He got back into Minor League baseball hoping to share that experience with others. Now, he's rising the organizational ladder. The Tigers officially promoted Nevin to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday, announcing his hire as the Mud Hens' new manager at an afternoon press conference at Fifth Third Field.
Nevin succeeds Larry Parrish, who managed the Hens for eight years before being named as Atlanta's new hitting coach last month. The Tigers search inside and outside the organization for his replacement, but came around to player development director Mike Rojas' belief that Nevin has what it takes to succeed.
"Just getting to know him over the last year, we felt that he had the knowledge and the understand of how we want to develop our players," Tigers vice president/general manager Al Avila said. "We emphasize that we want to win at Toledo, but at the same time, we also want to develop players. And we feel that he has the ability to lead the players to be winners, but also not lose the sight of the fact that we also want to develop the players to be winners.
"We felt he has the personality, the drive, the desire, certainly the inner confidence to be able to handle different personalities with the players on the field, in the clubhouse, outside. He had the right qualities in our mind."
The hire brings Nevin back to the club where he played briefly in 1995 and '97 after the Astros traded the former top overall pick to the Tigers. At that point, he was a former top prospect struggling to stick in the big leagues.
Nevin feels he can relate those experiences to players, both top prospects and youngsters trying to break through.
"I understand what they go through," he said. "I understand how they're looked at in a little bit different way. The bonus baby, so to speak. But it's how they handle those things that maybe I can help a little bit. I didn't handle it very well when I was, and that probably helps me out a little more with that."
Nevin joined the organization last year as the manager at Double-A Erie, a move made at former Tigers player development director Glenn Ezell's recommendation after Nevin spent 2009 managing in independent ball. Nevin wanted a shot, and the Tigers gave it to him. While the SeaWolves finished 66-76, the record was a little deceiving. They got off to a terrible start, losing their first eight games, and played close to .500 ball the rest of the way.
Avila said that made an impression on club officials. The team began to gel after the rough start, and then Nevin had to repeat the process with an influx of new players after midseason.
"To tell you the truth, that's one of the things that really solidified our opinion on him," Avila said. "He was very strong, very resilient."
The 39-year-old Nevin played in Toledo in 1995 after he was the player to be named later from Houston in the Mike Henneman trade. He was a Mud Hen again in 1997 before the Tigers traded him to the Angels. He also was a Tiger in 1996 and '97. As he pointed out, he did not get to play at Fifth Third Field, since it was several years from being built. His Hens days came at Ned Skeldon Stadium in Maumee.
Nevin said he has been in touch with Parrish several times over the last couple weeks.
Tigers player development director Rojas said they'll embark on a new search for Nevin's successor in Erie, which will have its third different manager in as many years and fourth in five seasons. Like the Mud Hens opening, this search will include a look at candidates inside and outside the organization.