ALTOONA, Pa. — Baseball can be a heartbreaking yet heartwarming game for many and Altoona Curve hitting coach Jon Nunnally knows what it's like to be on both sides of the spectrum.
It was with the Cleveland Indians that Nunnally got his start both as a player and a coach and it would be the Indians who would hurt him the most early in his coaching career.
Nunnally was brought on to be the hitting coach of the Indians in December 2009, a position he would hold until being fired in June of 2011. For Nunnally it wasn't that he got fired that hurt, it was how he got fired.
"To go there and the way things went down, it just hurt. I just didn't see what happened," Nunnally recalled. "We were playing well, in first place, swinging the bats well and then all of a sudden it ended one day. I knew beforehand from players that this was going on."
His career could have stopped there, well before arriving in Altoona, but it was his love of the game and the art of coaching that helped him continue on developing young professional hitters in the minor leagues.
"My love of the game. I love to give back. I love to give to the guys," Nunnally said. "I enjoy being in the atmosphere of baseball. This is something that's taken care of me, it's something that's taken care of my family and it continues to do that."
Over the course of nearly 25 years in professional baseball Nunnally has experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows which has allowed him to give back to the game in a special way.
"Just the love, I just love baseball. I show up every single day to just give it back," Nunnally said. "Being able to take my knowledge that I do have, along with people that surround me that helped with all the things I went through in my life and my career as far as coaching and playing." Nunnally said.
Before entering coaching, Nunnally played five seasons in the MLB for Kansas City, Cincinnati, Boston and with the New York Mets. It was later while with the Pirates in the minor leagues that he discovered that a career in coaching might be feasible.
"I still remember when I was playing with the Pirates, Lloyd McClendon and Dave Littlefield, they called me into the office one day and said when I get done, they'd like me to come coach," Nunnally said. "One day, that same year, I was in Triple-A Indianapolis and Mark Shapiro walked across the field and said, ‘When you're done, you're going to coach for us.'"
While relationships with Assistant General Manger Kyle Stark and General Manager Neal Huntington helped Nunnally be welcomed back, it was a conversation with former Pirate first baseman Kevin Young that led him to the Pirates and Altoona.
"One day we met together in church and we just sat down and started talking, Nunnally said. "He just started running things by me because he knew I had already been a major league hitting coach and he was taking over the offensive side of baseball in the minor leagues for the Pirates. We just started talking and hashing things out and we just kept going.
“I just hung in there and kept staying on the game, staying on the grind of whenever they wanted me to do something I did. And in the end it all worked out."
Nunnally was a perfect fit for the Curve having been teammates with manager Michael Ryan when the two played winter ball in Venezuela.
"He was young, I was one of the older guys," Nunnally said. "He was a younger guy that everyone knew, the young stud that was on the team and playing the game. Me and Michael, playing down there, I remember watching him hit and he could hit the ball all over the field.
Now that he's not watching Ryan from a distance, Nunnally has noticed that not much has changed for the cerebral Ryan.
"Watching him right now, he does the same things as a manager he did as a player. He's instilling the discipline part of the game to get them to understand what they need to do."
The same can be said for Ryan, who has embraced having Nunnally beside him in the dugout this season for the Curve.
"I watched him from afar whenever I was just getting into coaching and he was coaching in Portland. I knew the intelligence he has for the game and the passion he has," Ryan said.
Through his love of the game and experiences in the game, Nunnally brings a wealth of knowledge to the Altoona coaching staff including being the guy the manager seeks for advice when necessary.
"It's a laid back attitude that is very calm and relaxing," Ryan said. "And it's a guy I look to in certain situations whenever I'm frustrated and he's a guy I go to for advice and to try to learn. He brings everything to the table and we're fortunate enough to have him on this staff."
CURVE'S TOP PROSPECTS
Jared Oliva, OF -- Oliva, 23, was 8 for 20 (.400) over the course of the past week with five RBIs and two runs scored. Oliva is hitting .285 for Altoona this season.
Oneil Cruz, SS -- Cruz, 20, was 3 for 22 (.136) with two doubles and a triple. On Monday, Cruz went 2 for 4 with two RBIs to bring his average up to .192 with Altoona.
CURVE'S TOP PITCHERS
Top starting performance: Beau Sulser went five innings Thursday night against Trenton, earning his eighth win of the season. Sulser, a reliever, allowed two earned runs on two hits and struck out four. Sulser is 8-1 with a 2.50 ERA for Altoona this season.
Top reliever: Yeudy Garcia threw four shutout innings Tuesday against Trenton, allowing four hits and striking out two. He's 1-1 with a 4.97 ERA on the season.
NOTABLE ROSTER MOVES/INJURIES
7/30: INF Oneil Cruz promoted to Altoona. INF Darnell Sweeney assigned to Altoona. INF Jerrick Suiter activated from 7-day injured list. INF Alfredo Reyes changed position to RHP; assigned to Class-A Greensboro. INF Gift Ngoepe released. OF Bralin Jackson placed on 7-day injured list.
8/1: RHP Cody Ponce assigned to Altoona. RHP Austin Coley placed on 7-day injured list.
8/5: RHP Clay Holmes begins MLB Rehab Assignment.
The road trip wasn't very kind to Altoona as they went 2-6 over the course of their trip. The Curve managed to win Tuesday and Thursday with 6-0 and 4-2 victories respectively.
Altoona kicked off their seven game home stand with a 6-5 victory over Richmond. They will host Reading over the weekend.
ALTOONA FUN THING
The Allegheny Yinzers promotion has been spectacular for Altoona this season, but sadly the black-and-gold jerseys are saying good bye later this week.
Yinz need to get on dahn to PNG Field for the final Allegheny Yinzers game of the season Aug. 8!
🆓 Yinzers Rally Towel Giveaway
⚾ Yinzers Jersey Auction
🍻 $2 Miller Lite
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) August 2, 2019
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