05/28/13 Updated 8/17/2017 / Padres360.com / @Padres360
By Wayne McBrayer
Learning What I Otter Know
The city of Evansville is a historic place when it comes to baseball. Their roots can be traced all the way back to 1877 with the Evansville Reds. From 1895-1914, the Evansville Black Birds and later the River Rats played games at Louisiana Street Park. On July 17th, 1915, a holiday was declared in Evansville and Bosse Field was open for business. It was named after the mayor of the city, who had helped purchase 80 acres of land next to the stadium. Since it’s opening, it has been the home of 10 different teams including the Evansville Crimson Giants of the NFL and the AAA Triplets who developed the likes of Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell and manager Jim Leyland. After 1984, the Tigers moved to Nashville taking the sight and sound of pro-ball away from historic Evansville. In 1995, the Evansville Otters started playing ball in the Independent Frontier League and have average 2500 a game in attendance yearly since their inauguration. In their 17 years, 2 players from the Otters have made it to the majors and both were left-handed pitchers: George Sherrill (who was named to the 2008 AL All-Star team as a member of the Baltimore Orioles) and Andrew Werner who pitched with the San DiegoPadres in 2012.
If you are a player looking for a club, you cannot beat playing for Evansville. A historic park, a history of baseball and a town with Midwestern values. Evansville is the place to go to get back to the major leagues.
I Want an Otters Jersey…
Where can I find an Otters jersey?!? Since the end of the 2012 season, I had tried to locate one for sale but had no luck finding a jersey. On March 29th of this year, I wrote the GM of the Evansville Otters, Joel Padfield, and asked if there were any Otters jerseys available for purchase. Joel wrote back right away to let me know that, “we have camo jersey night on May 18th and pink jersey night on August 17th” and both of those nights jerseys would be up for auction.
I contacted some friends about attending the game, but couldn’t find anyone available to get to the stadium to bid on a jersey for me. I called Joel on the Tuesday before the Saturday game for help. He called back and asked for my size and if I had a number in mind. I told him I wanted to get Andrew Werner’s number when he was an Otter and Joel said, “I’ll find out what it was and we’ll take care of it.” One the same day Doris Chrisco contacted a friend of mine to say she would help. She was attending the game and she would keep an eye out to make sure a bid was put on a jersey.
On that Saturday, Doris talked to Joel and found out the jersey I needed was #17, so Doris bid on the jersey for me and I was the high bidder. She sent me a picture of herself with the player wearing the jersey on the field after the game was over. The name of the player wearing the jersey was Otters catcher John Nester, who was playing his first season with the Otters. Doris washed the jersey and mailed it to me and it arrived 4 days later on my doorstep. I opened it and fell in love with it. The color style was winter camo and I have never seen this color scheme on a baseball jersey. It looked great. I put it on and proudly wore it to Petco Park, took pictures wearing it and posted them on Facebook and Twitter, and tweeted John a picture which he re-tweeted. I had fans ask about the jersey, wanted to know who the Otters were and where they were located.
All that night, the name John Nester kept going through my mind. I was wearing his jersey but I didn’t know anything about him other than he was a catcher. What was the career path of John? Was he a former minor league player or an undrafted player playing his first season of organized ball? That night, I decided I needed to contact John. While I bought the jersey because Andrew Werner wore #17, the jersey was John Nester’s and I wanted to know about him. I thought to myself how do I go about doing this?
Lining Up The Interview
The next day, I sent an e-mail to Joel Padfield to thank him for all of his help with getting the jersey. I sent him a few pictures wearing the jersey and asked if there was a way to interview John so I could write this story. He responded by saying, “that is awesome.” A couple of days later, Mike Radomski the director of media relations and broadcasting e-mailed me and said he had talked to John and that he would be happy to interview with you. We setup a time on Sunday before the Otters were scheduled to play and I called Mike’s cell and John came on the line. Now, I would finally learn about the player whose jersey I now own. I asked permission to record the call and I started the interview.
John Nester Catcher Evansville Otters May 26th, 2013
I asked John about his earliest baseball memory and was surprised to learn that he remembered back to when he was only six years old. He told me about how he skipped T-ball and went straight to play on a coach’s pitch team. He had a lot of great memories of that time. His fondest memory was from when he was nine years old and his team won the state championship.
We talked about major league players and who John admired and looked up to as a player. He said of current major leaguers that he liked Josh Hamilton. He likes the way he handles himself, how he has come back from a real tough time and been able to make himself better from it. All-time he likes both Pudge Rodriguez and Yogi Berra. “They are guys who play my position and are real well known and are Hall of Famers.”
John spoke of some of his proudest moments as a ballplayer. From teams he played on in high school that won championships to his days at Clemson as well as the day he was drafted. “Those were cool things I was involved with.”
We discussed his days with the A’s and what led him to the Otters. John said, “I was with the A’s the last couple of years. I got the release from them, the same talk that everybody gets. We don’t have room for you and this and that. Once that happened, my agent I guess knew Andy McCauley and he put a call into him. There were offers from several other places, but Taylor Black is a guy I work out with in the off-season and we’re in the same area. He told me about some of the things going on around here and he had fun playing here last year. It was kind of a combination of my agent and my buddies that are here that made my decision a little easier.”
I have never been to Evansville, so I was curious what John thought of the town he just made his summer home. “I love it man” was John’s immediate reaction. “I was in a pretty small city the last couple years with the A’s in Single A in Burlington, Iowa. This is a big step up. There is a lot more stuff to do here.” What is it like to play there? John is proud of being an Otter and being able to play in “Historic Bosse Field. It’s a pretty good baseball atmosphere here.” He is happy to make Evansville his summer home, but when the season is over, John will head back to live in South Carolina.
At the conclusion of the interview, John talked about what he might have done if he didn’t play organized ball. John is currently working on finishing his degree, but doesn’t see himself behind a desk. He prefers a more hands on type of job. “I would like to be around baseball any way that I can” is John’s desire. “I would probably do a combination of coaching and training.”
I thanked John for his time and invited him to a game at Petco Park with my family and friends so I could meet him. The next part of this story cannot be written unless I take a trip to Evansville, IN and walk onto Bosse Field and meet John if he is still there. It is not just historic baseball stadium it is a field of second chances. It is a place to go for players to continue to live the dream of playing in the majors and to hear the crowds cheer them on.