Telvin Nash with the Toyama GRN Thunderbirds

Telvin Nash Soars in Japan

There’s a wide world of pro baseball at our fingertips. No matter how immersed you may be in the comings and goings of the pro baseball landscape some items will escape you. For me, Telvin Nash ended up being one of those news items that somehow escaped my glance. It’s especially galling since the last time I had written about Nash it was about him signing with one of my, then, favorite teams, the St. Paul Saints. Only, Nash never played for St. Paul. Amid all the Coronavirus news I missed that Nash walked away from the St. Paul deal to go play in Japan.

Nash didn’t sign with a Nippon Professional Baseball club. Rather, he signed with the Toyama GRN Thunderbirds of the Baseball Challenge League. The BCL is a six-team independent league that plays a 72-game season during the summer months. It’s not fairly common for them to bring over a big name foreigner, especially not one coming off of being named the Atlantic League Player of the Year. The independent nature of the BCL means that they aren’t covered like the NPB and that made it easier for Nash’s 2020 results to fall through the cracks.

In a Coronavirus shortened season, Nash appeared in 49 games (including the playoffs) for the Thunderbirds. He was easily the best player in the league. From the very onset, he showed a range of attack at the plate that no other hitter in the league could duplicate. He produced from his very first at-bat and didn’t let up as the season progressed. The only thing that really worked against Nash was that he spent the majority of the season at designated hitter with a few scattered appearances at first base. Awards are always going to favor position players over a designated hitter.

When the dust had settled Nash totaled 179 plate appearances and a slash line of .379/.497/.738 with 15 home runs. He also walked 31 times to only 28 strikeouts. In every conceivable way, Nash dominated the BCL and it was only natural that he took home the BCL Best Nine DH spot. The Thunderbirds did not win the BCL title in 2020, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying from Nash. If he is back in 2021 I would expect more of the same from the slugger.

All of the above comes with the caveat that Nash is very clearly a big-time talent playing in a league that is around A/Rookie-level. He should dominate such a league and he did. Still, the reality is that he could have come over and struggled. Instead, from all accounts, it appears that not only did Nash succeed on the field but he embraced Japanese culture and his Japanese teammates. He was a valued member of the squad beyond just his stat line. In a professional league, Nash did what a hitter of his caliber should do (on and off the field) and he deserves praise for his efforts.

Telvin Nash’s 2020 fell through the baseball cracks but I’m glad I went back and looked at what he accomplished. Sure, I would have loved to have seen him in a Saints uniform. That being said, Nash is a professional ballplayer and he got to experience Japan while making more money than he would have with the Saints. It’s a win-win for the Georgia native as he continues his journey through the professional baseball world. If he’s not back with the Thunderbirds in 2021 then he’ll no doubt be raking somewhere else, it’s simply what a hitter like Nash does.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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