Without baseball on the horizon, I’m using this time to connect with former Senators. We will relive some of their fondest memories and find out what they’re up to now. For the first one, we’re making a call to the bullpen for Neil Holland.
The Nationals selected Holland in the 2010 11th round out of the University of Louisville. The right-hander made 81 appearances over the 2013 and 2014 seasons with Harrisburg pitching to a 3.06 ERA.
Mayflies: What are you currently doing?
Neil Holland: I am in New Albany, Indiana, a suburb of Louisville. My wife’s family lives in southern Indiana, so we bought a house out there. I co-own a facility in Jeffersonville as I do that full-time. Teams rent it out, and I do individual and team lessons.
Another Senator, Rob Gilliam, and I are trying to set up a virtual lesson website where if anyone sends in a video, we’ll break it down. Our thought was through this pandemic with people still trying to keep up instruction. I’ve had to do a lot of video with my high school guys that are looking to play at the next level. The website with virtual lessons would go hand-in-hand with that.
MF: What is your fondest memory of playing in Harrisburg?
NH: My first year in Harrisburg in 2013, that was when half of that team went to the big leagues. It was so fun. I remember at the end of Spring Training once we had our team together thinking we might not lose a game. Then to have it happen where we were breaking some Harrisburg records, and we made it to the second round of playoffs. It was just super fun. I never felt cockier as a baseball player. It felt like we were playing High-A teams as a Double-A team because we were so deep.
It’s unheard of to have just seven to even six guys in a bullpen for more than a week. There was one point where we had six guys. We knew we would have to throw a decent amount, but then someone would come up from Potomac. I remember all of the starters and the bullpen guys did so well, and we kept winning games that we had just six guys for over a month. We still rarely got used more than if we had eight guys. It was crazy.
MF: Going back to the beginning…why baseball?
NH: When I was younger, it was just a sport I noticed that I was a little better at than the others. My athleticism worked most in baseball. I didn’t find a joy in baseball until college at Louisville when I was getting into the chess game. I like football and basketball a lot more. I just happen to be a lot better at baseball.
MF: What was your greatest or favorite day in baseball?
NH: My favorite day was when we clinched with High-A Potomac at Lynchburg. That was just the most fun celebration. I think that was my first time in professional ball where we got to have champagne and stuff. The clubhouse was just a square concrete set of lockers, so when they tarped it up, we went nuts. Champagne, milk, ketchup. It was so, so fun.
One of my individual memories was in Potomac when Pudge Rodriguez had a rehab stint against Frederick. I got to throw to Pudge, so I was pretty pumped. I walked the first guy on four pitches just because I was so nervous. I was like, “Sorry, dude.”
MF: What factors went into your decision to stop playing?
NH: After having Tommy John surgery with the Nationals, they were super nice with me continuing my rehab and sending me to High-A. My stats were decent, and I was getting older, so I 110% understand the business that they might not have me back the next year. Once I got into free agency, I was happy to have any team want to pick me up. I think I had seven or eight teams interested. But as sidearm reliever, those free agency amounts aren’t as high as a shortstop or starter. When I signed with the Indians, their Double and Triple-A teams are close to Louisville. After a season with them, I understood in free agency if they’re going to pay you more, you need to have an awesome E.R.A. I got released near the end of August.
At that point, my wife and was pregnant after trying for two or three years. We were pumped, but if I was going to leave when she was pregnant to play baseball again, it was going to need to be close and for possibly more money. With me having a very average season, I only had three teams that offered me the next year. They were all the exact same price as the year before, and they were all on the West Coast. The only time I could be close is if I signed with the Giants, and they sent me to Double-A Richmond. I decided to hang it up because of that, and I wasn’t particularly interested in indy ball.
Thanks to Neil for taking the time out of his schedule to answer our questions.