Nimmo's rise to MLB the Wyoming way
Related mediaMLB Draft: 24 years of No. 1 picks 2011 Mets season in review The Mets under Fred Wilpon Mets stat zone
Mets first-round draft pick Brandon Nimmo is a high school senior who has never played high school baseball. Sounds odd, but it isn't unusual -- not for Wyoming, anyway.
Wyoming is one of three states that does not have high school baseball (along with Montana and South Dakota), so Nimmo did what everyone else has always done there. He played for his local American Legion team, which in Nimmo's case was a team called Post 6, based in Cheyenne.
And a closer look at Nimmo's team proves it's really no different from any high school squad on Long Island. There are no players older than 19. And the coach, Tagg Lain, is an English teacher by day in the Cheyenne school district.
"I've heard it a lot now, that we don't have high school baseball," Lain said Tuesday, "but here in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where the kids grow up, their experience is not much different."
Ron Laird, commissioner of Wyoming High School Activities Association, said Tuesday that high school baseball has never been a sanctioned sport in Wyoming mostly because their school class sizes are historically too small and because of the cold spring weather.
There's also never been much of a push for high school baseball, according to Laird, because of the long-standing success of American Legion.
Legion teams begin practicing in early spring and usually play close to an 80-game season that ends in August. "Whereas if we had high school baseball, we would probably -- if we were lucky -- have a 20-game season," Laird said.
The only other major difference is the funding. Lain said players pay $400 to join and also pledge to raise another $500. The team also holds an annual fundraiser that Lain said generates about $40,000.
The funds are used for field maintenance and uniforms, but it also helps pay for their annual trip. This year, they traveled to Phoenix during their spring break in April so major-league scouts could get a look at Nimmo while the team practiced at the Rangers, Royals and Diamondbacks' spring-training facilities.
"We spent four days there, working out eight hours a day in front of, at times, as many as 85 to 110 scouts," Lain said.
Selected 13th overall, Nimmo easily ranks as the highest-drafted Wyoming high school senior. He said he was surprised to go that high, but his Legion coach wasn't. Lain said he moonlights as a scout with the Mariners, so he's plugged into the scouting community. And he insisted the Mets weren't the only team after his star outfielder in the first round. "I'm sure the people in New York were going, 'So what did we do again?' but I can assure you that had he not gone 13th, he was going to be gone very, very soon thereafter," Lain said. "I had other scouts and people texting me saying, 'My heart's broken.' I think there were a number of teams ready to go with him."