CHEYENNE -- The majority of the fans sitting in the bleachers missed the first motion.

But when Longmont catcher Tory Hargash waved his glove hand out to the far left of home plate for a second time, Cheyenne Post 6 fans sitting in the Powers Field bleachers jeered and booed.

"Let ‘em play!"

"Bush league!"

Longmont pitcher Connor Messinger intentionally threw two more pitches outside the strike zone to complete the free pass. Tossing his bat back toward the Post 6 dugout, Brandon Nimmo hustled out of the left batter's box and down the first base line to take his base.

That's not the only attention Nimmo is getting these days.

"Every single game, we've had at least one scout show up," said Tanner Renner, Nimmo's American Legion teammate. "I remember last year it was a treat to have colleges show up. Now we have the head guys at the big leagues."

* * *

Renner stumbled upon the bat digging through his closet. Nimmo's classmate at Cheyenne East High School has held on to a collection of bats, going back to their early days of baseball.

They were both about 10-years old and at a tournament in Loveland, Colo., Renner recalled. Nimmo was ahead of him in the order and in one inning, they both hit shots off the fence, using that same bat.

"That was so cool," Renner recalled both thinking at the time.

But the bat -- a "little Midas 8 Platinum," Nimmo said -- came through the next time through the order.

"Bases loaded, [Nimmo] hits his first home," Renner said. "It's a grand slam."

"Yup, I hit my first grand slam and I think I went 0-for-17 after that, trying to hit another home run," Nimmo said. "So that was one of those lessons you learn, that home runs just come and you can't try for them."

Today, Nimmo hopes a home run finds him.

The Cheyenne East product could be a first-round draft pick in the MLB First-Year Year Player Draft. ESPN baseball draft guru Keith Law's mock draft posted Saturday had Tampa Bay selecting Nimmo with the 31st pick of the first round. Baseball America pegged him as the No. 37 prospect -- high school and college -- in the country.

It would prove historic if those projections hold true.

Never has a baseball player -- high school or college -- from the Cowboy State been drafted in the first round of the MLB draft. Even if Nimmo falls into the second round, he would still be the highest drafted prep prospect from the state of Wyoming.

Turns out, that grand slam was the first sign of things to come.

"Looking through my room, I found that old bat, that same bat that he hit his first home run with," Renner said. "That's got some memories right there."

* * *

The trip to the Nimmo household on the northeast side of Cheyenne isn't particularly noteworthy. It's a more or less a straight shot off Interstate 25, just a shade less than two miles off the highway.

The family's modest ranch house sits on the left, about 500 feet from the road, with a storage shed out back. There's a path cut specifically for long toss in the small field behind the shed.

That 60-by-40 foot shed is where Nimmo spent countless hours in the blustery Wyoming winters honing his swing.

It was also where Nimmo's chase of his older brother Bryce began.

Bryce owns most of Post 6's offensive records and was a three-year starter in centerfield at Nebraska. He was a member of the Cornhuskers' 2005 College World Series team, a team that included current major leaguers Alex Gordon (Kansas City Royals), Joba Chamberlain (New York Yankees) and Brian Duensing (Minnesota Twins).

"I was just chasing Bryce and, along the way, got noticed," Nimmo said.

That is how Post 6 coach Tagg Lain remembers the younger Nimmo, as a "gum hog" and a "happy, go-lucky kid" tagging around after his brother, who is eight years older.

"And probably his laugh," Lain added.

Nimmo's laugh, kind of a choppy bark, lights up his entire face and has a toothy grin to match. He answers questions with "Yes sir" more often than not, but he is keenly aware of his situation.

Watch him run the base paths and you understand why MLB scouts braved Wyoming winters for visits and consequently made return trips to watch Nimmo play during one of the more bitter springs to hit the state.

"The sporting goods store up there by Powers Field, it sold a lot of jackets from what I understand ... talking to scouts," Hall of Fame baseball writer and Cheyenne native Tracy Ringolsby said.

Nimmo is on pace to break most of Bryce's Post 6 records, doing in four years what his older brother did in five. Yet for all his accomplishments on the field, Lain said Nimmo's commitment has been just as remarkable.

"Most of all, I think, his loyalty to his teammates and his loyalty to this program has been impressive," Lain said. "He's taken it all in stride and just been a kid you dream about coaching."

* * *

Spring in Wyoming is barely hospitable for the high school sports of soccer and track and field, let alone baseball. The calendar has usually hit June by the time the wind stops howling and the threat of cold rain, sleet and snow has dissipated.

The state has never sponsored high school baseball. Even now, eight member high schools would have to petition the Wyoming High School Activities Association to sanction the sport. Along with Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota are on the only states to not sanction high school baseball.

American Legion Baseball sponsors 18 different under-19 programs, along with another eight junior programs, across the state. With cash-strapped school districts unlikely to take on the burden of funding an additional sport, especially given that community support already exists for the Legion programs, Legion baseball remains the best -- and sole -- option for athletes in Wyoming to pursue America's Pastime.

That leaves a finite number of opportunities for the state's baseball players to be noticed. For Nimmo's big break, he had to travel 1,700 miles.

Lain was named the manager of the American Legion team at USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars in Cary, N.C. He added Nimmo to the roster.

"I planned to take him if I could," Lain said. "And there wasn't any kickback because people knew what kind of player he was. We went right away and put him in the three-hole of the national Legion lineup. The first game out, he got three hits and produced.

"He's that kind of player. You can see it. He handles big situations very well."

Nimmo batted .400 and his five RBIs tied for the tournament lead, as he helped lead the Legion team to the tournament title game. That exposure led to an invitation to the 2010 Under Armour All-American game at Wrigley Field in Chicago later that summer.

Nimmo impressed, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored to earn MVP honors for the American Team.

"I've never thought of myself [as] much better than any of my teammates, honestly," Nimmo said of his Post 6 squad. "I've always thought that some of my teammates do things better than me.

"You look back on everything. Like the Under Armour game. I was watching that a year before. I was saying, ‘What would it be like to be one of those kids? To get that opportunity and to just play on that field?'

"Then you see the MVP guys afterwards and you're just like, ‘Those guys have it made. They're so good. They're so talented.' Then a year later, I'm sitting in that same exact spot.

"It's really weird to think about. Me and parents couldn't even believe it, when at the end of the game I got MVP, because it just didn't seem possible, I guess. This was the first time really a Wyoming kid had been to the game, let alone get MVP at the game.

"It's been a surreal experience. It is weird that it's happening to me."

* * *

His showings at the national events put Nimmo on the professional radar. Ringolsby, who is also a TV analyst for the Colorado Rockies, said he started hearing from MLB scouts and assistant general managers after the Under Armour game.

"He wasn't on the radar at all [before that]," Ringolsby said. "He went in and performed so well.

"He was the best player. He just really stood out. Once that starts to happen, the buzz gets real strong."

It wasn't a surprise for those who have seen him play for the last three-plus seasons.

"You just get that feeling [being] around him that he's a special, special kid," said Nate Perleberg, the coach of the Gillette Roughriders Legion team. "He's got a great head on his shoulders. He's going to go a long ways.

"He's got all the tools in the world. You just watch him play for a few innings and you see that. He's made the best out of the situations that he's been in."

Pro scouts are intrigued by his rangy 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame that has potential to add muscle and power. His fastest 60-yard dash time is 6.54 seconds and he was a state champion in the 400 meters during the indoor track season.

Nimmo's raw skills were enough to impress Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. When Arkansas assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Dave Butler saw Nimmo play, he told Van Horn this was "the guy."

"He could hit 1-2-3 in the order as a young player and he can do what we like to do which is run," said Van Horn, as Arkansas led the Southeastern Conference in stolen bases this year. "That's kind of what jumped out at us. He can run, he's athletic, he can hit."

Nimmo committed to the Razorbacks in November and for now, plans to attend school in Fayetteville, Ark.

"When he came on his official visit and we got be around him, that just made us want him even more because he's such a great kid and great person," said Van Horn, whose Razorbacks are 39-21 and playing in the NCAA Regionals. "He'll be a big, big-time leader on our team just by his work ethic and personality."

His strong hands and arm have pro scouts excited about his eventual prospects as a hitter and outfielder. But there are doubts.

Nimmo tore the ACL in his right knee in the season-opening game of the 2009 prep football season and was bothered by tendinitis in that same knee during Cheyenne's trip to Arizona for spring training.

Along with the knee, the other major concern is the quality of competition and top-level pitching -- or perceived lack-there-of -- that Nimmo has faced during his career.

But Post 6 plays arguably the toughest Legion schedule in the state, routinely making trips to Colorado to face quality Legion and all-star squads.

"The kid's flourished and done enough to impress people to where he's in an unprecedented position for a high school kid coming out of Wyoming," Casper Legion coach Bobby Schoonover said.

* * *

When Nimmo hears his name called during the draft, he'll have to decide whether to pursue the dream of playing professional baseball or head to Arkansas.

Nimmo admitted that the draft can be a "funny thing" and noted that only the Pittsburgh Pirates -- who own the first overall pick -- truly know what's going to happen today.

"Some people can price themselves out of the draft," Nimmo said. "A lot of things can happen. Just because I'm getting this much attention doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to get drafted.

"Who really knows? What I've been hearing is anywhere from first round ... to the second round. If that happens, that'll be great. I'll have a real tough decision to make, but it'll be fun.

"I hope that it's clear which decision to make. I'm just really looking forward to it. I've been kind of working for this for 18 years. It's a big time in my life and a big, big dream and hopefully the start of another."

The number required to buy Nimmo out of college has been rumored to be anywhere from $2 to $3 million. Kevin Goldstein, a national writer for Baseball Prospectus and ESPN, tweeted Friday that Nimmo's pre-draft bonus letter asked for $3 million.

"The sad thing is you've got to put a money figure on it," said Nimmo, who will watch the draft, which starts at 5 p.m., with friends and family in Fort Collins, Colo. "You've got to say, ‘What's college worth?'"

* * *

Nimmo and Post 6 didn't get a chance for payback on that intentional walk from last Friday against Longmont. Cheyenne surrendered 11 runs in the final three innings and lost to the Twins 14-13.

Cheyenne led 10-3 in the bottom of the fourth inning at the time of Nimmo's free pass, and with runners at first and third, a monster swing by Nimmo could've ended the game right there.

But the message was clear: Longmont was not going to give Nimmo the chance.

"I know I'm ready," Nimmo said without hesitation, when asked if he's prepared for professional baseball. "I'm ready -- mentally, physically. I've told [my dad, Ron] a few times, ‘It's OK. If they give me the right amount, I'm ready to go.'

"I'll take care of myself. I have no doubt that I'll be able to take care of myself.

"I'm ready. But that doesn't mean I can't go to college for three years and get more ready for [professional baseball]. And having a bunch of fun and playing in front 9,000 fans ... and enjoying college."

The Midas 8 Platinum has long been retired, but one of life's grand slams is possibly staring Nimmo directly in the face.

After Renner told the story of that bat, it was suggested that maybe someday it could be worth something. Renner said he would rather give it as a gift to Nimmo.

"Good luck or congrats for being who you are," Renner said. "The kid's amazing."

Reach Sports Editor Zack Creglow at 307-266-0573 or zack.creglow@trib.com. Read his blog at http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/creglow/. Follow him on Twitter @ZackCreglow.

 

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