When he arrived in Brooklyn, New York in 2012, Brandon Nimmo was surrounded by a whirlwind of press.
Most of the attention on the Mets 2011 first round pick focused on how he'd come from a high school without a baseball program. How had he developed into such a highly regarded, valuable player without that experience? The selection was seen as a risk, though most high school picks are. But this was different. There were questions about how he'd handle the pressure physically and mentally.
For those watching and talking to him daily in the New York Penn League that year, the answer was clear. He had a strong sense of himself, that had surely fostered a solid work ethic. He wasn't easily distracted. And in the face of anything the season brought, he remained even-keeled. In 69 games for the Class-A (short-season)Brooklyn Cyclones, followed by 110 games in 2013 with the High-A Savannah Sand Gnats, he was steadfast in his approach.
"I believe everything happens for a reason. There's been small trials. But I keep things in perspective, because at the end of my career, I don't want to have any regrets," he said Sunday. "Baseball is my job and it doesn't get any better than that. You have to be able to see the big picture."
He mentioned an experience with the Cyclones that keeps him centered, even now. A seven year old boy, who'd been diagnosed with cancer, had been invited to spend some time with the team. The moments spent with the boy, impressed upon Nimmo that his grateful attitude toward life and baseball was the only one to have.
"He got to hit a little, and we played catch. So that helps you see that you have no reason to complain. God has blessed me so much."
Having received a big league, he arrived in St. Lucie, Florida earlier this week. It was a continuation of a highly focused off-season, in which he'd worked with the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, a facility that allows players to go beyond the weight room.
"I got to field and hit more. I saw a lot more fly balls. Everything is just a lot more baseball oriented. They also oversaw all our meals and I worked with a nutritionist. All meals are made for you there. There was also vision testing, so you're making sure you have optimum vision. It's the complete package. I'm definitely faster than ever. It was just a very productive experience."
Nimmo, 19, also put on about ten pounds, up from his playing weight of 195. He actually began to see an improvement in movement and timing while with Savannah.
"I got better in the outfield, especially with the first step. I got to more balls faster. Hitting-wise, I had to learn a lot playing a tough pitcher's park. I was learning to hit more line drives, and just hit balls harder. Beyond that, I was learning how to distinguish between pain and injury, and how to play a hundred plus games. At the end of that season, I was a better player than at the beginning. And that's the point."
The Sand Gnats finished 2013 South Atlantic League champions with a 77-61 record. Nimmo did his part, finishing 108 hits, 62 runs scored, 71 walks, and a .359 SLG. He admits there were challenges, and that he needed the support that surrounded him.
"My manager Willie Rojas was instrumental in a lot of my games. He is just an amazing man. Frank Viola, even though he was the pitching coach, he had so much wisdom to pass down. Joel Fuentes went through a lot of ups and downs with me. [Outfield Coordinator] Jack Boyd impacted me immensely. I got better as an outfielder, and can attribute a lot of that to working with him."
But he also reaches back to his time spent with the men on the Cyclones staff, guys known for their strong personalities.
"[Cyclones manager] Rich Donnelly had a great impact on me. Not just with the tools, but mentally. [Hitting coach] Bobby [Malek] helped me going through my first struggles."
What has kept Nimmo's focus so strong, he insists, is a mix of their guidance, as well as the guidance he's always turned to.
"I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. That helps in my morals, but also in keeping things even. It's about having fun, but also living in the now and having no regrets."
He says he has no concerns about where he's assigned out of camp. He continues to achieve the art of keeping it simple.
"All I do is try to put my best effort in everyday. If I do that I can live myself, whatever the results, success or failure. I ask myself at the end of the day, 'Did I give it my best effort?' 'Did I do the preparation?' My only goal is to be a major league baseball player, so anything that would hinder that, I want no part of."
MLB.com ranked him the #4 prospect in the Mets system heading into 2013. He was selected to the 2013 SAL All-Star team. You can follow Brandon Nimmo on Twitter @You_Found_Nimmo