Matheu Nelson was a consistent presence for Florida State baseball in 2019. As a freshman he caught nearly every game, committing just three errors and was second on the team with a .442 on-base percentage.
Nelson is considered one of the top 10 catchers in the nation by D1baseball.com. As we prepare for the start of the Seminoles’ season on Friday, Nelson sat down with the Osceola to discuss how he picked FSU, his approach at the plate, the pitchers and, yes, cracking backs.
Why did you come to Florida State? I think you said last year that you went to Mike Martin camps growing up?
Nelson: That’s right. I came here in the seventh grade with my buddy. Thought it would be fun. Came back up the following year. Enjoyed Tallahassee. Thought it was a unique place. Thought it was different. Felt like a home away from home. The funny thing is, I grew up a Georgia Bulldog fan because of my dad. And I still love Georgia to this day. I always thought Georgia was a dream school but also when I was a kid grown up, we were watching Florida State. I don’t even know who they were playing. I was like 7 or 8 at the time. My dad once said, ‘How cool would it be to play in a stadium like that one day or play in that stadium?’ And I said, ‘Oh, no, that’d be really cool. I would love to play there.’ He said, ‘To be honest with you, if you play college ball anywhere, I’d be happy where you play. I don’t care if you go to Georgia or not.’ I said, ‘I don’t care either.’ But once Florida State offered me, I didn’t think twice about it. I knew that’s where I wanted to be and I knew it was a good place for me. It was a no-brainer.
You caught a lot of games last year – 57 games, including the postseason. What does that do to build your confidence going into 2020?
Nelson: Not so much building my confidence, just more so having the experience and knowing what has to be done on and off the field. Taking care of your body, taking care of your classes to be eligible, and also managing your teammates at the same time, making sure they’re on top of their schoolwork, being a leader the whole time. Holding guys accountable. I wouldn’t say it’s confidence, it’s more so you have the experience and now you can actually implement it.
Coming in as a freshman you started right away. Was anything like, ‘Wow, I was ready for this. I wasn’t ready for that?’
Nelson: I was ready for it. I don’t think there wasn’t a moment that I wasn’t ready for. Because I knew that through all the practices, all the extra hours that I would come in and put in the work, I know I was preparing my body, putting food into my body to prepare myself for the best opportunity I could. And I’m not the fastest, I’m not the strongest, I’m not the most conditioned person on the team, but I’m going to do my best to prepare myself for each and every day.
Did you have to budget in down days to rest and recover or have extra time for treatment just so that you would be ready for the next game or next series?
Nelson: Yeah, for sure. One thing that I like to do ahead of time is I like to get on top of my school work ahead of time, I like to get ahead of the game. Try and finish things the day they’re told not the day they’re due. So that way I’m not overwhelmed on either the day they’re do or if I have a busy day, I can go home and relax. I can hang out with my friends, I can go to the mall, I can go bowling, I can just relax and watch movies, read a book, just something to clear my mind of everything that’s going on.
Your on-base percentage was .442, second on the team last year to Drew Mendoza. What is your mindset or approach at the plate or is it just to get on base?
Nelson: That’s one thing that Meat preaches. He tells everybody, ‘It starts with you.’ And not just myself but the leadoff man. The leadoff man gets on we score. And there was a time where I was hitting in the nine hole for a while and Salvy (Mike Salvatore) was our leadoff hitter the majority of the year, if not the whole entire year, and Salvy would always tell me if I was leading off an inning in the nine hole, he would come up behind me and go, ‘Me and you, baby. Let’s do it.’ I know nobody kept track of it but me and him did. There was a little spurt there where every time that I led off, and I would get on, I would either end up on third base or I would score. And the little spurt where that started was when we were in Jacksonville playing against Florida. Draw a walk, got on first base, Salvy goes yard to right field. And then there was just a time where it just kept happening. And then, unfortunately, I moved back up in the lineup and then we couldn’t keep that streak any more.
What appeals to you about majoring in sport management?
Nelson: So I picked sports management just because I heard the sports aspect of it. And I’ve always wanted to own my own hitting facility one day or my own development facility for not just baseball players but people of all sports. I just want to be able to own something like that and I thought that kind of fit into it on the business side. Secondary option, I’ve always been interested in doing chiropractic stuff. I watch videos on YouTube all the time and I just get joy from hearing the pop sound. It’s relaxing to me. I enjoy it. I think it’s cool.
Have you been to the chiropractor? I assume yes?
Nelson: I have been to the chiropractor. Love the chiropractor. Probably not supposed to do this, but sometimes I perform chiropractic things on my roommates. They’re like, ‘Hey, can you pop my back?’ ‘Yeah, let’s try this.’ And then I tell them I learned it five minutes ago on YouTube and they told me, ‘It felt great.’
Everyone is a YouTube doctor or Google doctor.
Nelson: Right. Nothing with the neck. Only with the back.
Looking back at some of CJ Van Eyk’s games in 2019, he seemed to pitch his best in May and June, in the postseason. Did you see something different or was he just composed in those games and pitching well?
Nelson: There is not an outing that looked any different to me. He came out, he was the same person every single day. He doesn’t care. There’s no nerves with him. He gets up there and he’s just like, ‘I don’t care. I’m going to shove it down your throat. Here. Hit it.’ … Phenomenal. Comes out there, brings it every single day.
Shane Drohan has really turned the corner, working with pitching coach Jimmy Belanger. Slowing down the tempo. What have you seen?
Nelson: Slowing down the tempo, I would say more slowing down the mindset, not getting too ahead of himself, really keeping his composure. I don’t mean he would lose it. I would say he’s more in himself thinking, ‘OK, I’m going to do this right here.’ And not so much, ‘Ok, I’m going to try to do this right there.’ He’s coming in with the same mindset as CJ, he just doesn’t show it as much as CJ does.