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Orioles’ Tyler Nevin thrilled for father, Angels interim manager Phil Nevin, to finally watch him in majors

Game nights at the Nevin household often became a test of will between father and son, with matchups in Monopoly and Connect Four inducing trash talk as each competitor strived to stay one step ahead of his opponent.

“A lot of cat’s games,” Tyler Nevin said. “I’ll put it that way.”

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A tied result won’t be possible the next few days at Camden Yards, where Tyler, an infielder for the Orioles, will face off against the Los Angeles Angels and his father, interim manager Phil Nevin.

It will mark not only the first time since 2004 a position player has opposed a team his father is managing, but also Phil’s first chance to see Tyler play in the majors. Tyler’s major league debut last season came while Phil had the coronavirus, and his subsequent stints with Baltimore never included a matchup with the New York Yankees, for whom Phil coached third base.

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With Phil on the Angels’ staff this season, a day off for Los Angeles was going to allow him to watch the Orioles at Boston’s Fenway Park in May, only for Tyler to be optioned to Triple-A days before. Tyler was one of the Orioles’ final spring training cuts, causing him to also be in the minors for the Orioles’ April visit to Anaheim.

Having replaced Joe Maddon as the Angels’ skipper earlier this season, Phil won’t manage the first two of the series’ four games while finishing off a 10-game suspension stemming from a brawl against the Seattle Mariners. But with Phil still able to attend the earlier games, the circumstances are somewhat of a blessing.

“In a way, he’s looking forward to being able to watch a game without having to have a hand in it at first,” Tyler said earlier this week.

Tyler was out of the lineup for Thursday’s series opener, but Orioles manager Brandon Hyde guaranteed he would start at least one of this weekend’s games. At they sat beside each other in the Orioles’ dugout at Camden Yards on Thursday, Phil gave Tyler a hearty pat on the leg as his son teared up talking about how they have helped each other throughout their journeys. Phil said the thought of coaching third base while Tyler played there for the other team had “probably gone through my head a million times” but his unexpected shift to a managerial role has allowed them to add to a part of history Phil said he was surprised doesn’t happen more frequently.

“I just wanted to sit in the stands and have a hot dog and a beer and watch my son play a major league game,” Phil said. “Kind of get to do that tonight, without the beer.”

There is some irony that this moment comes in Baltimore, where Phil once rejected a trade from San Diego because he wanted to stay close to his family, including Tyler, in Southern California. Of course, it’s also home to one of the sport’s most notable father-son connections, with Cal Ripken Jr. and Billy Ripken both getting to play under Cal Ripken Sr. for the Orioles. Phil and Tyler also mentioned the Bells, Bochys, Boones and Alous as recent examples. Until this weekend, Moises Alou is the most recent position player to play against his father’s team; another of Felipe Alou’s sons, Felipe Alou Jr., manages the Orioles’ Low-A affiliate. Luke Farrell pitched against John Farrell’s Boston Red Sox in 2017.

The Nevins’ connection has led to some awkward moments. The day after the Angels’ scrap with the Mariners, the Orioles were in Seattle, with the announcement of Tyler’s last name prompting boos.

“It was the first time he’s been booed in a big league stadium,” Phil said. “He thought it was cool.”

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As the Angels’ coaches went over the Orioles’ roster before Thursday’s game, Phil wasn’t sure how to refer to Tyler when he got to his son’s name, settling on “Nevin” and prompting laughter. He’ll balance rooting for his son to play well while trying to guide his team to a victory. He won’t hesitate to turn to a pitcher he feels has an advantage over Tyler, having inside knowledge on who might give him trouble.

“He’s not going to take it easy on me with matchups or anything,” Tyler said. “He’s made that very clear.”

“I didn’t let him ever win at Monopoly or pool when he was a kid,” Phil said, “and I’m not ready to start now.”

Still, they’ll find time to appreciate an occasion they’ve both waited a long time for. Phil was the first overall pick in the 1992 draft and reached the big leagues soon after. When his playing career ended, he dived into coaching, managing in independent ball then climbing the ranks in the minors before his first opportunity as a major league assistant.

“In a way, he’s grinded more as a coach than he has as a player,” Tyler said. “The whole time, this has been why he’s been in the big leagues. He wants to be a manager. That’s really where his passion is.

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“Every opportunity he’s ever wanted, this is it.”

Tyler, meanwhile, grew up watching how his dad operated in clubhouses, constantly wanting to be around the game. Phil said Tyler can rattle off minor leaguers he coached who were supposed to be stars but never reached that status and others who experienced the opposite. Tyler eventually became a draft prospect himself, though he said he could be a painter and his dad would still be happy as long as his son was. The Colorado Rockies took Tyler in the first round of the 2015 draft, then added him to their 40-man roster months before trading him to Baltimore as part of the package for reliever Mychal Givens during the 2020 season.

Between, he played in the Arizona Fall League in 2018, Phil’s first chance to watch him play extensively around many of the game’s top prospects. It’s where he first believed his son would reach the majors. Along Tyler’s journey to that cusp, Phil’s experience and guidance helped him get there, from providing insights on the initial steps after signing a first professional contract to subtle day-to-day ongoings such as how much to tip clubhouse workers at opposing venues. With Phil on the Yankees’ staff and Nevin one roster move from the big leagues, the chance they could share a major league venue finally felt close.

“When he got back into baseball and he was still in the minor leagues and I became a prospect, we kind of daydreamed about it,” Tyler said. “It wasn’t really a daydream anymore. It was just a matter of when.”

That answer will formally come Saturday, with Tyler’s mom, grandparents and younger brother, Kyle, also in attendance. Kyle is a prospect in the MLB draft later this month and could someday join Tyler and Phil in the majors.

For now, the Nevin family is happy to celebrate a week it has long dreamed of, dating to those intense games of Connect Four.

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“It’s the same vibe of, ‘Oh, I’ve lined this up. I’ve already envisioned it,’” Tyler said. “He’s a competitor deep down, and so am I, so it’s just gonna be a lot of fun.”


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