Just 17, Terrace pitcher Nic Neid is making a name for himself in provincial fastball circles. (Staff photo)

Just 17, Terrace pitcher Nic Neid is making a name for himself in provincial fastball circles. (Staff photo)

Terrace teen pitcher aspires to greater competition

Nic Neid has also overcome eye infection to excel at his sport

At just 17, Terrace teen fastball pitcher Nic Neid is catching the attention of people close to the sport around the province, the country and soon, he hopes, the same will happen overseas.

A product of the Terrace Minor Softball Association, which itself is developing a provincial gold medal-winning reputation at nurturing and turning out quality players and teams, Neid left his age group behind several years ago to challenge himself to greater competition.

“At 14, I began playing older people,” said Nic.

This past summer he was tapped to be on the pitching squad of the B.C. men’s team at the Canada Summer Games on Ontario’s Niagra Peninsula.

“It was a great experience,” said Neid of the competitive level in Ontario. “It was a bit intimidating but I really enjoyed it. The people on the team were very, very supportive.”

“If I can go there, hopefully that might mean the same for more kids from Terrace.”

And it wasn’t just Nic representing Terrace on the team — father Bruce was an assistant manager and trainer Cameron Fagan, a chiropractor from Skeena Sport and Spine, also made the trip back east.

In the run up to the Canada Summer Games, Nic appeared in four games in a Vancouver men’s fastball league and played with the Witset (formerly Moricetown) Arrows in a tournament in Burns Lake. The Arrows placed second and Nic was named best pitcher.

“I wanted to test myself,” said Nic of reaching into a higher level of competition.

Nic started playing ball when he was nine, crediting father Bruce for encouraging him and working with him to hone his craft with details such as the right grip to use.

“We go out all the time in the off season and just pitch. It’d say we do that 50 times, just doing that,” said Nic.

He will also throw a weighted softball during training to build up his stamina and strength.

Nic’s progression as a player also represents overcoming a medical condition in 2018 called orbital cellulitis, an infection that travelled to his brain which then resulted in double vision.

It meant two weeks in hospital, seven weeks of IV antibiotics, five months of oral antibiotics and two surgeries. The first surgery was to relieve pressure on the eye and the second resulted in an improvement to double vision. Nic said he has since adapted.

“I really don’t notice it in my day to day life anymore,” he said.

“I’m right-handed and so that has worked out,” he said of coping with double vision while pitching.

Nic’s pitching specialty is a ball that rises the closer it gets to the plate so as to make it extremely difficult for a batter to judge its approach.

And while Major League Baseball may dwell on fast balls of 100 miles an hour, the fastball pitching mound is closer to home plate, reducing a batter’s reaction time.

“It’s bat speed. That’s what it is,” said Nic in describing the duel between a pitcher and batter in which the former tries to throw off the latter.

Now in Grade 12 and considering his next steps, Nic will continue to play at higher levels.

Father Bruce has fastball connections around the province and that’s already helped Nic’s entry into more competitive fastball.

It’s meant, for example, as an opportunity to play with the Vanderhoof Rippers, a senior-level team that appeared at the provincial championships this year.

While men’s softball does have limitations in Canada, that’s not the case elsewhere.

And that means, after graduation, Nic is considering a move to New Zealand.

There’s already a tradition of Canadian fastball players playing — and earning money — in that country.

“I’d like to do that for maybe four months,” Nic said of the potential to play in New Zealand.

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