‘Nelly,’ aka ‘Wolverine,’ on prowl
The calls of “Let’s go, Nelly” or “Nels” are prevalent for obvious reasons when Austin Nelson steps into the batter’s box.
Then, there’s another name the Cochise College (Arizona) third baseman and No. 2 hitter gets called: “Wolverine.”
Also for an obvious reason.
For the second year in a row, Cochise is playing in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series. And for the second year in a row, Nelson shaved a strip down the middle of his chin and neck for the postseason.
That leaves him with some impressive pork-chop sideburns, reminiscent of comic-book superhero Wolverine.
One difference this year is he’s been growing his beard since December, giving him substantially longer growth than last year’s two-month beard.
Entering the postseason a year ago, Nelson wanted to do something crazy. So, out came the razor. The resulting look received his teammates’ approval.
Nelson said it looked ridiculous, but when playoff time arrived this year, there was an obvious answer when he thought, “Why not do it again?”
This year’s version is a new level of ridiculous, he admits.
Cochise shortstop Louis Boyd joins Nelson on the left side of the’ infield and is a fellow member of the full-beard club.
But his beard is more than a little jealous of Nelson’s.
“He’s definitely got something crazy going there,” Boyd said. “For a couple days I thought about shaving the middle of mine, so we’d look like twins on the left side, but no, he takes the cake for sure. That’s pretty impressive facial hair.”
Wolverine is the only regular nickname to come from his playoff look, but one person thought he looked downright presidential — if he was living 150 years ago.
“Coach will give me some crap about looking like a guy from the 1880s or from the Civil War, or whatever,” Nelson said after Cochise beat Delgado Community College (Louisiana) in a first-round elimination game Sunday. “Actually, yesterday’s catcher (from Blinn College) called me Ulysses S. Grant.”
Cochise coach Todd Inglehart smiled before addressing a question about Nelson’s hair.
“Whatever works,” the clean-shaven skipper said. “Back in my younger days, I used to be a cut-your-hair and no-facial-hair guy. That lasted about two years. I let guys be themselves, and he’s amazing on the field. He does everything we ask. He’s so unselfish.
“If he wants to grow facial hair and look uglier, that’s entirely his choice.”
Inglehart is used to the look, so much so that when Cochise bowed out at JUCO last year, he got a shock on the bus ride home: Nelson had shaved off all of his facial hair.
“I did not recognize him,” Inglehart said. “He’s actually a good-looking kid. But once again, if he wants to look uglier, that’s entirely up to him.”
Boyd had a different reaction to seeing Nelson clean-shaven: “It’s scary. It’s scary.”
Nelson added, “It goes from about however old I look now with a beard to about a 13-year-old getting fresh into high school or something.”
Of course, a couple other opinions matter. Asked what his parents think of the Wolverine look, Nelson’s smile grew a little wider.
“Oh, they love it,” he said. “Girlfriend, not too much, but she deals with it.”