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Coleman returns to grounds crew for opener

Wrongly incarcerated for 23 years, 49-year-old welcomed warmly
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- The Tigers' batting practice came to a close around 2 p.m. CT on Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field, and it was time for Nevest Coleman to go to work.

Actually, Coleman arrived at the ballpark at 6:30 a.m. in anticipation of the White Sox home opener, and he began doing anything and everything asked of him at 7 a.m. Coleman did it with a broad smile and a positive demeanor that carried him through 23 years in jail after being wrongly incarcerated for first-degree murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault. He brought those with him back to his job as part of the White Sox grounds crew.

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CHICAGO -- The Tigers' batting practice came to a close around 2 p.m. CT on Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field, and it was time for Nevest Coleman to go to work.

Actually, Coleman arrived at the ballpark at 6:30 a.m. in anticipation of the White Sox home opener, and he began doing anything and everything asked of him at 7 a.m. Coleman did it with a broad smile and a positive demeanor that carried him through 23 years in jail after being wrongly incarcerated for first-degree murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault. He brought those with him back to his job as part of the White Sox grounds crew.

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Coleman, who is now 49, held a similar position at Comiskey Park for one year prior to the conviction and was hired back shortly after DNA testing exonerated him and led to the prosecution dismissing the charges on Dec. 1, 2017. He stood between Jerry Powe and Harry Smith, the only two remaining from his first work with the grounds crew, as Coleman met the media on Thursday.

"I'm with family back at home again," Coleman said. "I feel comfortable around them and I feel comfortable here. I enjoy working here. Like I said, they are my family, brothers. That's what we are."

Tweet from @whitesox: Nevest Coleman is home... and back to work for the #CWSHomeOpener! pic.twitter.com/hlEezm3Tts

Upon his arrival on Thursday, Coleman washed windows, picked up trash and did all the things asked of him. His family was going to be at Thursday's game against the Tigers. His son, daughter and three grandchildren kept him looking forward even as he served more than two decades in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

"You sit back and you are locked up, so you just think about what's going on and trying to move forward in life and try to pick out what I'm going to do when I get out," Coleman said. "How am I going to support myself? The White Sox gave me that opportunity.

"For 23 years, I had a strong mind. It was difficult in there, but when I finally came home, all my anger and the misery was gone. I had my family. I saw my son and daughter and my three grandbabies and held them.

Video: White Sox, Coleman reunite after wrongful conviction

"You can't be miserable around them. When I left in '94, I was high spirited and always kept a smile on my face. I came home the same way. You can't change that with me."

In a strange twist, Smith took part in his last Opening Day, as he will be retiring following 27 years as part of the White Sox.

"I welcome him back," a smiling Smith said, "and tell him goodbye."

After a whirlwind of media attention, Coleman simply was happy to do his job once again.

"It's something that needs to be told," Coleman said of his story being followed by the media. "I appreciate you all telling my story and keeping it going. I appreciate it."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox