Gordon Edes of ESPN has written a nice picture of the career arc and experiences that have taken Avon alumnus Juan Nieves from high school pitching phenom; to major league starter; to the second youngest pitcher ever to throw a no-hitter; to a career ended by injury at 22; to working up through the coaching ranks; and, now, to Red Sox staff as pitching coach.
Throughout the journey, Nieves has carried and drawn upon his Avon experiences. I heartily recommend the entire article.
“You’re 22 years old…the time is flying, and you’re having a great time. And then it’s over, in a flash,” Nieves told Edes.(ESPN)
Edes’ interview and observations provide a window into the lasting power of boarding school and prep school coaches- nicely covering what Nieves’ return to Boston and New England means to him personally.
Returning to New England is a homecoming of sorts as Nieves’ Avon experiences continue shaping his professional and personal life:
“It is 21 years later, and new Boston Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves is smiling, thinking about how great it will be to return to New England. It is a place this son of Puerto Rico considers his second home, having spent his teenage years attending Avon Old Farms, the all-boys prep school about 10 miles outside of Hartford, Conn. That’s why he loved pitching in Fenway Park, he said, even though that’s where he hung a curveball one night that Dwight Evans hit over the Monster, making him a 2-1 loser to Roger Clemens.
Going back to Boston, he said, always meant the chance to catch up with old friends, teammates and his former coach, Peter Evans, now retired. His Old Farms catcher? That would be Brian Conroy, now a top executive at a major financial investment firm. Not the typical company kept by a man whose father, Juan, raised cocks for cockfighting back home in San Juan, and whose mother, Iris, was a postal service worker for 30 years before dying of cancer.
Yes, that was worlds colliding. Old Farms had sent its baseball team to play on the island, and Vic Power, the former big league first baseman who was a pied piper of sorts for aspiring baseball players on the island, had told the Old Farms coaches that he had a skinny, left-handed, 15-year-old pitcher who was equal to the challenge of moving to foreign climes and into the rarefied air of New England prepdom, and by the way, will win a few games for you, too.
‘He put his reputation on the line for me,’ Nieves said.
‘He’d say, ‘You never let me down,’’ Nieves said, adopting the deep, stern voice with which Power spoke to him. “He talked like that. ‘You never let me down.’It was anything but easy, but Nieves thrived at Old Farms. ‘Seamless,’ Conroy said of the transition. ‘Even in high school, he had an ‘old soul’ about him. Very mature, and he understood his talent and the obligations that came with it.’”(ESPN)