Jim Neidlinger (Trading Card DB)

Jim Neidlinger

This article was written by Len Pasculli

Jim Neidlinger (Trading Card DB)Baseball brought Jim Neidlinger across the country from Napa, California, where he was named to the high school All-County team in two consecutive years, to Burlington, Vermont, where, as of 2024, he was the head baseball coach at Saint Michael’s College. In between, he pitched professionally for 11 seasons from 1984 to 1994. In August and September of 1990, his only season in the majors, he won five games for the Los Angeles Dodgers as they chased but failed to catch the Cincinnati Reds for the National League West pennant.

When he reflected on his career, Neidlinger acknowledged his good fortune: “The game of baseball has given me so much,” he said.1

James Llewellyn Neidlinger III (pronounced NĪD-lin-gǝr) was born on September 24, 1964, in Vallejo, California, about 30 miles north of San Francisco. He was raised in Napa, about 14 miles north of Vallejo. He and his younger brother Damon were born to Sharon Kay (Mayfield) and James Llewellyn Neidlinger Jr., who was in the service and stationed near Vallejo when the couple met. The plan was that his father would take over Lynnhaven Realty, the Neidlinger family’s real estate business in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Instead, James Jr. – a hobbyist who enjoyed working on automobiles and other mechanical things – was killed in a dune buggy accident in Hilton Head on July 19, 1970, at the age of 29; his sons were five and four years old.2

Neidlinger’s mother, Sharon, was 18 years old when she married in 1963. She moved to Napa with the two boys to be near her parents, Ross and Morene Mayfield. Sharon worked in retail all her life, mostly at AGE and Mervyn’s, two California-based department stores, and never remarried. At the time of this writing, she lived in Windsor, California, to be near her son Damon. “My mother worked hard,” Neidlinger said. “She gave everything to her two boys.”

Every summer as soon as baseball season was over, Neidlinger and his brother flew across country – by themselves – from Napa to Hilton Head to visit their paternal grandparents, James and Johnnie Neidlinger. The visits got shorter when the baseball seasons got longer as the two boys advanced through youth baseball.

At Napa High School, Neidlinger played basketball and baseball. (His brother Damon also played baseball there.) The switch-hitting first baseman/right-handed pitcher was selected to the All-County team in both his junior (1981) and senior (1982) years. “At one point I was chasing the school record for batting average set by Bill Buckner,” Neidlinger said. But pitching was Neidlinger’s strong suit.

He enrolled at The College of Marin, a two-year community college in Kentfield, California, and played for Al Endriss, Marin’s legendary coach, who played a big role in developing Neidlinger during his only season of college baseball.

In 1981-1983 Neidlinger also played in the Napa Valley Joe DiMaggio League, a summer circuit for 16- to 18-year-olds in which both he and his brother Damon excelled. The elder Neidlinger was named to the State Tournament of Champions team in the three years he played in the league. (Damon subsequently played for Napa Valley College and California State University Dominguez Hills.)

As Jim Neidlinger’s 6-foot-4, 175-pound frame filled out and the speed of his pitches approached the high 80s, scouts began to notice. California Angels scouting director Larry Himes and local Pittsburgh Pirates scout Bart Braun were jockeying for Neidlinger.

“I was not much of a school kid,” said Neidlinger. “I was working a midnight-to-eight job. If baseball didn’t work, it was a trade or labor career for me.”

Larry D’Amato, the Pirates’ West Coast scouting supervisor, signed Neidlinger in February 1984 as an undrafted free agent. He was assigned to the Macon (Georgia) Pirates, who finished in last place in the South Atlantic League (Class A) that year. Neidlinger was groomed as a starter, averaging 6 2/3 innings over 25 starts. He led the team in wins (9) and strikeouts (113).

In 1985, Neidlinger was assigned to the Prince William (Virginia) Pirates in the Carolina League (Class A) – another last-place team. Ed Ott, in his first year as a manager after playing 14 years in the majors and minors (11 of them in the Pirates organization), took a personal interest in Neidlinger. Ott, a former catcher, spent a lot of time discussing pitching approaches and decision-making with Neidlinger as if he was Neidlinger’s batterymate. The eager student racked up 165 1/3 innings in 26 starts and pitched four complete games with a career-best 143 strikeouts.

Neidlinger learned a lot from Ott. “Ed Ott is the main reason I made it to the majors,” he said. They were fishing and hunting mates as well. Neidlinger was fascinated by the passion Pennsylvanians had for hunting. “They even had a day off from school for the first day of white tail deer season,” said Neidlinger.

It was not only the Pirates’ affiliates that were struggling in the standings. After the parent club finished with 98 regular season wins and won the World Series in 1979, they spiraled downward in the next six years. Syd Thrift was brought in as Pittsburgh’s new general manager to turn things around. In 1986, while Thrift was concentrating on Pittsburgh, Neidlinger was enjoying the best season of his career in New Hampshire, playing for the Nashua Pirates in the Eastern League (Class AA).

Although high-velocity pitchers were increasingly in vogue around the majors – Roger Clemens won the Cy Young Award in the AL that year with 238 strikeouts and Mike Scott won it in the NL with 306 strikeouts – the mix of curveball, changeup, and an average fastball worked for Neidlinger. Used exclusively as a starter, he chalked up a 12-7 record in 22 outings. Neidlinger led the team with two shutouts, eight complete games, and 98 strikeouts. His 2.42 ERA was the best among all starters in the league. He was voted Eastern League Pitcher of the Year and was rewarded with a promotion in August to the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders in the Pacific Coast League.

Neidlinger’s personal life took a leap forward as well. The 21-year-old hurler met his future wife – Priscilla Ann Moody, a co-ed from Champlain College who went by “Ann” to her friends – at a Burlington, Vermont, night club. “With the way everything was going and my love of the game,” Neidlinger said, “I knew I was going to be involved in baseball for a long time, and that’s what I told Ann. My father-in-law, God bless him, was totally supportive of our goals.” The two were scheduled to marry on Valentine’s Day in 1987; instead, they got married on Christmas Eve in 1986, in Venezuela, where Neidlinger was playing winter ball for Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. They have been together ever since.

However, despite Neidlinger’s accolades in 1986, he did not open the 1987 or the 1988 seasons in Triple A. Instead, Thrift and his assistant, Jim Bowden, promoted “their guys” and Neidlinger was assigned to the Pirates’ Double-A affiliate in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which had relocated from Nashua. “Plain and simple for whatever reason, they buried me,” said Neidlinger.3

With Neidlinger and under future major-league manager Dave Trembley, the Senators improved their record from 62-78 in 1986 to 77-63 in 1987 and finished in second place. Neidlinger was the starting pitcher in the team’s first game in their new home. He tied his career high in starts with 26 and he tied for the team lead in complete games with seven while posting an 11-8 record. It was the fourth consecutive season in which he pitched at least 163 innings. Although he complained about the assignment, Neidlinger said the best thing that came out of it was that “the ’87 Senators team was the best collection of human beings I played with in my entire career.”

In 1988 Neidlinger was switched from a starting pitcher to a starter/reliever. His 2.82 ERA and 1.28 WHIP were second only to his award-winning season at Nashua in 1986. He allowed only five earned runs in his final 27 innings at Harrisburg and was moved up to Triple-A Buffalo in September when several Bisons got promoted to the parent club.4 Neidlinger appeared in three games – all as a reliever – in Buffalo.

At the end of the season, the California native was dealt to the World Series champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, for Bill Krueger, a southpaw who had just completed his sixth season in the majors. The Pirates needed lefties, and Thrift made the trade on his final day as general manager.

Neidlinger was not unhappy about going to LA. He told the Dodgers he wanted a “fresh start, for someone to believe in him.” He wanted something he never got with the Pirates – “a chance to start the season in Triple A rather than wind up there at the end of the season.”5

He got that chance with the Albuquerque (New Mexico) Dukes in the Pacific Coast League. In 1989, Neidlinger was 8-6 with the division-winning Dukes and 8-3 for Leones del Caracas in winter ball in Venezuela, where he was named the winner of the LVBP Pitcher of the Year Award (later renamed the Carrao Bracho Trophy).6 For good measure, Neidlinger added four more wins in the playoffs as Caracas captured the league championship.7

The Dodgers opened the 1990 season with a solid rotation that included veterans Fernando Valenzuela and Mike Morgan and youngsters Tim Belcher and Ramón Martínez. Three-time All-Star Orel Hershiser sat atop the rotation – but in his fourth start of the season, he injured his right shoulder. The Dodgers struggled to find a fifth starter as they auditioned John Wetteland, Tim Crews, Mike Maddux, and Terry Wells. That quartet’s collective record in games they started after Hershiser got hurt was 2-7.

Next up was Neidlinger, who was both starting and relieving at Albuquerque and had posted an 8-5 record in the first four months of the 1990 season. He made his major-league debut on August 1 at Dodger Stadium when he started against the second-place San Francisco Giants, the team he cheered for as a boy. (The Dodgers were in third place at the time of Neidlinger’s debut.) The game was tied 1-1 when skipper Tommy Lasorda pulled Neidlinger after the sixth inning. Neidlinger gave up seven hits and one walk while striking out three but did not get a decision as the Dodgers lost, 2-1.

His next start came six nights later, and he pitched brilliantly against the first-place Reds in Cincinnati. Locked in a 0-0 pitching duel for seven innings with Reds ace Tom Browning, Neidlinger got a fly ball out to open the eighth. Billy Hatcher reached on an error and Browning bunted him to second. Neidlinger then walked Barry Larkin. The next batter was Paul O’Neill, who had the Reds’ only two hits on the night. When Neidlinger started O’Neill with a 2-0 count, Lasorda called in Ray Searage. A wild pitch moved Hatcher to third and Larkin to second before Searage walked O’Neill. Crews came in and got Chris Sabo to pop up, but not before his wild pitch allowed Hatcher to score. Neidlinger got charged with the unearned run and the loss.

He got his first win on August 12 in his third start – a seven-inning, seven-hit victory over Tom Glavine and the Atlanta Braves, 7–3. The glove Neidlinger used that day is a keepsake safely tucked away in a box in his home.8

Neidlinger will remember August 17, 1990, for a long time – not because it was the night he won his second big-league game (a 7-6 victory over the Montreal Expos), but because he left the game to catch a flight to Albuquerque to witness the birth the next day of his first child, his daughter Alisa. Mother and child were in Albuquerque, where the Neidlingers lived during the season; they lived in Burlington in the offseason. In a happy coincidence, their second daughter, Erica, was also born in Albuquerque and also on August 18, two years after Alisa’s birth.

The highlight reel continued in Neidlinger’s magical stretch with the Dodgers. His best strikeout total came in the August 22 start. Neidlinger did not get the decision, but he struck out eight Philadelphia Phillies in 7 2/3 innings in a game won by the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth by a score of 3-2.

Before the Dodger series with the Reds began on September 7, Neidlinger said, “What has happened to me in my career, I could not have sat down and written a book that would read any better.”9 In the series opener, Neidlinger’s twirled his longest appearance as a Dodger – eight innings. Lasorda let Neidlinger start the ninth inning with a 3-0 lead but took him out when the first two runners reached base. The Dodgers won the game, 3-1. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Neidlinger knocked in the Dodgers’ second run with a single.

When asked if he liked hitting – after all, he was quite proficient with two RBIs on three hits with LA – Neidlinger laughed and said, “That doesn’t count the strikeouts and the missed squeezes and all the other miscues.”

On September 18, Neidlinger won his fifth consecutive game, a 6-2 victory over the Braves in Atlanta. During the two months Neidlinger helped solidify the rotation, the Dodgers’ record was 34-27 and they moved into second place, but they fell five games short of catching the Reds for the division title. Neidlinger finished the season with a 5-3 record in 12 starts, an ERA of 3.28, 46 strikeouts and 15 walks in 74 innings of work.

As the next season began, Valenzuela was released and Hershiser’s shoulder was not yet healed, but the Dodgers signed free agent Kevin Gross and obtained Bobby Ojeda in a trade with the New York Mets. Despite his heroics in 1990, Neidlinger’s path was blocked, and he was again assigned to Albuquerque.

In 1991 and 1992 he was successful enough to remain in the Dodger organization and to play for the Triple-A Dukes, but that was as far as his success went. He appeared in 57 games, 43 as a starter, over those two years. His 7-7 and 8-9 records marked the only time he failed to achieve a winning record in two consecutive seasons. His critical rates – ERA, WHIP, K/9, BB/9, and K/BB – all moved in the wrong direction.

When the season was over, the Colorado Rockies, one of the first big-league expansion teams since 1977, showed interest in Neidlinger and invited him to try out the following spring. Filled with expectation of another shot in the majors, he went back to Leones del Caracas in Venezuela that winter “to get the edge back.”10

But at the conclusion of spring training 1993, the Rockies threw Neidlinger a curveball when they assigned him to their Colorado Springs Triple-A team in the PCL. Neidlinger was not pleased and asked to be released.

A month and a half later, the Minnesota Twins called, offering Neidlinger a spot on their Triple-A roster with Portland – also in the PCL, but where the opportunity seemed better. Neidlinger’s record was 9-8 and the Beavers were North Division champs that season.

In 1994 the St. Louis Cardinals signed him as a free agent. He played in the Grapefruit League with them, was a final day cut, and was assigned to the Triple-A Louisville (Kentucky) Redbirds in the American Association. There he started seven games. His record was 1-3, his ERA was 6.21, and his spirit was broken.

It was so bitterly disappointing for Neidlinger to see how his opportunities dried up in those last three years. He had always told his wife, “I will do this only as long as I enjoy it. When it feels like a job, I’ll quit.”

At 29 years old, with a wife and two little girls back home in Burlington, it felt like a job. Neidlinger called Ann and told her he was coming home.

The ardent optimist landed a job immediately as the pitching coach for the University of Vermont, where he worked for three years (1995-1997). For the next several years, Coach Neidlinger did what he had to do for his family. He drove for UPS and had other jobs, he ran clinics and tutored baseball and basketball privately and for various instructional organizations, and he helped raise his girls and coach their teams. Meanwhile, Ann worked as a medical transcriptionist and data integrity specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

“No business runs without a partner,” Neidlinger said. “No matter the struggles, Ann was right there, always, allowing me to do all that I did.”

When Alisa and Erica grew out of the house, Neidlinger really got busy. He served as head coach for the local “S.D. Ireland” American Legion baseball team from 2005 through 2015 (the team was named for its sponsor, a local businessman) and he was an assistant coach at Middlebury College from 2007 through 2016.

In 2010, Neidlinger opened the doors at his new venture, Bases Loaded Baseball & Softball Academy in Williston, Vermont, which has been named one of the top baseball academies in the country. He has served as the head coach for the Bases Loaded Bulldogs travel teams since 2016.

Neidlinger’s online personal profile page for the Saint Michael’s College baseball team, where he became the head coach in November 2019, sums it up:

Through his academy and travel teams, Neidlinger works with players of various ages and skill levels, supervises nearly a dozen instructors, recruits players and hires coaches, and plays a hand in aiding players’ college recruitment.11

He looks forward to the day when he helps develop a young athlete who goes on to play major league baseball – as his brother Damon has done for seven players to date. Damon’s first coaching job was at Napa Valley College. He went on to be an assistant coach at Santa Rosa Junior College from 1996 until 2000, when he was named as head coach there, his position at the time of this writing.12 He led the SRJC Bear Cubs to the state championship in 2005 and 2016 and has received several coaching honors. Damon and his wife Mandi have three children, Amanda, Derek, and Brett.   

For his hobby, Jim Neidlinger enjoys hunting in the Midwest and at a friend’s farm in Vermont. As of 2024, he and his wife lived in Fairfax, Vermont, and they had three grandchildren.

Last revised: May 22, 2024



Special thanks to Jim Neidlinger for his memories, via telephone interviews with the author on March 28 and April 1, 2024, with follow-up emails. Unless otherwise cited, all Jim Neidlinger direct quotes (edited for clarity) are from those interviews and emails.

This biography was reviewed by Gregory H. Wolf and Rory Costello and fact-checked by Don Zminda.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted sabr.org, baseball-reference.com, retrosheet.org, thebaseballcube.com, facebook.com, deanscards.com, and pelotabinaria.com.ve.



1 Marty James, “Napa Grad Neidlinger Got Lasorda Treatment,” Napa Valley (California) Register, January 27, 2021: B1.

2 “No Inquest Is Planned in Hilton Head Death,” The State (Columbia, South Carolina), July 19, 1970: 9-B; “Funeral Services for Neidlinger; Dunebuggy Victim,” The Island Packet (Hilton Head, South Carolina), July 23, 1970: 2.

3 Bill Plaschke, “Dodgers Hand the Ball, Pennant Hopes to Neidlinger,” The Los Angeles Times, September 7, 1990: C4.

4 Marty James, “A New Chance for Neidlinger,” Napa Valley (California) Register, June 12, 1989: 8; and, Associated Press, “Bisons Win at Box Office,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 2, 1988: 16.

5 Marty James, “A New Chance for Neidlinger,” 8.

6 Jim Neidlinger, personal communications [via email], May 3, 2024. The Sporting News reported Neidlinger’s record as 7-1 “for the time of the voting” (February 5, 1990: 38).

7 Gutiérrez, G. F., Gutiérrez, G. G., Alvarez, E. , La enciclopedia del béisbol en Venezuela, (Venezuela: Fondo Editorial Cárdenas Lares, 1997): 7. Accessed May 15, 2024, from www.google.com/books/edition/La_enciclopedia_del_béisbol_en_Venezuel/4YMNAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=neidlinger+Caracas&dq=neidlinger+Caracas&printsec=frontcover

8 Sally Polak, “Me and My Glove,” The Burlington (Vermont) Free Press, October 20, 2002: 1D.

9 Plaschke, “Dodgers Hand the Ball, Pennant Hopes to Neidlinger.”

10 Marty James, “Neidlinger Joins the Expansion Rockies,” Napa Valley (California) Register, January 31, 1993: 14.

11 “Jim Neidlinger,” Saint Michael’s College Purple Knights Baseball, https://smcathletics.com/sports/baseball/roster/coaches/jim-neidlinger/311 (accessed March 30, 2024).

12 The seven players coached by Damon Neidlinger who went on to play in the majors are: Joe Dillon and Jason Lane (who played for Damon when he was an assistant coach at SRJC) and Jason Alexander, Anthony Bender, Justin Bruihl, Jonny Gomes, and Garrett Hill (from when Damon was head coach). (Source: Damon Neidlinger, personal communication [email correspondence], March 28, 2024.) Another player of Damon’s, Jake Scheiner, came “painfully close” to a debut in the majors when the Seattle Mariners actually flew him to meet the club at a road game but then did not activate him onto the roster. (Source: Tim Hevly, vice-president of communications for the Seattle Mariners, personal communication [via LinkedIn Message], March 31, 2024.

Full Name

James Llewellyn Neidlinger


September 24, 1964 at Vallejo, CA (USA)

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