Nelson "Coach Nelly" Gonzalez at a Perfect Game event in Houston in March 2024. Nelson “Coach Nelly” Gonzalez at a Perfect Game event in Houston in March 2024. (Perfect Game.)

There’s a new and notable podcast coming to Perfect Game. That organization, the world’s largest youth baseball and softball platform and scouting service (which produces almost 10,000 events yearly), has made some significant moves recently to expand their content offerings. Their latest one is partnering with famed youth travel baseball coach and influencer Nelson “Coach Nelly” Gonzalez and his Step Up media company (which he co-owns with Home Team Sports).

That partnership between Step Up and Perfect Game will start with The Step Up Podcast, hosted by Gonzalez and Allie Hinkley. It will debut on Perfect Game’s platforms, including (also available as a free ad-supported streaming television channel on Roku channel 237, Fubo, Vizio and more) and the PGTV app Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET, and will air there every other Tuesday in that time slot.

The first episode of The Step Up Podcast will feature Miami Marlins’ All-Star center fielder Jazz Chisholm as a special guest. Other announced guests over the next months include Marlins’ outfielder Nick Gordon, Miami Hurricanes’ outfielder Blake Cyr, and former AL MVP Mo Vaughn (who was one of 21 current and former MLB players announced as a new Perfect Game investor earlier this month).

Ahead of the podcast launch, Gonzalez, Perfect Game CEO Rob Ponger, Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher Zach Eflin, and former Philadelphia Phillies’ All-Star outfielder Domonic Brown spoke to AA via email about the partnership. The latter three also spoke on why Gonzalez is an important figure in the sport. Brown called Gonzalez the “gold standard” for his work with Florida Travel Baseball.

“Nobody does more studying that he does. All the best kids from state to state, all over the country, he knows all about them. When you look at the resume of the FTB program, you’ve got names like Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez that are alumni of that program. The list goes on and on. FTB might have the most first rounders since 2009. FTB has really brought it over the years and Nelly is the gold standard.”


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Brown said Gonzalez combines flash and substance in a way that’s not often seen.

“When you are take two important dynamics into account—swagger and professionalism—Nelly has them both. From the chains to the clothing to the earrings to the tattoos, he’s everything you want when you talk about youth travel ball.”

Eflin said Gonzalez is great for youth baseball for the variety of experience he can bring to young athletes.

“Nelly brings energy, leadership and passion to the youth baseball culture. It’s very important to having coaches like Nelly in youth baseball because he brings not only on-field playing experience but off-the-field as well. Nelly knows how to lead and inspire young men to be their best on and off the field.”


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And Ponger said Gonzalez is a great fit for Perfect Game to partner with, and someone who brings a needed perspective to the sport.

“Nelly obviously has a baseball background with his FTB travel team, so all of us at Perfect Game are very familiar with him. He and his father are longtime friends of Perfect Game. Nelly has also developed into a personality and is a social media influencer in the youth baseball world who brings a cultural diversity that, frankly, is lacking across the sport. Nelly definitely has a strong presence and a cool factor and Perfect Game wants to make baseball cool again.”

Gonzalez said Perfect Game was the right outlet for him to team with here given their interest in improving youth baseball.

“For me, Perfect Game was a perfect partner because they are committed to change the culture and the environment for the kids involved in youth baseball. Throughout my coaching career, which started 11 years ago, PG has shown the willingness to change the culture and I’m excited to see where this goes.”

He said the Step Up podcast will focus on how top players got to where they’re at, which fits with Perfect Game’s mission.

“When I first came up with the podcast, I just wanted to show baseball players in a new light. I want them to talk not just about their careers, but also their journeys to get there.”

Gonzalez said he also wants to see baseball become more diverse, a regular conversation around the sport (including at the youth levels). And he thinks he can help play a role there.

“Baseball is the greatest game in the world, but we want to bring in new audiences, a new demographic, if you will. Let’s make baseball cool again and grow the game as far we can grow it. I don’t want to just talk about change, I want to be a part of it.”

Nelson "Coach Nelly" Gonzalez, Jazz Chisholm, and Allie Hinkley on The Step Up Podcast.
Nelson “Coach Nelly” Gonzalez, Jazz Chisholm, and Allie Hinkley on The Step Up Podcast. (Perfect Game.)

Gonzalez has built up an audience of more than 105,000 followers on Instagram, including a ton of past and present MLB stars. He said social media wasn’t an intentional focus for him at first, but he recognized its value to helping spread his baseball messages once it started to take off.

“The whole social media presence happened by accident, but it ended up showing me that it can give anyone a brand and help spread whatever message you want out there. In this case, it’s all about baseball,” he said. “The best thing about it is I can assist in pushing out a player and help change that child’s life, whether in terms of exposure, financially or both. It’s always going to be way more about the kids than it’ll ever be about me.”


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Gonzalez said he does feel a responsibility to be careful with what he posts given that audience, though,

“The challenge about having a large social media following is that you are under a microscope. Kids will make mistakes, we all did and we all do. Unfortunately, one wrong move can have a huge negative impact on your career or the career you hope to have.”

But he also sees that as something he can teach to the kids he works with.

“Your judgement at any given moment can possibly affect your life in a way you didn’t intend it to. So, I really try to drive that point home with the kids. Be very careful of what you’re posting on social media because once it’s out there for the world to see, it’s not coming back.”

As for his overall coaching approach, Gonzalez said he focuses on trying to build relationships with his players and keep them positive.

“As a coach, I like to say I’m a ‘player’s coach’ and a ‘relationship guy.’ I will never yell at anyone on the field or show up any of my players. You hear it all the time that even the best baseball players fail 70% of the time, so I don’t expect the players on my team to be perfect.

“I want to make the game fun and relax. I’m not here to make it a job for them too early. For some of them, it could be their last moment of high school baseball and I want them to make it as fun as possible.”


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Gonzalez has coached and seen many players who grew up to be elite athletes over the years. He said Chisholm, that first podcast guest, stood out to him as someone who was going places early.

“I remember seeing Jazz at a showcase event, I think it was 13U. He was just a little guy, but he was ripping baseballs out of the park. He was, maybe, 130 lbs. but he was a small guy with quick actions and plus power. He blew us away and it was then we knew we were watching a future star.”

Other memories that stand out for him involve coaching sons of former manager Joe Girardi and former All-Star Andruw Jones.

“Another great memory was when I was coaching Joe Girardi’s son, Dante, in the WWBA (World Wood Bat Association). Dante was a runner at second base and the batter hit the ball through the third baseman’s legs, but the shortstop was backing him up and got to the ball quickly. Dante didn’t hesitate. He rounded third and never stopped until he crossed home plate. The shortstop made a great throw home but Dante was safe and scored the winning run for us. That was a cool memory for us to share with Joe Girardi and his family.

“Everyone remembers Andruw Jones, the center fielder for the Braves. Well, his son, Druw, is also an outfielder in the Diamondbacks system. One time I was coaching Druw in a tournament in Palm Beach and I ran out of players, so I asked him to play third base for us. The batter hits a screamer down the third base line and Druw makes a diving player across the line and gets the kid at first base. None of us even knew he could play infield. We threw him into the fire in a playoff game and he came up big.”

As per the Step Up podcast, Gonzalez said he plans to feature athletes from other sports as well and emphasize culture.

“I want people to expect culture with the podcast. Expect a hip hop feel. I want them to expect athletes from every sport, not just baseball. I want them to know there are no boundaries around the Step Up. We are going to have a lot of fun.”


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Ponger said he thinks Gonzalez could provide inspiration for young athletes even beyond baseball.

“Ultimately we want to bring the best of sports and lifestyle across all cultures. And we think the podcast, with Perfect Game’s support, is going to bring the best youth baseball players in the country to one of the coolest guys in the game. We think this will transcend into other youth sports as well.”

The podcast is only part of a larger Perfect Game partnership with The Step Up LLC, but Ponger said it’s a key part of that, and will help Perfect Game connect with that audience of young players.

“The podcast is one element of Perfect Game’s partnership with Step Up and one of many things we are working on with them, which includes merchandise and on-site activations. That said, we are big believers in Nelly as a personality and we think the podcast will be a great way to connect with kids who are listening to and watching podcasts more than they watching traditional TV.”

He said podcasts show off personalities in a way other media forms don’t always, and Gonzalez is a great fit there.

“Podcasts are popular for a reason. They are authentic and real and oftentimes very entertaining and Nelly brings all of those factors, plus an edge and cultural diversity to baseball that we feel is lacking in the space right now.”

And Ponger said he thinks Gonzalez fits in well with what Perfect Game is trying to do overall.

“Perfect Game is leading the charge in youth sports to be a lifestyle brand and a cultural diversity brand. Nelly is a rising media personality that we believe will be household name very soon. He’s part of the team that is making youth baseball cool.”

The Step Up podcast will premiere on Perfect Game’s platforms at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.