On the first day of the 2023 MLB draft, shortstop Arjun Nimmala was drafted to the Toronto Blue Jays as the 20th overall pick. At 17 years old, Nimmala made history by becoming the first first-generation Indian American to be drafted by an MLB team.
Growing up, Nimmala had played soccer, basketball and occasionally cricket during his visits to India. But after understanding his abilities, he decided to make a serious decision to focus solely on baseball.
“At the age of 12 is when I first [knew], it was really young when I realized there was a good bit of talent in the way I play,” Nimmala said in an interview at the MLB Draft Combine.
After making the decision to focus on his baseball career, Nimmala played his first high school season at Strawberry Crest High School in Dover, Florida. At just 14 years old, and after only a few months of travel ball, Nimmala committed to Florida State. From there, his career skyrocketed.
During his senior year, Nimmala batted a .479, 29 RBI, a slugging percentage of .904 along with 30 runs scored and six home runs. His impressive stats also netted him Gatorade Player of the Year in Florida, as well as an Under Armour All-American and first-team All-Conference selection.
Nimmala’s stats have impressed MLB teams and players alike. Leading up to the draft, Nimmala trained with his idol, New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor.
“I got to work out with him in the off-season,” Nimmala said during the Combine, “It’s pretty cool, he teaches me a lot about baseball and the mentality [needed].”
With his impressive records and experiences, he also brings a unique background to the major leagues. Both of Nimmala’s parents, Balu and Neeru, are immigrants from India, specifcally from Andhra Pradesh.
Balu, Arjun’s father, was involved with track and field, as well as cricket and basketball. His mother had been both a volleyball and basketball player. The two of them created the opportunity to raise a future MLB player by moving to the United States in 2000 and settling down in Florida, a place they soon called home.
While growing up, the Nimmala family took frequent visits to India, where he honed in on his cricket skills, but also where he was able to take a piece of his culture and understand the importance and significance of his position in the athletic community and what that meant to represent his family’s culture.
Nimmala sees himself as the first first-generation Indian American to be drafted, but not the last. To finish his Combine interview, Nimmala said, “Hopefully one day, you know, I can inspire young Indian Americans to play and get more Indians in the sport.”