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D-I opportunities await, but former Eagle Nelson remains in waiting game


Back home in Nixa and beginning masonry work this week for a summer job, Jaret Nelson is doing his best to keep his mind occupied.

He isn’t fretting too much about his not-too-distant future.

Colleges are just a little over a month from opening their doors for the 2024 fall semester. Yet, Nelson still isn’t sure where he will continue his promising baseball career, even after producing elite numbers the past two years at the juco level.

Nelson is among a slew of juco transfers awaiting the results of next week’s MLB First-Year Player Draft and ongoing ramifications of the transfer portal. Once other players are in place, he’ll have a much better understanding of what is next for him.

NCAA D-I opportunities have already been presented to him.

“It's crunch time. It's time to make a decision,” Nelson said. “I've narrowed down where I want to go. I have to see what fits me the best.

"You feel like you're the only one in the boat. But there are a lot of players who are not committed," he added. “The transfer portal is a blessing for some and a curse for others. For a lot of us, it's a curse because of the waiting game. You don't know how things are going to fall. Unfortunately, that's part of the recruitment.”

Nelson’s faith in God has helped him from falling into panic mode.

"To me, it means everything. You can go to bed at night and not be laying around for hours searching for answers,” Nelson said of his faith. “When He wants me to have the answers, they will come. It's a hard concept to grasp. But once you get over the fact that not everything is in your control, there's peace.

"I'm looking forward to getting it done and not worrying about it anymore,” he added. “But I’m not really anxious or worried about making my decision because I feel like no matter where I go, God put me there. I'm trusting Him.”

Nelson knows of some of his former Fort Scott teammates who didn’t make their college choice until a week before school started.

Nelson is fresh from a prolific career at Fort Scott. Over two seasons, he compiled 46 home runs and 123 RBIs. This year, he batted .376, with 67 hits, 14 doubles, 24 home runs and 68 RBIs. His 24 homers ranked fourth nationally.

He can only hope his college choice turns out as well as his juco choice.

“It was an awesome place. I loved my time there,” Nelson said of Fort Scott.

Nelson is hoping his next coach can become a confidant the likes Fort Scott coach John Hill was to him.

"After playing under coach Hill, it's apparent to me I want to play for someone I can trust and have open communication with,” Nelson said. “That's very important to me.”

Nelson was primarily a catcher at Nixa, but transitioned to playing first base almost exclusively for Fort Scott.

“As far as the guys who caught while I was there, I didn't compare as well as I would have liked to,” he said. “That was a humbling experience. You realize you're not in high school anymore.”

He wasn’t too surprised to be moved from catcher.

“I really didn't start catching until after my sophomore year in high school,” Nelson said. “I was too raw of a catcher to play college baseball. The guys there had caught a lot more than two years, if not relatively their whole lives. That was hard to compete with. There were a lot of reps missing.”

Looking ahead, he suspects he will be at first base or the outfield.

“Taking my career as far as I can, first base is going to be the best spot for me and not behind the dish,” he said. “I also get a lot of questions about the outfield, since I have some speed.”

Nelson is confident he made the right decision to return home and not play summer ball. Last summer, he was with the Joplin Outlaws in the MINK League.

“I was beat down from playing in the spring,” he said. “I was down to 205 pounds. My body didn't feel good. When we got back to Fort Scott and did our evaluations with the physical therapist, he told me, 'Your body is trashed.’”

As Nelson chases down his D-I dream, he’s looking forward to the challenges that await.

“It’s a game of adjustments, whether you're going from junior high to high school or high school to juco,” he said. “You have to make adjustments at every level. Any success you've had so far doesn't matter. You've got to re-earn your stripes and continue to get better. I'm going back to the drawing board.”