The man who was my Little League Baseball coach died on Monday. He was my first, last, and only baseball coach. I think I played around eight years for him. Since I am now almost 65 I would guess he had to be in his late 80s.

When I first started playing Little League Baseball my dad was still a weekend alcoholic and not really engaged with my brother and me. As a matter of fact, I don’t think he ever went to watch me play in one of the games. Mr. Nell was not a father figure to me, but he was a man who did a lot for me.

During my years of Little League Baseball we practiced on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and played our games on Saturday mornings. Mr. Nell picked me up at my house for every practice and game and dropped me off at home afterwards. After most games he took us out for ice cream.

His wife was also very involved and his son was on the team. But neither parent treated Timmy any different from the rest of us. Mr. Nell taught us how to catch, throw, hit, bunt, and run the bases; but he taught us much more. His attitude, style, outlook, and gentle discipline set the example for us. I don’t remember a time when he ever went over the top in dealing with any of us or in disputing an umpire’s call.

As much as he meant to me as a baseball coach, that was not the most important thing he did for me. Around the age of 10 one day he dropped me off at my house and said “We’ll see you in church on Sunday Bobby.” I replied, “Mr. Nell, I don’t go to church.” And my best friend chimed in, “Why don’t you come to my church?” My best friend’s church was close enough for me to walk on Sunday mornings.

I went to church the next Sunday morning and have been going ever since. My older brother started going with me and we both became Christians. My mom started going and eventually rededicated her life. And after a few years my dad began going and eventually became a Christian. After high school I went to Bible College and became a pastor. When I was ordained as a Christian minister the elder at my home church who said the prayer was my dad.

Several years later my home church invited me back to preach on Father’s Day. Somehow Mr. Nell found out about it and came that Sunday instead of going to his church. What a privilege it was for me that morning to affirm, honor, and thank both Mr. Nell and my own dad. I spoke by phone with Mrs. Nell Sunday evening from the hospital and she indicated that Sunday meant a great deal to him.

I haven’t seen Mr. Nell in many years but my emotions are stirred by that Sunday evening phone conversation and learning of his passing on Monday. I thank God for Mr. Nell and how God used him to make a huge difference in my life and family. And I hope and pray that God has used me and will use me to make a difference in the lives of others like me.

Feel free to comment below and share if you think others would enjoy this post.

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32 thoughts on “MY BASEBALL COACH

  1. Thanks for reminding us of the people whom God used to influence and guide us along the way. I’m going to send a few notes of gratitude. I was particularly moved by how special it must have been for your dad to pray at your ordination as an elder.


  2. How much a blessing it was to have such a wonderful “coach” influence you in such a way. Truly God used him to help direct you on your path as well, blessings peace and comfort sent to all that lives were changed by this man.


  3. Thank God for that “special” invitation and for Coach Nell. I’m glad you had him in your life Bob. It’s such a blessing to have special people in our lives like this. Big hugs Bob! Thanks for sharing.


  4. Nice tribute Bob. We all have needed and by God’s grace been given mentors who pour into our lives at different points. I’m happy to say you were one for me. God Bless you.


  5. What a wonderful tribute to coach Nell… I’m sure the heavens are smiling. You continue to make a difference in my life… God Bless….


  6. What a beautiful and honoring tribute to your childhood baseball coach. This is a good reminder to all of us as to how God desires and can use us to touch the lives of those around us especially the young people he has placed in our lives. With regard to your closing comments I can say with great confidence that God has used you greatly to influence many lives for the good because he has used you to help me grow in my walk with the Lord many times over the past 28 years. I know there are many who share my gratitude for your teaching and positive influence.


  7. Mr. Nell or as I called him “Pal” is my grandfather. Your tribute to him was read at his service and very moving to me and many others. I will forever keep this in memory of him and read it to my children when they are old enough. Thank you for sharing this story.


  8. Bobby,
    A nice tribute to a man that the world has too few in todays world. Gene was very dedicated to his family, church and community. I will miss him very much.


  9. I love this story and the message involved. Loving others just as Christ loves us. I am so grateful for Coach Nell and those in this world that love one another and serve others in the name of Jesus. God is so good. You’ve impacted my life much in the same way. I’ve never fully committed myself to a church before attending Discovery and listening to you and the delivery of your messages every Sunday impacted us more than you can imagine, Pastor Bob. Your special delivery of Gods word Is so beautiful and well taken. I pray I can continue to be used by God to impact others lives and that He will continue to use others to impact our lives just as Coach Nell has done for you and you have done for us.


  10. Bob
    I’m very grateful for this coach I’ve never met. His asking you about church began the process of bringing you way out to California to teach so many of us. I thank you for all of your hard work in preparing your teaching for me and my family for the 27 years we were with you at MVCC which came Discovery. You will always be my teacher and dear friend. This is why it is so important to get others involved in a church…you never how God will use someone. It sounds like you were able to be a blessing to Coach Neil’s family as well!
    Thanks for another great writing,

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pastor Bob, I am Gene Nell’s son Mike, Timmy’s younger brother. I have heard mention of you and the little league team over the years. I have copied your tribute to my dad which was read at his funeral which was the first time I heard it. I have read it over many times and cry every time. The way God works through people is miraculous. My mom and dad after 65 years of marriage have influenced my faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You have touched countless souls for Christ. That inspires me to do more, you never know what even a simple word can become like “see you in church Bobby”. I would love to meet you some day. I also want to say I have purchased 2 of your books. I started reading it and can’t put it down. My family, friends and others will be reading it. I want to thank you. Your love for Christ and people is truly an inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Bob,
    I am Trisha, The youngest of the Nell family. I am so grateful that my dad was a Positive influence in your life. I always thought my dad was made out of steel in a way. He was so tough on the outside, and honest and kind hearted on the inside. He never gloated about his achievements, which is probably why I never found out about you until his passing. It can only take one special person in your life to change you forever. My dad was that special person. I appreciate you sharing your story with all of us.


  13. Bob
    Thank you-this reaffirms my commitment to youth baseball-it is not just the game. There are life lessons. I was fortunate to have had a great mentor during my youth sports.
    John Wooden said tht he never coached, he always taught.
    Once agin thank you.


  14. Hi Bob, I read this for the first time because I read your thoughts on leaving a legacy. This post is just awesome. I played baseball from little league to the minors and coaches have great influence both good and bad. This man was an example of the goodness that God plants in all of ys that know him. We all have opportunities to lead and I pray that the good Lord uses me in some small way. Bless his family and yours and I thank God he used him to lead you to your calling.


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