For Eli Nabholz, his journey to the MU baseball program was a bit different from those of many of his teammates. Nabholz began his collegiate career at Penn State before coming to play under head coach Jon Shehan here at Millersville.
His one goal, which he has now since accomplished, was to get drafted by a Major League Baseball team. He felt that coming to Millersville was his best opportunity to eventually get there.
“For me, one of my biggest goals was to be drafted and play professionally and after my freshmen year I felt that going somewhere else was the best chance to do that. Millersville turned out to be the best opportunity for me,” Nabholz says.
What sold Nabholz on coming to MU was coach Shehan. Millersville had just played in a national championship game and three pitchers had just left the team. It seemed inevitable that Nabholz would join the Millersville baseball program and gel right away.
“Coach Shehan was a huge part of it. He’s such a great guy first and foremost. A really great baseball guy and a great baseball mind. So I naturally was drawn to him,” Nabholz says.
Nabholz says that at Penn State the coaches had more of a “do what I say” attitude, expecting players to follow as they lead the charge. Coach Shehan and his crew, by contrast, made it all about the players and what they needed to do to develop.
“The biggest part for me was at Penn State, they were more do what the coaches say and they’re the head and you need to follow them. With coach Shehan he really made it about us. What we needed to do to develop, what we thought we needed to do to win, he acted a lot more like a mentor rather than a coach,” Nabholz says.
Nabholz did have to make some adjustments after coming over from Penn State. New program, new regimen and new coaches meant he had to significantly switch up his routine. He was now pitching to win, it wasn’t about him just going out there and performing the art of pitching, the element of wining was thrown into the mix in a way that it wasn’t at Penn State.
“The biggest thing was, it wasn’t me going out to pitch, it was going with a team and playing to win. Two, he gives us so much information, we use so much technology… so it was a lot easier to kind of see where we needed to develop and how to attack the batter,” Nabholz says. “We had so much technology at our disposal that it made it easy to go out and pitch.”
Nabholz came in from PSU and was dominant as soon as he took the mound. He hovered between a two and three ERA for three years and he attributes that to his coaches and his teammates.
“We said all the time, and it’s a big part of when you sign up to come to Millersville, the first thing your told is it’s a brotherhood, you don’t have to earn your way in. You come in and you get the advantage of being a Millersville Marauder. Once you’re on that team everyone welcomes you and trusts you,” Nabholz says.
Despite his dominance upon arriving at MU, Nabholz struggled with confidence. He says that with Shehan’s guidance, the program as a whole felt like a brotherhood, he soon found the confidence he was missing.
“I was a guy who lacked a lot of confidence coming in after my freshmen year at Penn State and I just came in playing with these guys I gained so much more confidence in myself. I knew I had guys behind me that were going to help me,” Nabholz says.
Although Nabholz spent his years at Millersville having big league scouts looking at him, his dream of being drafted into the MLB actually started in high school. That dream finally became a reality when he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019.
“It definitely started in high school. There was a kid drafted on my high school team who was one of my best friends, so we always had a lot of scouts who were at our high school games. When I got to college there were always guys there from my freshmen year all the way through my senior year. The guys in the area always love to get a big sample size on players,” Nabholz says.
While being drafted is very exciting, it is hardly the end of the learning process. For Nabholz, as for any player, bigger adjustments needed to be made both on and off the field. He is now playing pro ball and the life of a professional ball player can be very challenging. However, he claims he has adjusted very well to that kind of lifestyle.
“A lot of people have asked me this question and I can honestly say I have adjusted really well because of how coach Shehan handled things at Millersville,” Nabholz says. “At Millersville it’s all about culture and that sort of thing. But when it comes to how he develops players it’s very visual. So when I got here, I already knew how to use a lot of the technology. Even the mental side of the game we did so much mental training that when I got here, I was a lot further ahead than a lot of other kids who were drafted.”
Nabholz’s base that was built at Millersville prepared him well for professional baseball and coach Shehan designing the program the way he does made the transition for Nabholz and the other drafted players from MU much easier.
“Absolutely, it certainly helps that we have a bunch of guys over the past few years who are playing pro ball and we’ve always been in contact and they’ve come back for practices. We get to talk to them and see how it is, so we we’re definitely prepared for it,” Nabholz says.
While he managed to adjust off the field, on the field was a different story for Nabholz. He says that he was on the same level as the guys he was playing against, so psychically there wasn’t that much of an adjustment. His problem was getting over the mentality that he could have success at this level.
“This might sound a little backwards but the biggest adjustment I had was realizing the kids I was playing against aren’t really that much better than the kids I’ve played against in college,” Nabholz says.
Nabholz’s journey was a long but a successful one, starting out at Penn State, coming to Millersville and then finally achieving the dream of being drafted into the big leagues. His hard work paid off in the long run and as he prepares for the upcoming season his future looks bright.