By STEVE KRAH
Nolan Earley is in his third season of independent professional baseball.
While the lefty-swinging outfielder is driven to get back into Major League Baseball-affiliated ball, he is enjoying where he is now.
“It’s a great facility and the community is really supportive,” says Earley, 27, “This is a competitive league.”
Earley played at Brooklyn Little League in Anderson until age 12 and travel ball with the Indiana Bulls from 13 to 18. He also competed for Anderson High School and the University of South Alabama and then in the Chicago White Sox organization before joining the Miners in 2016.
“I remember his enthusiasm for baseball,” says Nolan Earley of Turner. “He’s probably one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. All the positive energy spreads throughout the team.
“I really enjoyed playing for him.”
At USA, Earley appeared in 201 games in four seasons with a .318 average, 11 homers, 138 RBIs, 53 doubles and 220 runs.
“I learned a lot from both of them,” says Earley. “(Kittrell) had an old-school look to the game. He all preached playing hard and control the things you can control.
“(Calvi) talked about being positive about the game. He had that hard-nosed mentality, but wanted you to keep your composure on the field.
“If stay positive and you can go a long way.”
Calvi was an assistant on the University of South Carolina staff when the Gamecocks won the 2010 College World Series. The next season, he became a South Alabama assistant and took over as head coach for the 2012 season.
Earley was selected in the 22nd round of the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the White Sox and signed by scout Warren Hughes. The outfielder saw time at Short Season Class-A Bristol, Low-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem through 2015. In 181 games in the affiliated minors, he hit .283 with five homers, 37 doubles, 76 RBIs and 62 runs.
Nolan was released out of spring training in 2016 and hooked on with the Miners — a team brother Michael hit .325 for in 96 games in 2015 after he was let go by the White Sox at the end of the 2014 season.
Michael Earley, a rigthy-hitting outfielder, graduated from Anderson High in 2006 and played one season at the University of Cincinnati and three at Indiana University before being drafted in the 29th round by the White Sox in 2010. After scout Mike Shirley signed him, Michael logged five seasons in the system, getting up to Triple-A Charlotte for 27 games in 2013.
Both Earley brothers have gotten instruction from and worked for Shirley at his Pro Source Baseball facility — aka “The Barn” — in Lapel, Ind.
Michael gave his endorsement of the Miners to his little brother.
“He definitely has a lot of influence when I make decisions,” says Nolan of Michael. “He told me how well he enjoyed this place. I’ve enjoyed everything about it.”
In 96 games in 2016, Nolan hit .291 with nine homers, 20 doubles, 70 RBIs and 53 runs.
The 2017 season saw him in 95 games and batting .264 with 11 homers, 16 doubles, 45 RBIs and 43 runs.
Through 56 games in 2018, Earley was hitting .264 with seven homers, 16 doubles, 21 runs batted in and 31 runs scored.
Mike Pinto is the longtime Miners manager.
“He’s definitely one of the most competitive field I’ve ever met,” says Earley. “He loves to win and hates to lose.
“If you’re going to play this game, you’ve got to have that feeling.”
Since there’s an age limit in the Frontier League, this season will be Earley’s last. If he is not picked up by an MLB organization, he has his sights on the independent Atlantic League or American Association.
Michael Earley is heading into his third year as an assistant baseball coach at Arizona State University, where Indiana native and former Indiana University head coach Tracy Smith is in charge of the Sun Devils.
Smith has turned over hitting coach duties to Earley.
Nolan gets pointers from Michael on the phone or makes a trek to Arizona to work with him.
“I take as much information as a I can and add it toward my game,” says Nolan, who enjoys learning things and holds a history degree from South Alabama.
Kevin and Tammy Earley are parents to Michael (married with children) and Nolan (single).
Nolan Earley, a 2009 Anderson (Ind.) High School graduate, is now in his third season with the independent Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League. (Veronica Francis Photo)
Nolan Earley celebrates after scoring a run for the Southern Illinois Miners. Earley is graduated for Anderson (Ind.) High School and the University of South Alabama and played in the Chicago White Sox organization. (Southern Illinois Miners Photo)