After eye surgery, Aces’ Ryne Nelson sees the game from a different perspective

After his high school career ended, Henderson native Ryne Nelson patiently waited for the call every baseball player dreams of — one from a major league team telling him he’s been drafted. This call never came.

Preparing for Basic High and leading Wolves to a high-class state title in 2016, Nelson was passed by every team in that year’s draft. Instead of starting his professional career, he enrolled at Oregon. As a two-way player for the Ducks, primarily a relief pitcher and playing shortstop, he was determined to get a starting role in his freshman year.

“I ended up starting my junior year on Saturday and then we had a few guys injured and we had to try to find ways to win ball games,” Nelson said. “One of those ways was to move me to the bullpen.”

Making four starts in 23 appearances as a junior, Nelson led the Pac-12 with 104 strikeouts in 65 innings during the 2019 season. After that year, he was draft eligible again. He didn’t have to wait long to leave the roster, with the Arizona Diamondbacks making him the 56th pick in the draft and giving him a $1.1 million bonus before turning him into a starting pitcher.

“Some of the games where I came out of the bullpen, I was coming in the third inning and ending the game,” Nelson said. “I think maybe they saw that I was able to go longer distances and throw a high volume of pitches, and I’m also adaptable. I would throw one inning sometimes and then throw six the next and sometimes twice in a weekend. . So I think that helped my case a bit.”

After an impressive pro debut on Single-A ball with the Hilsboro Hops, Nelson worked his way up to Double-A ball the following season in 2021, posting 163 strikeouts in 116.3 innings and being named pitcher. of the Diamondbacks minor league year. Nelson’s journey has not been without difficulties.

Throughout college, he noticed that his vision gradually deteriorated each year. He was diagnosed with keratoconus, a condition in which the light tissue at the front of the eye bulges outward, causing blurred vision and making it difficult to wear hard contacts comfortably. Getting surgery would be the best option to avoid wearing glasses while casting.

“I went for glasses and contacts my freshman year (in college), but they never really seemed to help me,” Nelson said. “I always had trouble seeing the signs and I was constantly crossing my catchers and throwing the wrong throws. I hated wearing goggles. They were always falling, fogging up, especially in Oregon. It’s raining and humid, and they were starting to fog up and i couldn’t see the signs with or without them so it was never fun.

When COVID-19 canceled the 2020 minor league season, Nelson underwent surgery on both eyes to fix the issue.

“I had surgery on my left eye, recovered for a week, then surgery on my right eye, recovered for a week,” Nelson said. “I was just lying in bed for a while, not doing too much because I had bandages on my eyes and I was fitted for contacts and I think I was back to throwing three weeks later. that probably. After the surgery they kind of went in and scrape it off a bit and put some eye drops on and then I think it looks like a normal lens now for the most part. It’s not perfect. Without Contacts still isn’t great, but it’s better. But with contacts it’s like night and day. So now I don’t have to wear those boring glasses on the mound.”

While in rehab in Arizona, it didn’t take long for Nelson to get his groove back, making his Triple-A debut that year as one of Arizona’s top pitching prospects. Nelson relies on his mid-90s fastball, as well as his slider and curveball, but says being consistent and executing have been some of the challenges so far as he competes to a new level this year.

“I came out of college not really controlling my throwing and I haven’t really had a change,” said Nelson, who has a 6.61 ERA in seven starts for the Aces this season. “So I’ve developed the change through the different levels I’ve been at, and I’ve also constantly tried to improve command and control and just learned to get guys out. The higher you go, the better the hitters are, so some things you did in the previous level may not work in this level, so you have to constantly adapt and try to improve.

You can watch the feature on Ryne Nelson below.

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