MODESTO - Fred Nelson came to Modesto in May with the title of developmental supervisor and a job description that was relatively undefined and, at best, fluid.
He had no intent or even desire to become the manager of the Modesto Nuts, but there he was on July 7, taking over the reins of the team when the Colorado Rockies fired Lenn Sakata.
Upon taking the job, Nelson stressed he wasn’t going to reinvent the wheel, adding that the developmental procedures that were in place would continued to be carried out by himself along with pitching coach Dave Burba and hitting coach Jon Stone.
At the time of the managerial change, the Nuts were 42-45. They went on to split their next 32 games before finishing the season on the 17-4 run that catapulted the Nuts to the second half title in the North Division.
“I’ve had a blast, but Stoney and Burbs have made it easy,” Nelson said prior to Thursday’s playoff game. “They’ve done the heavy lifting on all of this and I’ve just tried to stay out of the way while helping the best I could. I didn’t have to re-educate myself on a lot of things because they took care of it.
“It’s been really, really fun being in the dugout and seeing the game from that angle. I remember when I first got off the field and started sitting behind the plate I didn’t like it. You get used to the view from the dugout and you build a sense down there of when balls are fair or foul and also get a sense of the strike zone.”
Here’s a different way to look at the late-season surge. The Nuts played their best baseball this season when Nelson was manager. It also means that the Modesto team was at its best when there was no one in place as developmental supervisor.
Still, Nelson was in the lead seat in the dugout during the stretch run.
“It has been a lot of fun to see these guys progress,” Nelson said. “They struggled early on and I got to see that, and they struggled at times while I’ve been here. But they’ve really played well overall and that’s been very rewarding.”
It begs the question - will Nelson return to Modesto in 2014 in the manager’s role?
“I would assume that if I’m coming back here it would be as supervisor of development,” Nelson said. “None of that has been discussed and probably wouldn’t be for multiple weeks.”