MESA, Ariz. -- There is no quit in Chad Nading. Since graduating from East High School in Anchorage, Alaska, in 2006 as a highly regarded right-handed pitching prospect, Nading has pitched at the highest level collegiately and has even got a taste of what life's like as a professional ballplayer, albeit at the lowest levels. Yet he just keeps chasing his dream.
The second week of March found Nading helping coach the team from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Notre Dame Prep High School at this year's Cleats Classic Tournament, which was played at several sites across the Valley. Perfect Game scouting supervisor/director of high school coverage Todd Gold spotted Nading -- at 6-foot-5, 225-pounds, he was easily recognizable among the high school players -- at the Gene Autry Sports Complex before Notre Dame Prep played in one of the tournament's semifinal games.
When asked by PG what he was up to, Nading shared some breaking news: Just the day before he had been offered a free agent contract by the Boston Red Sox.
"I've been traveling around the country playing baseball since I graduated from UNLV, and I found out that Arizona is kind of the baseball Mecca and this is where I need to be to train and play and meet the right people," he said. "I got the opportunity to come coach at Notre Dame Prep and I was put in touch with the Red Sox and, sure enough, I'm going to sign a free-agent contract with them."
Nading is going to stay with Notre Dame Prep until April 4 and then will leave for Fort Myers, Fla., to take part in extended spring training with the Red Sox. He was previously operating the Alaska Baseball Academy in Anchorage and through some contacts has been serving as Notre Dame Prep's pitching coach since last fall.
"It's one of those things in baseball where you have to take advantage of every opportunity, and these kids understand it and respect it," Nading said. "They like seeing anyone get an opportunity at the next level, including coaches.
"I'm used to working with kids, and being a player I feel like I understand what they're going through with the training part and dealing with scouts, and it's been a lot of fun for me."
Nading spent some time throwing a short bullpen session in front of a couple of scouts before that game in the Cleats Classic Invitational, and his fastball reached the mid-90s mph range.
"I want to stay ready because when I head down to extended spring training, (the Red Sox) are going to expect me to be ready to go," he said. "I'm showing the (Notre Dame Prep players) by example that I'm staying ready and I'm running with them and I'm doing all the things it takes day to day."
This has been an interesting journey for Nading. He was born and raised in Anchorage, and was a four-sport star at the city's East High School. He lettered in baseball four times -- he was also a four-time letterman in football where he was the Thunderbirds' starting quarterback -- and was named first-team all-league as both a pitcher and first baseman his senior year.
In late April of 2006, Nading was encouraged to attend the PG Spring Top Prospect Showcase at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He was listed at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds and ranked 485th nationally in the class of '06 when he walked out onto Perfect Game Field on April 22, 2006, and his appearance was highly anticipated. The event had previously helped raise the profiles of future big-leaguers Ryan Sweeney and Jeremy Hellickson -- both Iowans -- and scouts were eager to see if the tall kid from Alaska could make a similar impression.
His post-showcase PG scouting report noted that Nading "has the type of lean, athletic build that you look for in a young pitching prospect" and that he "has good arm speed and nice projectability if he can make some mechanical adjustments." Nading's fastball sat consistently in the 84-86 mph range at the event and topped out at 87.
Nading remembered the Spring Top experience as a positive one.
"I threw pretty well and I got to hit a little bit," he recalled. "And after that showcase, I did get drafted, so it was worth the trip."
Nading was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 36th round of the 2006 MLB June Amateur Draft right out of East High School. He didn't sign professionally, and instead headed to Oregon State where he was a member of the Beavers' 2007 NCAA Division I National Championship team as a red-shirt freshman.
He left Oregon State the following year and pitched one season at Skagit Valley Community College in Mount Vernon, Wash. He then transferred to UNLV where he pitched in 2009 and 2010, returning to school for his senior season in 2010 after being drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 37th round of 2009 MLB draft.
After earning his degree from UNLV , Nading signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres and in 2010 appeared in six games (5 2/3 innings) with the Padres' Arizona Rookie League affiliate. He pitched 5 1/3 innings in seven games with Gateway in the independent Frontier League in 2011 and seven innings over four games with San Angelo in the independent North American Baseball League in 2012. The results were not good: in those 18 professional innings, Nading gave up 34 hits and 37 earned runs (18.50 ERA) while striking out 13 and walking 23.
"I had some mechanical issues and some inconsistencies, and I feel like I really didn't come into myself until right about now," he said. "I'm 25 years old and I'm kind of feeling as young right now as I ever have, and I'm going to keep chasing it as long as I can."
Nading likes to remind MLB scouts and front office personnel that while he may be 25 years old -- he turns 26 in July -- his arm feels much younger.
"Being from Alaska, I didn't throw nearly as much as the average (high school) pitcher," he said. "I threw limited innings because our summer season was (short) and I played baseball, basketball, football and track, so I never over-did it. I feel like at my age, at 25, I feel like I'm 20 years old in terms of innings; my history kind of explains that too, with my inconsistencies, that I really didn't throw a whole lot."
As Nading has gotten involved with coaching, he feels like his baseball IQ has increased right along with his velocity and other aspects of his physical game.
"This kind of stuff helps me a lot -- just coaching these kids," he said. "They all want to see a guy that can throw 95, so they want to play catch with me and feel what it feels like to catch it. I get to be out on the field all day working with kids and being a kid myself, and it's amazing how much more you learn coaching than you do playing.
"You're so used to hearing other coaches tell you things and you're trying to put together a collective approach to what you're doing, and I didn't really understand that until I started coaching."
Nading said the Red Sox told him they believe he has a lot of valuable innings left in him, and they want to bring him in and let him throw from the arm-slot he feels comfortable with. Now he just needs to go out and prove himself.
"They told me that if I throw well I could earn myself a job," Nading said. "Stranger things have happened; there are independent league guys that make it to the big leagues every year, guys that just come out of nowhere. This is basically going to be a job interview for me."
It's an important job interview, to be sure, and regardless of things work out it won't be his last. There is no quit in Chad Nading, never has been, dating back to the day in 2006 he walked out on Perfect Game Field in Cedar Rapids right up until he walks out on the field at the Red Sox's jetBlue Park in Fort Myers next month.
"If I can still throw 94-95, I can't really hang up the cleats yet. It would have to come down to an injury or something like that," he said. "There are no family issues -- I have the best family in the world, and they keep pushing me out and telling me to stay away from Alaska as long as you can -- just keep chasing it."