Exclusive Interview: INF Nelson Molina – Twins
There has always been a saying, that to see the game of baseball through the eyes of a child is when you can truly appreciate the game. This is a kids game, a sport that is played in the sandlots across this country and all over this world. The love starts from a young age and it grows as the kid begins to realize that his dreams can one day become a reality.
One of those dreams came true in 2013, when the Minnesota Twins drafted Nelson Molina Gonzalez out of Antonio Lucchetti Vocational, Arecibo, PR in the 11th Round of the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft.
“It was one of the best days of my life. It was a bit confusing at first because I was told that I would be drafted no later than the seventh round. But after the 10th round, I thought I failed, but my dad kept telling me never to quit and that our God is always with us and he does things with a purpose.” Molina Continued, “Then in the 11th round, after getting anxious and not knowing what would happen, I heard the person on the radio say, ‘Shortstop from Puerto Rico, Nelson Molina’. It was the best feeling in my life. My dad ran and jumped on me and cried, I was also very emotional. It was one of the best moments in my life and for my family.”
Molina also shared with me how the day impacted his late grandfather, “It was also a dream of my grandpa to see me make my dreams come true and become a professional baseball player. That is all he wanted to witness, and it all happened three months before he died.”
Molina is the son of a police officer and also a baseball player who suited up for over 21 years for teams all over Puerto Rico. The Fort Myers Miracle ball player’s love for the game grew watching his his dad compete. “My dad was the baseball player I loved to watch everyday play the game. He always gave his best on the field and it made me proud.” Continued Molina, “I learned a lot from my dad and he is one of the reasons why I love this game.”
I reached out to Molina’s dad, who is also named Nelson Molina and spoke to him in his native language of Spanish, and he shared with me the first time his son started to love the game, “When Nelson was very young, he would always see me at the park playing baseball and his interest for the game started. When Christmas or birthday’s would come around, he always asked for baseball equipment, because all he wanted to do was play the game.”
The elder Nelson Molina continued, “I have been blessed to watch my son grow from a young boy playing on little league teams, to reaching the goal of becoming a professional baseball player. He is a tremendous young man who was never in trouble, and always put God and his studies first. I am grateful that God blessed me with such a wonderful son, he is like my best friend, my brother, he is such a blessing to me.”
After the draft, Molina, a native of Arecibo, PR, played three seasons in Rookie ball before moving on to the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2016, where he became an Organizational All-Star at third base. That season he batted .300, with 100 hits, 37 runs, 15 doubles, three triples, two home runs, 43 RBIs and 38 walks in 94 games.
This season he is with the clubs Class-A Advanced affiliate the Fort Myers Miracle, as he works hard towards reaching his goal of making the big leagues.
After coming off a season where he was an all star, Molina started the 2017 season struggling a bit at the plate, and he shared that a major loss in his family initially kept his focus off the field, “Two days before the season started, my great grandmother from my mothers side and my dads mom, my grandmother, both died and it was a major loss for my family. During the first few games, I tried to clear my mind and leave my thoughts in the clubhouse and not bring onto the field, but it was very hard to do. It was very difficult in the beginning, but I have been able to put it to the side since and get my focus back on doing my job.”
The Florida State League has always been known as a very competitive league and coming off a season where he hit .300, Molina understood that he would have to up his game this season, “I know in my mind that when I cross the lines, I am ready to compete. Once I had my first at bat with the Miracle, I knew that I had to be ready. Here in the Florida State League, the pitchers are really good and are able to command the strike zone, so having focus will be what will allow me to experience success. Its an adjustment, but one that I am very confident in my game that I can compete. The beginning of the season was tough on me, but I knew that I had to work hard and adjust to a new league.”
After the slow start, Molina did just as he wanted and believed and started to put his focus back on baseball. From April 13-April 29, the Puerto Rican native batted .323 (11 for 34), with five runs scored, a double, triple, four RBIs and two walks.
“I know what I am capable of doing and just remaining focused on my job and working hard will allow me to experience success in this game.”
During his brief time in the Twins system, Molina has played all the infield positions, and I asked him which he felt was his favorite, “Since I was a kid I played shortstop, but I have gotten a lot of confidence playing other positions like third base and second base. This season I am playing more second base, and I am confident that I will do fine. I believe you always need to improve and get better no matter where you are placed on the field. I feel if I continue to work hard I can be successful at any position I play.”
It doesn’t hurt that Molina is playing and learning about the game under the watchful eye of former major leaguer Doug Mientkiewicz, “Playing for Coach Mientkiewicz has been a pleasure. When I was a kid, I watched him with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox and he was very good. He is a great person that teaches us all a lot about the game and about how to be men in the game. He is a great manager that brings out the best in you on the field and so far its been an amazing experience playing for him, I really respect him.”
Molina continued, “I have to also say that the rest of the coaching staff have also helped to elevate my game. I have been really listening to their instructions a lot and I really appreciate their effort in helping me to be a better ball player. I am really grateful for them as well.”
On Saturday April 29th, Molina participated in the annual Dave Clark Foundation Disability Dream and Do baseball camp, that is hosted by the Miracle and Dave Clark each season. The camp brings together local disabled kids as they share the field for a day along with their heroes on the diamond, as the ball players interact with them in various baseball drills.
When I asked Molina what he thought about his experience in the camp, he first smiled and then pointed to his arms, “I don’t even have words to describe what I felt on Saturday, look my hairs, they are standing up on my arms just talking about it with you. On Saturday, I realized just how blessed we are and how we sometimes take things for granted. Each kid I encountered, made me feel blessed to play with them on the field. They are true fighters, the real heroes. They fight each day with their illnesses and still have smiles on their faces. It is something that was an unbelievable feeling for me and I know that in my career I will continue to be a part of such a great event. It was one of the best experiences in my life and I learned a lot from all the kids.”
Talking with Molina and just spending some time with him you can see how truly humble this young man is, as he comes from a great upbringing and is so grateful for all the opportunities before him.
“I am really grateful for the Twins organization for drafting me and giving me the opportunity to live out my dreams of becoming a major league baseball player. They opened the doors for me and believed in me. They are a great organization, and I feel really comfortable here especially that they also draft other Puerto Rican ball players which helps us to adapt faster to our new environment.”
Molina paused for a moment and smiled, “They really look after you and care for you. They supported me in my bad moments when my grandmother’s died, allowing me to go to Puerto Rico and be at the funerals and I will always be grateful for that and and I truly respect them for understanding the needs of their ball players. I will always work hard in this game and so grateful for all the opportunities given to me.”
When talking to the Molina family, I could hear the pride in their voices and the love they truly have for each other and how grateful they are for everything. There was one other thing that the elder Molina wanted to make sure that I shared with our readers, the amazing relationship that his two sons share. Ironically, both boys have the same name, same birthdays (April 30th), but are 13 years apart, as the older Nelson is 22 and his younger brother is nine. “I am grateful for the relationship that my two sons have. The younger Nelson looks up to his brother and wants to be just like him. He says that he will one day also play professional baseball and make his brother proud.” The elder Molina continued, “I know that my oldest son loves his brother and they are very close and as parents it makes us proud to know that they will always be there for each other.”
Baseball is an amazing game, especially how it brings families and generations together. Nelson Molina II, truly understands what it will take to make it to the major leagues and he is very determined to make his dreams come true, not only for himself and his parents, but for his little brother, who will one day have his opportunity to shine on a baseball field just like his older brother, his hero.
I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to share such an amazing story about the love of baseball and family.
Nelson, I wish you all the luck in your pursuit of reaching all your goals and dreams. You have gained another fan in me and Legends on Deck. May God continue to bless your journey.