NERDS® Herd's Jon Nunnally Jr. Embraces Change in 2020 City of Champions Cup
Written By: Jimmy Lynn
Players will be faced with many unfamiliar circumstances this season while participating in the 2020 City of Champions Cup amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but Jon Nunnally Jr. of the NERDS® Herd embraces new challenges.
Nunnally Jr. was drafted as an outfielder out of Horizon High School in Scottsdale, AZ in the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft. He then played at Scottsdale Community College before transferring to Arizona Christian University, where he set the single season home run record (12) in 2017. After graduating from ACU with a 3.8 GPA in Business Administration, Nunnally Jr. played a season of Independent league baseball in 2018 with the Napa Silverados and Chicago Dogs. He took a year off from baseball in 2019, but is ready to make his return to the game this summer in Joliet. This time, however, Nunnally Jr. will be on the mound for the NERDS® Herd—something he has never done regularly in his baseball career.
“After I took a year off from baseball, I felt the easiest way to get back in would be as a pitcher,” Nunnally Jr. said. “The conversion actually went pretty smoothly. I worked really hard at it and saw a lot of promise, so I decided to just go for it.”
Evidence of Nunnally Jr.’s intense training as a pitcher this offseason can be found on his Twitter account. On July 2, he posted a video of himself throwing nearly 94 miles per hour from the mound—impressive for a guy who was viewed mainly as a slugger throughout his collegiate and early Independent league career.
“I got [my strong arm] from being an outfielder,” Nunnally said, sharing that he had not trained as a pitcher before this season. “It’s just something I’ve always kind of had, probably from making throws in right field.”
Even with his natural gifts, pitching regularly for the first time in the 2020 City of Champions Cup against some of the best hitters in Independent baseball will be challenging for Nunnally Jr. He acknowledges that he may experience some growing pains this season as he learns about himself as a pitcher, but welcomes the opportunity.
“My goal for this season is to get some experience pitching ... and to learn what my tools are,” Nunnally Jr. said. “I want to figure out what I’m good at and what I’m bad at, and get better at what I need to improve while giving my team a chance to win.”
Nunnally Jr. knows firsthand that reaching the next level will require a lot of hard work and dedication. His father, Jon Nunnally Sr., played for many different teams at various levels of professional baseball throughout his career, including parts of six seasons in the Major Leagues from 1995-2000. Nunnally Sr. became a coach in 2006 after retiring as a player, raising his son close to the game.
“From  on, I pretty much spent every summer with him,” Nunnally Jr. said about his father. “Wherever he was coaching, usually somewhere in the minor leagues, I’d hang out there with him for like two or three months in the summer before I had to be back at school.”
From watching his father play and coach in the minor leagues, Nunnally Jr. developed a respect for the grind of the minor league player that few casual baseball fans are familiar with.
“People kind of look at professional baseball as being a fantasy, or as something that’s really glamorous,” Nunnally Jr. said. “No one really knows all the hard work that goes into it behind the scenes and the sacrifices you have to make. That’s something I learned growing up—the road to professional baseball isn’t as easy as a lot of people may view it.”
Since Nunnally Jr. saw many minor leaguers struggle to make ends meet while pursuing their Major League dreams (including his own father on occasion), he has made it a personal goal to raise money and awareness for minor league baseball players and the adversity they often face. He founded a baseball apparel company, Diamond in the Rough Baseball LLC., which donates a portion of their profits to minor league baseball players to allow them to focus on their baseball goals.
“Minor league baseball players don’t make very much money unless they make it to the MLB,” Nunnally Jr. said. “My goal with Diamond in the Rough Baseball was to make it a bit easier for the lower-round draft picks and guys that aren’t well-known to be able to focus on baseball and perfect their craft, and hopefully have a better chance of making it to the big leagues.”
Since few baseball fans understand the full extent of the struggles that minor leaguers face, Nunnally Jr. suggests that fans follow Advocates for Minor Leaguers on Twitter to educate themselves about minor league contracts and what the typical minor league player’s life might look like.
“[Advocates for Minor Leaguers] lets fans see the different things that minor leaguers go through on a day-to-day and year-to-year basis,” Nunnally Jr. said. “A lot of guys have second and third jobs throughout the whole season, and they’re not really able to focus on perfecting their craft. It’s one of those things where, if you have time to educate yourself on it, it’s easy to see how tough it is out there for these guys.”
Nunnally Jr.’s team this summer, the NERDS® Herd, is off to an 0-2 start. They will try to get into the win column this Thursday, July 23 at 7:05pm against the Chicago Deep Dish. Come on out to DuPage Medical Group Field, and you could see Nunnally Jr. make an appearance on the mound!
About the Joliet Slammers: The Joliet Slammers play at DuPage Medical Group Field in downtown Joliet, Illinois. They will play their 10th season in 2020. Visit the Slammers online at www.jolietslammers.com or call the office at 815-722-2287 for more information. Don’t forget to “Like” the Slammers on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jolietslammers or follow them on Twitter at @jolietslammers and Instagram at @jolietslammersofficial
Joliet Slammers Contact:
Kaitlyn Altmann- Marketing and Promotions Manager