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How a 98-mile-per-hour fastball landed UMass Dartmouth’s Nate Tellier a deal with the Red Sox

With increased velocity on his fastball and better control during his junior season at UMass Dartmouth, Nate Tellier popped with a 1.80 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 29 innings.
With increased velocity on his fastball and better control during his junior season at UMass Dartmouth, Nate Tellier popped with a 1.80 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 29 innings.UMass Dartmouth athletics

Nate Tellier had one inning to show major league scouts his stuff last week in an amateur showcase run by Red Sox and Yankee scouts held at the University of Hartford.

Fittingly, Tellier had to wait until the final inning to pitch in the Kelly Rodman Summer Rivalry Classic. But once the 5-foot-11, 195-pound righthander took the mound, and put his 98-mile-per-hour fastball on display, he promptly struck out the side in order, with 11 strikes on 13 pitches.

The 22-year-old Attleboro High grad thought he put himself in a good position to sign a minor league deal next year.

However, later in the day, Ray Fagnant, the Red Sox amateur scouting crosschecker in the Northeast, , asked to meet Tellier at his house on Tuesday. There, he presented Tellier with a three-year free agent contract.

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“Ray said ’Hey do you want to be a Boston Red Sox’ and I was like ’Yeah I do,’”said Tellier.

“He had a contract with my name on it and I was like ’no way’. It was crazy, it was unreal. I wasn’t expecting it at all and I called my parents right after to tell them. The fact that it’s the Red Sox makes it all the better.”

Fagnant said that he could have made the offer over the phone, “but I wanted to be there in person to see the look in his eyes when I offered him the contract . . . it’s all your dream about your entire life. When someone offers you that chance, you get really excited, really scared. It’s just a remarkable combination of emotions.”

Norting that Tellier also played center field and second base in college, Fagnant said “when he’s able to concentrate on pitching, I think he’s going to take off . . . it’s power stuff,” he said.

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“We believed in him,” added Fagnant. “We did our homework, albeit accelerated. It’s a good feeling.”

Entering his senior season at UMass Dartmouth this past spring, Tellier was ranked as the fourth best Division III prospect in the nation by Perfect Game. But when the Corsairs’ season was cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic (Tellier had pitched five innings), followed by the MLB Draft being shortened from 40 rounds to five, he was not sure if a professional opportunity would present itself this year.

He workedout at a private facility during quarantine, and then joined the Brockton Rox in the Futures League. In 11 relief appearances, Tellier compiled a 3.17 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 11.1 innings.

Last Thursday, as Tellier waited in the dugout for eight innings to pitch, he admitted nerves began to creep in. He chatted with teammates to stay loose before going through his pregame throwing routine in the bullpen. Adrenaline took over when he toed the rubber.

“I’m just glad all the work paid off and I performed when all eyes were on me,” said Tellier. “The whole summer season really helped me further my talent. It gets you on another level.”

At UMass Dartmouth, Tellier thrived as a two-way player. As a sophomore outfielder, he hit .382 with 37 RBIs and 13 doubles, but posted a 5.87 ERA in 15.1 innings. With increased velocity on his fastball and better control during his junior season, Tellier popped with a 1.80 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 29 innings.

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In 2019, he struck out nearly two batters per inning for the Marthas Vineyard Sharks in the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

UMass Dartmouth coach Bob Prince said Tellier’s biggest development was his changeup and curveball, which helped turn him into a complete pitcher.

“Physically, the transformation was the kid who was a thrower to a pitcher,” said Prince. “He’s always a kid that got after it in the weight room, flexibility, and then he tightened up his mechanics. When I was talking to Ray [Fagnant], he said the difference maker was the breaking ball. If anyone could do it, Nate is certainly a guy I wouldn’t bet against. His goal coming into college was to play professional baseball and to see someone realize their dreams and achieve them is special.”

Growing up a Red Sox fan, Tellier’s favorite player was Dustin Pedroia. In March, Tellier will report to spring training in Fort Myers, hoping to carving out a pro career with his hometown team.

“Growing up watching these guys on TV, I always said I wanted to play there one day and be them,” said Tellier. “Now they are giving me an opportunity to prove myself with the Red Sox. It’s crazy. It’s awesome. I’m so excited.”

Staff writer Alex Speier also contributed to this story.