WALDORF, Maryland – Last year, Virginia native Nick Wells was at the highest level of minor league baseball.
Now the former pitcher in the Nationals’ farm system is looking to get back to an affiliated team – while at the same time having “a blast” with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs here in Waldorf.
Wells was born in Alexandria and went to Battlefield High in Northern Virginia.
After playing in the minors with Toronto and Seattle, he was traded by the Mariners on May 4, 2019, to Washington for right-handed pitcher Austin Adams.
The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League announced Wednesday it has signed Battlefield HS graduate Nick Wells. The left-handed pitcher spent the 2021 season in the Washington Nationals' organization. The Nationals released Wells during spring training. pic.twitter.com/G3rTBoYnpM— InsideNoVA (@InsideNoVA) April 14, 2022
Wells appeared with Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Rochester last season but was then released in late March. A few weeks later he signed with the Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League.
“Going in you don’t really have any idea what to expect,” said Wells, 26, after a home game last week as Southern Maryland beat Gastonia. “You just got released, so you are a little bitter. Honestly, it has been a blast; great group of guys that have been very welcoming.”
“I am having fun playing the game again,” added the lefty. “That is one of the main things. It is looser; it is hard to describe honestly. It is just a fun atmosphere, you know what I mean? I can’t really describe it. The group of guys, there is no ego to it. Everybody is here for the same reason.”
He posted an ERA of 3.00 in his first eight outings for the Blue Crabs in nine innings of work.
“Just keep going. Throw strikes, attack hitters,” he said of his goals. “This is where my feet are right now. Sometimes in the affiliated ball you start pressing and try to get there quicker and quicker (up the ladder). This is where my feet are now and where I will be until something (else) happens.”
Wells elected to be a free agent after the 2021 season.
He signed back with the Nationals on January 25 of this year then was released on March 29, near the end of Spring Training.
The Virginia native had an ERA of 2.12 in 10 games with Harrisburg last year and a mark of 6.47 in 22 outings for Rochester out of the bullpen.
“I have a lot of good friends there,” he said of his time with the Nationals. “I still have a good relationship with them. There is some talent there for sure.”
The lefty signed with Southern Maryland on April 13.
Wells got an early start with baseball in Northern Virginia.
“Growing up, I never played T-ball. My neighbor got me into it,” Wells said.
“He was a little bit older than I was and we were pretty good friends growing up.”
Wells eventually played for the Gainesville Cannons, Haymarket Bulls, and Richmond Braves.
As a boy, he went to Valley Baseball League games at Haymarket, which used to play home games at Battlefield High.
“As a kid, we used to go with the neighbors and chase foul balls and stuff like that,” Wells said.
He was drafted in the third round out of Battlefield High in Virginia in 2014 by the Blue Jays.
In July of 2015, Seattle Mariners traded RHP Mark Lowe to Toronto Blue Jays for LHP Rob Rasmussen, LHP Jake Brentz, and Wells.
Other pitchers on the Blue Crabs’ roster include at least three other Virginia natives: Eddie Butler, Mat Latos, and Patrick Baker, a Fairfax native and former minor leaguer with the Orioles.
Butler was born in Chesapeake, went to college at Radford, and pitched in the majors for the Rockies, Cubs, and Rangers from 2014-18.
Latos was born in Alexandria, went to high school in Florida, and pitched for several teams in the majors from 2009 to 2017, including the Nats, for whom he made six appearances in 2016.
Now a closer, Latos got the save on Thursday as the Blue Crabs beat Gastonia 4-2. Butler was the starter and allowed two runs – both in the first – in six innings.
The Atlantic League has been a landing spot for several former members of the Washington system.
Big leaguers Steve Lombardozzi and Mike O’Connor both played for Southern Maryland after appearing in the big leagues with the Nationals.
Lombardozzi went to Atholton High in Howard County, Maryland while O’Connor, a lefty pitcher, is from Howard County and pitched in college at George Washington University.
Lombo last played in the majors in 2017 with the Marlins; he played for Southern Maryland in 2016 and was with Long Island in the Atlantic League last year.
O’Connor last appeared in the big leagues with the Mets in 2011; he played for the Blue Crabs in 2009 and 2013.