Aug. 17, 2011.
It was a sunny, warm Wednesday afternoon on the field at the home of the York Revolution, then called Sovereign Bank Stadium and now titled Santander Stadium.
Batting practice for the Revs had wrapped up. Most players were strolling along the foul line headed back to the clubhouse to rest before the game later that night. One of them was Bryant Nelson, then 37 years old and set to make his home debut in a Revs uniform.
Nelson, a former big leaguer, had just come to York after playing overseas in Italy. The infielder spoke enthusiastically that day about his itch of wanting to win a championship.
"I've been in this league almost five years. I've been back and forth to Mexico and everywhere. Last year was my first full season, but I've never won a championship," Nelson had said at the time.
Exactly five weeks later, on a Wednesday night under the lights in York, with rain coming down, Nelson stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied in the opening game of the Atlantic League Freedom Division Championship Series against Lancaster.
The switch-hitter sent a 2-1 pitch from a Lancaster reliever over the wall in right-center field, giving York a walk-off 3-2 victory in the playoff opener.
The Revs went on to win the league championship two weeks later, marking the club's second consecutive league title and Nelson's first of his career.
Funny, then, that the guy who arrived in York three years ago seeking a championship has won a title each of the last three seasons, the first with the Revs in 2011 and the last two with Long Island in 2012 and 2013.
"We've just had good teams with good guys," Nelson said last week.
Returning to York: Now 40 years old, Nelson arrived back in the York clubhouse July 8, a couple days after Revs manager Mark Mason acquired him from Camden in a trade for infielder Brandon Chaves. Considered one of the nicest guys in the league, Nelson batted just .238 in 42 games for the Riversharks this season, uncharacteristic for a player who hit .283 for York in 2011 and .298 for Long Island last season. Nelson, though, blamed his struggles on playing for the league's bottom feeder — Camden has a league-worst record of 26-51 at the All-Star break.
"It's kind of hard when you're down by 10 runs, you have to take the first pitch all the time. You're not playing to win games," he said. "And there are a lot of younger guys, too. It's a little different situation."
Although he's the oldest player on the Revs roster and second-oldest in the league, Nelson said he still has plenty of baseball left in him.
"Until my mind says no," Nelson said. "Because once you stop having fun that's when it's time to stop."
Mason had been mulling this trade for a couple days as part of a move to retool his roster for the second half of the season. A day after winning the first-half Freedom Division title, he pulled the trigger. Chaves had only mustered a .127 average in 22 games for York anyway. And Mason figured a change of scenery for Nelson, from a losing team to a winning team, would solve his issues at the plate.
"Look, we all know he's a winner," Mason said of Nelson. "He's a veteran guy. He can switch hit from both sides. And the thing about him is he's competitive. So he gets here and he's not gonna want to be the weak link. That's just his nature. He's gonna be one of the guys that's a big producer."
Nelson is 4-for-18 in five games thus far in his return to York, an average of .222. If he turns things around, though, the move to acquire Nelson could pay big dividends for the Revs come playoff time in September, perhaps like it has in Nelson's previous three years in the Atlantic League.
— Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.