Rangers sign lefty after 99-mph video 'blew up'

Nunn gets Minors deal with help from Flatground App

January 29th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Chris Nunn's mother, Diane, underwent her first chemotherapy session on Thursday in her fight against breast cancer. One day later, Nunn signed a Minor League contract with the Rangers and will get the chance to pitch in his hometown of Nashville.

Nunn, 28, will join the Rangers in Spring Training next month in what is turning out to be an amazing story of perseverance for a hard-throwing left-hander who is getting a second chance possibly because of a video that went viral on the Internet.

The happy ending to all this would be if one day Diane Nunn is watching her son pitch for the Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington.

"It's going to be tough, but she is a tough woman," Nunn said. "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."

So was Nunn's baseball career, especially after he sat out the entire 2016 season while pursuing a master's degree in business at Lipscomb University in Nashville. He was also doing some modeling on the side, appearing in photo shoots and music videos.

That's not how you get rediscovered by Major League scouts.

"I'm just thankful that I persevered and never gave up," Nunn said.

You get discovered by throwing a fastball 97-99 mph, even if you are just doing it on video in a winter throwing session back in Nashville. But @PitchingNinja and Flatground App kept Nunn from "falling through the cracks."

Rob Friedman, an Atlanta software executive behind the @PitchingNinja Twitter account, launched the Flatground App this year. Basically a pitcher, parent, coach, team, scout, writer or agent can send video to Flatground and the PitchingNinja will post it on Twitter.

Friedman wanted to provide a free platform for pitchers who otherwise might go overlooked and help circulate their workout videos to the right people. Nunn was one of those who took advantage of it and this recent throwing session caught people's attention.

For a guy who calls Music City his home, this truly has been "The Long and Winding Road."

Nunn was a 24th-round pick by the Padres out of Lipscomb University in 2012 and made measurable progress through for the first three years. The Padres even looked at him in a '14 Cactus League game in Spring Training. He pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out two.

"I felt like I was on the fast track," Nunn said.

But 2015 wasn't so kind, possibly because Nunn was developing a weak left hip that would plague his mechanics for several years. After a 7.03 ERA over 47 games with two different Minor League teams, the Padres let him go the following Spring Training. That's when Nunn went back to Nashville to complete his education and try his hand in modeling.

He also kept working out and throwing with the help of his college pitching coach, James Ogden. He did so even after suffering severe facial fractures around his right eye during a pickup basketball game that had doctors concerned he might lose his vision.

"Fortunately, I had a full recovery," Nunn said.

Nunn was able to get back into baseball, although the path was still rough. The Brewers, on the recommendation of his former Minor League manager, Pat Murphy, brought him to Spring Training in 2017, but Nunn asked for his release when they would offer no more than a Class A assignment. The Cubs picked him up out of an independent league and he did all right for Chicago in Double-A.

He pitched in Double-A for the Astros in 2018 but ended up getting released. Nunn was last seen with the St. Paul Saints in the independent American Association, going 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in 11 games.

That his dreams of pitching in the big leagues are still alive may be because of the PitchingNinja and the Flatground app.

The difference is the hip. Nunn has been working with a physical therapist this offseason, and his hip started loosening up and getting stronger. Nunn was finally able to get extension on his pitches and his velocity started spiking up into the high 90s.

When his video on Flatground showed him throwing 97 mph, well ...

"It just kind of blew up," Nunn said. "I think I saw like a million views."

The Rangers saw it and sent amateur scout Derrick Tucker to watch Nunn throw. Tucker was so impressed that he convinced the Rangers to sign Nunn with a chance to pitch for Triple-A Nashville.

"They said they weren't really looking to sign anybody, but he really stuck his neck out for me," Nunn said.

This may not be such a wild and crazy dream. Nunn began last season with Double-A Corpus Christi and pitched in eight games there. Over 20 innings, he allowed four earned runs on 19 hits and eight walks, while striking out 23. That earned a promotion to Triple-A Fresno that didn't go quite as well. He was let go after seven games and a 13.50 ERA.

But if the hip holds up and the velocity is there, there is always a chance. The Rangers need pitching and this is an organization that gave a chance to career Minor Leaguers and the past few years.

"That's like a dream come true to have a chance to pitch in my hometown of Nashville," Nunn said. "Even if I don't make it to the big leagues this year, just to pitch in Nashville with my family, friends, teammates, and be a vessel to the community, that would be awesome. I'm just thankful that I stayed with it."