By Jeremy Balan
Dylan Nelson was such a force on Galileo Academy’s baseball team in his junior and senior years that when he was redshirted at the College of San Mateo in his first season out of high school, the lack of competition was killing him.
That year off the field drove Nelson, one of the most decorated athletes in Academic Athletic Association history, into a scholarship to play at Cal.
Nelson will join the Bears next year after a season where he had a 3.50 ERA in 46 1/3 innings pitched at CSM, almost entirely out of the bullpen.
“I had a little chip on my shoulder going into the season,” Nelson said. “I worked hard in that redshirt season, trying to prove everyone on the coaching staff wrong. I also wanted to prove to myself that I was better than I thought that first year.”
Nelson is the first player from a San Francisco public high school to receive a Division I baseball scholarship since Lowell’s Charlie Cutler, who also committed to Cal after his senior season in 2005 and is now with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor-league system.
“I try to represent San Francisco in everything I do — the school I came from and the people I played with,” Nelson said. “I’m lucky enough to play Division I baseball and I’m hoping that’s just another step in the journey.”
Nelson’s numbers may not seem impressive at first glance, but his ERA is skewed by one bad outing, when he allowed eight earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings against De Anza College. Other than that outing, he had 13 scoreless appearances out of the bullpen, made two starts (including a complete-game win against Diablo Valley), collected four saves as the closer and only allowed two extra-base hits all season (both doubles).
It is that versatility that attracted Cal, as well as a significant increase in Nelson’s velocity. At Galileo, he regularly threw in the mid-80s, but now throws in the low 90s with regularity.
“He’s improved physically quite a bit,” said CSM head coach Doug Williams. “His velocity has increased, his slider is really good and he has a good changeup. Most importantly, he became a different type of pitcher mentally. He can now handle the adversity of any situation.”
Nelson is now on a summer stint with the Rochester (Minn.) Honkers of the Northwoods League, an elite collegiate summer league. Prior to joining the Honkers, he also played four games for the Omaha (Neb.) Diamond Spirit of the MINK League, another collegiate league, and was name MINK Pitcher of the Week in early June.
A standout shortstop, catcher and pitcher at Galileo, where he won back-to-back AAA Player of the Year awards and a league title in 2010, Nelson settled on pitching last fall and the decision paid off.
“Anything he wanted to do on a baseball diamond he could have done, but he’s really fell in love with the art of pitching,” said Mike Mallamo, who was Nelson’s pitching coach for his first three years at Galileo. “He just picked it up so quickly. You could just tell that he was a natural to put on the rubber and he has the mental makeup as well.”
Because of the redshirt year he now has three years of eligibility at Cal, but would have been a top-of-the rotation starter at CSM if he would have stayed.
“It’s not easy to let a guy go who would be a top starter next year, but we’re certainly not going to stand in his way,” Williams said. “Now we have to try to reload.”
Still, Galileo head coach Don Papa doesn’t think he should give up on hitting and catching at Cal, which he felt were two of his biggest strengths in high school.
“I really wanted him to focus on catching and hitting, because catchers can go a little farther in college, but he’s taken care of that already,” Papa said. “I texted him recently, and told him not to give up on hitting and don’t let Cal forget that you’re versatile.”