All-Star John Nester Returns to Railroaders
CLEBURNE, Tex. (Jan. 17, 2020) – The Cleburne Railroaders announced Friday the re-signing of catcher John Nester.
Additionally, right-handed pitchers Charlie Gillies and Stephen Johnson have elected to retire and have been placed on irrevocable waivers for the purpose of granting their release.
Nester produced a tremendous 2019 season for the Railroaders, earning Midseason and Postseason All-Star nods. The veteran backstop hit .277 with 23 doubles, 16 home runs, and 63 RBI, establishing new career highs in each of the latter three categories. Nester finished the year with a .277/.342/.505 slash line, good for an .847 OPS that led all American Association catchers. Nester’s .505 slugging percentage ranked 11th on the circuit among qualified hitters, just .001 point outside of the top ten.
After a slow start at the dish in which Nester produced one hit in his first 18 at-bats, the former Clemson Tiger caught fire. From June 4-17, Nester recorded multiple hits in six of thirteen games, raising his average to .294. He smacked a pair of home runs against the Texas AirHogs on June 28, kicking off a stretch of six homers in nine days. He became the first Railroaders player to hit for the cycle on August 20 against Sioux Falls, homering in the top of the ninth inning to complete the feat. The native of Greer, South Carolina, finished the season tied for the tenth in the American Association by accumulating 5.5 Wins Above Replacement.
Defensively, Nester put together a spectacular campaign. In addition to guiding the Railroaders pitching staff to a 3.90 ERA, good for second in the league, Nester threw out 23 opposing base stealers at a sparkling 34% clip. The result was a 0.89 dWAR season that checked in as the third highest mark in the American Association.
The Railroaders traded Nester to the High Point Rockers of the Atlantic League on September 12, then re-acquired him on October 28. Nester played eight games for the Rockers, recording four hits, including a double and a home run.
Nester started his professional career with three seasons in the Oakland Athletics organization after being drafted in the 39th round out of Clemson. The 30-year old was released following the 2012 season, and spent the following year with the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League. After an impressive campaign in which he hit .287, Nester was snapped up by the San Diego Padres organization, where he split the 2014 season between three minor league levels. He signed with Wichita in 2015, helping the Wingnuts to a 59-41 record and a South Division title. The 6’1, 210-pounder played in 80 games, hitting .281 with five home runs, 19 doubles, and 43 RBI.
The 2018 campaign marked Nester’s first playing time since 2015, as he spent the 2016 and 2017 season as a catching instructor in the San Diego Padres minor league system. Nester spent the majority of 2018 with Wichita, hitting .269 with seven home runs and 50 RBI over 92 games for the American Association club. The backstop finished the year with the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League, appearing in five games and recording four hits.
Combined with the acquisition of Alay Lago, who was previously signed by Sioux Falls, the Railroaders now have two players under contract for the 2020 season. American Association clubs may carry up to 28 players during Spring Training, which begins May 7.
For information on partnerships, season tickets, group outings, and party packages, call the Railroaders main office at (817) 945-8705, or visit the Railroaders official website at www.railroaderbaseball.com.
By Denning Gerig, Cleburne Railroaders