to be a Major League player, not many people get to go through what I've gone through. I feel blessed. It's been a blast. I can't believe that all this has happened."
Nimmo has his eyes wide open during the process and knows that the Major League dream may not happen immediately. He's got a commitment to the University of Arkansas, and there would likely be worse things than spending a few years playing ball there. Even if he signs, though, he understands it might not be until close to the August signing deadline. With the limited amount of looks teams have gotten, the one that takes him might want to watch him play out his American Legion schedule before deciding how to proceed.
"That's kind of what we've been expecting," Nimmo said. "It would be a draft-and-follow kind of deal. My legion team plays until we're eliminated in August from the tournament. We'll see what the team wants to. I'll just keep playing baseball."
And Hollywood will keep tweaking the script, though it looks as if it might continue to write itself. Only one big question remains: Who plays Nimmo in the movie?
"I'm not good with the names of actors," Nimmo laughed. "We'll let Disney decide if they want to make the movie."