For fourth generation Trojan and star baseball player Nigel Nootbaar, expressing his gratitude to his roots is not difficult.
The recently signed Baltimore Oriole spends his weekends at Beach City Baseball Academy in his hometown of El Segundo, California, sharing his love for the sport with students at the same batting cages he once frequented as a kid.
His primary duty is to teach the weekly special needs camp that Beach City Baseball offers for free to families in the area, an initiative of owner Richard Murad who said he was addressing a need he saw in the baseball community. Murad speaks warmly of Nootbaar, saying the the Trojan baseball star has become so popular with the kids that many of them request him as a coach.
“Not everybody can do special needs. It takes a person that is authentic and really enjoys what they’re doing, and it definitely makes him a perfect fit,” Murad said. “He’s the real deal.”
Nootbaar currently devotes about four hours each weekend to coaching young students and hopes to continue for as long as he is in the area, he wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. He brings enthusiasm and perspective to the programs at Beach City Baseball, carrying the passion for baseball to the next generation of players.
“I always loved learning from older guys who were still playing the game so I figured kids would like to learn from me,” said Nootbaar, who approached Beach City Baseball with the proposition of helping out. “The best part about this so far is seeing some of those kids with the biggest smile on their face[s] after they hit a ball hard.”
The program, which consists of about 35 students at a time, is a hit in the El Segundo community, which Murad describes as very supportive of baseball. Some of the students have been with Beach City Baseball since the age of three, he said, and have shown immense growth through their time there. A few of the special needs students have moved into the general leagues at the Academy, and Murad says a bystander would never believe some of the kids have any special needs based on their performances. But the most important thing to Murad is the personal development of each student.
“A lot of the kids gain self-confidence because they are actually achieving something that they haven’t before,” he said.
The standout Trojan attributes finding his own love for baseball to the time spent at the Beach City Baseball batting cages, a love he has translated to great success.
The Trojans have not sent a player to the Orioles since Damon Buford in 1990. Nootbaar, who just finished up his first professional season on the Aberdeen Ironbirds, an Orioles minor league affiliate, was a key player for the Trojans during his time here, making 43 appearances and 11 career starts. During his sophomore year, he struck out 12 batters, making the game against Fresno State a career high for Nootbaar.
Since then, he has appeared nine times in the past USC season, and was the starting pitcher twice with a 2.81 ERA.
To both Nootbaar and Murad, the most important thing is the cultivation of a positive atmosphere and promotion of a love of the sport.
The Beach City Baseball Academy is a baseball club that, despite name changes, has long been a part of the El Segundo community. Murad said they strive to maintain an old world baseball club atmosphere, like that of clubs in the 1940s and 1950s, while also making it as welcoming as possible.
“I feel that enjoying what you do is the best way to get better. I want the kids to be begging their parents to drive them to BCBA because they love being in that environment,” Nootbaar said.