Photo: Trevor Nyp (right) signals to stop Harrison Wenson at third base during a recent game. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
Trevor Nyp looked at his phone and wondered just why someone was calling him from Los Angeles.
Nyp, a former college baseball career, had built a new career on the developmental side of the sport. He was running PlayBall Academy Canada in Kitchener, Ontario, and he had started an Instagram account sharing his thoughts and theories on how to play in the infield.
The call was from Ryan Crotin, the director of performance integration for the Los Angeles Angels. Crotin wondered if Nyp would be interested in working as a coach.
Two months later, after an extensive interview process, Nyp was hired by the Angels and assigned to work as the defensive coach with the Burlington Bees in the Class A Midwest League.
It’s a long trip from Ontario to Iowa, but Nyp knows it’s part of a bigger journey.
“I was trying to get my foot in the door somehow,” said Nyp, who was also working as a scout for the Washington Nationals at the time. “I didn’t know what I was going to do — I was passionate about infield play, and I was good at it. Did I expect it? Never. Never once. It just shows the power of social media. I didn’t know who to reach out to, how I was going to get involved. I didn’t think it would ever happen.
“It was life-altering.”
Nyp, 26, played one season of junior-college baseball at Oakton Community College in suburban Chicago before returning to Canada to play at Wilfrid Laurier University.
“When I was at (Oakton), that’s where I kind of fell in love with the developmental side of things,” Nyp said. “Prior to that, we just kind of played, we never ‘developed.’ When I got there, I saw some structure, and I thought, ‘Holy (expletive), this is cool.’”
One day, in class, Nyp had an idea — open an indoor baseball training facility. He secured money from an investor, and built the PlayBall Academy.
“I wanted to give back and develop players in the area, see what I can do to help the game there,” Nyp said. “We ended up building a 30,000 square-foot facility. I got to design it the way I wanted it, with a full infield. Six batting cages. A gym. A dirt bullpen.
“I ended up being a 21-year-old general manager/owner of this facility.”
Nyp’s work started with younger players, but soon he was working with high school, college and professional players. Soon, he began building a social media platform — his Instagram account, @tn.defense, has almost 13,000 followers.
“In the last six years, I’ve really come into my own as a coach,” Nyp said. “I kept playing in those years, so I kind of built my cache on the field, as well as the developmental side of things. I started building a following on my Instagram page. I started putting my thoughts and my drills out there.”
That’s when the Angels found him.
Nyp wasn’t sure how he would be received as a coach. He’s around the same age group as the players he’s coaching.
“That was one of the most difficult adjustments I had,” Nyp said. “Walking into spring training, I was terrified. That was my biggest concern — I’m going into this place, I’m not that big of a guy. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, these guys aren’t going to take me seriously.’
“I realized how receptive these professional players are to learning. If you’re in a coach’s role, they listen to you and respect you. It’s been absolutely incredible. I’m not going to say it’s easy — I feel like there are times when I could be buddies with these guys. But you have to definitely separate yourself. At the same time, it’s been good. I’m able to see eye-to-eye with them on things. I’m able to help them with personal things, and understand where they’re coming from. While it’s been a challenge, it’s been a little bit of a blessing.”
“He had some things to learn early,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “I had to be very blunt with some conversations. Just say, ‘Look, I want you to mentor these guys, and I want them to believe and trust in you. But know where that line is.’”
Howell helped Nyp ease into his role with the Bees, including coaching first base.
“I had him watch me and then talked to him about first-base coaching,” Howell said. “I didn’t hand over the reigns on infield defense right away. As you give him things, he takes them and runs with them.
“I think he’s the kind of guy who wants to learn. And as you teach him things, he takes them and is willing to run with them. He’s not willing to run with them until he’s given the OK. When he does, he does a fine job.”
“Jack’s been incredible with me,” Nyp said. “He’s been great taking me under his wings, having me coach the bases, do different things.”
In one of the final series of the first half, when the Bees were at Kane County, Howell had Nyp coach third base. Howell said when he worked as a minor league field coordinator, he encouraged managers to have their hitting or infield coaches coach third base.
“You never know when you might be sick, you might get thrown out of a game,” Howell said. “So they need to practice that. And they need to be ready for it, so in four, five, six, seven years, for some reason the big-league coach wants them to be a third-base coach, they can say they’ve done it.”
“The first time he asked me to coach third, he really didn’t ask me,” Nyp said. “He said, ‘You’re coaching third.’ I had no idea what to do. I basically went off what I had seen in the past. That day was really nerve-wracking, but since then I’ve been able to gain some confidence. I think that day was the most maturing thing for me this year. I was like, ‘Oh, I think I can do this a little bit.’ Felt like I covered all of the bases.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get to (coach third). When he said it, I was like, ‘Yes!’ After the game, it was a big sigh of relief.”
When the Bees started the second half, Howell took his mandatory vacation days that the Angels have. Nyp coached third while Chad Tracy, the Angels’ field coordinator, managed the team. During that time, Angels general manager Billy Eppler was in town to check on the team.
“He got to (coach third) in front of some very influential people,” Howell said.
Nyp said he appreciates the chance to work with professional players.
“My passion has always been infield,” he said. “Obviously, with kids, the fundamentals of baseball was key. With the high school, college and pro guys, it was infield specific.
“Over the last couple of years, I’ve worked a little bit with the outfielders, because a lot of the things you do in the infield are transferable the outfield — first steps, glove presentation, etc. Primarily it’s been infield, and it’s been my passion to this day. I take a lot of pride in what I do with the infielders. I continue to develop my theories and my drills. I’m very excited to be in a platform where I can spread my ideas.”
Nyp, as he talked in the Bees’ dugout after a workout before a recent home game, smiled as he talked about the opportunity he’s getting.
“I’ve gone from a player/developmental guy only to being a base coach, being involved in the strategy side of things, being able to look at it from a coach’s eye,” he said. “Having to think six steps ahead is a new thing for me. Now I’m looking at an entire outfield and an entire infield in game situations. Understanding shifts, understanding counts. It’s been a very big learning curve. I have not mastered it yet.
“Now it’s my life. I’m so blessed.”
Six current Bees are listed among Baseball America’s top 30 prospects in the Angels organization at midseason.
Outfielder Jordyn Adams is ranked fourth, pitcher Jose Soriano is sixth, pitcher Hector Yan is 10th, infielder Kevin Maitan is 26th, infielder Livan Soto is 28th and pitcher Robinson Pina is 29th.
Twenty-one of the prospects listed have played in Burlington, including the top six — outfielder Jo Adell (No. 1, 2018), pitcher Jose Suarez (No. 2, 2017), outfielder Brandon Marsh (No. 3, 2018), Adams, pitcher Chris Rodriguez (No. 5, 2017) and Soriano.
Other Bees alumni on the list are first baseman Matt Thaiss (No. 9, 2016), infielder Jahmai Jones (No. 12, 2016-17), first baseman-pitcher Jared Walsh (No. 13, 2016), pitcher Jeremy Beasley (No. 14, 2018), outfielder Michael Hermosillo (No. 17, 2015-16), pitcher Luis Madero (No. 21, 2018), catcher Jack Kruger (No. 22, 2017), pitcher Denny Brady (No. 23, 2018), outfielder Orlando Martinez (No. 24, 2018), pitcher Oliver Ortega (No. 25, 2018), and infielder Leonardo Rivas (No. 30, 2018).
THE WEEK THAT WAS
Batting average: .251
Opponents’ batting average: .195
Opponents’ ERA: 4.42
Notes: Outfielder Spencer Griffin batted .364 and scored seven runs. … Adams batted .320. … Infielder Adrian Rondon batted .500 in his first two games with the Bees. … Pitcher Austin Krzeminski had a 1.42 ERA in three appearances.
THE WEEK AHEAD
• Beloit (6:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday) — After Monday’s game at Great Lakes, it’s back to playing Western Division teams for the rest of the season. The Bees are 5-2 against the Snappers (36-60 overall, 9-19 second half) this season.
• At Peoria (6:35 p.m. Saturday and next Monday, 5:05 p.m. Sunday) — The Bees have dominated against the Chiefs (36-62, 6-23) this season, going 9-3.
Griffin is tied for fourth in the league in triples with 6. … Outfielder Nonie Williams is tied for fifth with 50 walks. … Hector Yan leads the league with 110 strikeouts. … Kyle Tyler is fourth with a 2.92 ERA. Opposing hitters are batting .195 against Tyler, which ranks him second in the league. Tyler is fourth with a 1.04 WHIP. … Robinson Pina is fifth in the league with 100 strikeouts.