It’s an underdog story for the digital age.
Three years ago, former Padres draft pick Chris Nunn was out of baseball, pursuing a master’s degree in business and modeling on the side to make ends meet. Now, he has a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers with an invitation to spring training — and it may be all due to a video of him that went viral on the internet.
Last week, Nunn recorded a video with the Flatground App, a new platform designed by the engineer behind the @PitchingNinja Twitter account. The app allows players, agents, scouts, coaches or whoever has a scoop to send video of pitchers who would otherwise go unnoticed, which @PitchingNinja then posts on Twitter.
In Nunn’s video, the 28-year-old looks like he belongs on a major league mound. He carves up the strike zone while consistently hitting 97 mph on the radar. The video made the rounds on social media, and just a couple days later the Rangers offered him a contract.
The good news came amid a particularly troubling time for Nunn’s family. His mother, Diane, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Just a day before signing his deal, Diane underwent her first chemotherapy session.
“It’s going to be tough, but she is a tough woman,” Nunn told MLB.com. “She is going to make it through. It was detected in the early stages so hopefully there will be full recovery. It was questionable for a while.”
If the stars align, there’s a chance Diane will be able to watch her son finally fulfill his lifelong dream: pitching on a major league mound.
For a while, that looked exactly where Nunn was headed. After San Diego selected him in the 24th round in 2012, he made consistent progress in the minor leagues, culminating with a 2014 spring training appearance in the Cactus League that Padres brass observed firsthand. In that game, he struck out two over 1 1/3 scoreless innings, and told MLB.com he felt like he was “on the fast track” to the majors.
But after developing a hip problem, his production plummeted. In 2015, he sputtered to a 7.03 ERA and was released in early 2016. He spent that year out of baseball, returning to his alma mater, Lipscomb University, to pursue a master’s degree. He modeled in photo shoots and music videos. He also suffered a facial fracture during a pickup basketball game that doctors feared may cost him his vision.
Nunn made a full recovery from the injury and got back into baseball in 2017. He played in spring training for the Brewers, but asked to be released after learning he would be assigned to Class A. He made Double-A appearances for the Cubs and Astros, but ended up being released again in 2018.
The 2018 offseason was when Nunn finally addressed his hip issue. He worked with a physical therapist to loosen and strengthen the hip, which led to a surge in velocity. Then, Flatground gave him a chance to show off, and he took advantage of the platform by throwing one 97-mph dart after another.
“It just kind of blew up,” Nunn said. “I think I saw like a million views.”
The Rangers signed Nunn days later, giving him a chance to play Triple-A ball in his hometown of Nashville. And while he still has a ways to go to make it to the majors, it’s far from a pipe dream at this point. The Rangers aren’t exactly stacked with talent on the pitching end, and have been known to call up career minor-leaguers for extended major league runs.
If Nunn can keep his velocity in the high-90s, why not him?
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