Catching up with Atlanta Braves groundskeeper and speedy superstar The Freeze, Nigel Talton.
Nigel Talton is just here to entertain, and entertain he does. The Atlanta Braves’ newest superstar has garnered national attention (and Internet fame) with his blazing speed. But the reality is that the 26-year-old groundskeeper didn’t start racing until he was nearly done with high school.
The Braves began a new in-game promotion called “Beat The Freeze” this season. The race around the warning track pits Talton—clad in a sleek blue bodysuit and a tinted visor—against a fan in a simple two-person showdown.
The catch: Each lucky (unlucky?) fan gets a headstart. The reality: They’re probably going to get caught. If they’re lucky, they won’t trip and fall—humiliating themselves much to the utter delight of the Internet.
Talton, a former collegiate runner at Kennesaw State, is just along for the ride. The new star talked to Sports Illustrated about his running experience and what it’s like training while working two jobs and taking classes.
Tanner Walters: How long have you been running?
Nigel Talton: I started running in 2007—my junior year of high school. I earned a scholarship to play football at Iowa Wesleyan and I actually walked onto the track team there. They offered me some scholarship money and I was there for a year and a half. I left my sophomore year to go to Shorter University. In 2013, I ran in the USA Indoor Nationals and placed eighth (in the 60 meters).
TW: Did you ever get this kind of attention for your athletic abilities in high school or collegiate track?
NT: In track I really didn't get that much attention like I'm getting now—at all. I got recruited a lot for football from little schools, big schools in high school. I picked Iowa Wesleyan. I really didn't say, 'I can do this' until 2013 when I placed eighth in the U.S. Indoor Nationals. I was like, 'I can get used to this, how they treat their athletes,' and I was like, 'I really want to make it to this stage again.' So I'm just training right now, praying I can make it back again.
TW: How much prep time do you usually get on gameday for The Freeze?
NT: If I'm running that day during the sixth inning I'm usually running and stretching by the bottom of the third or the top of the fourth. I need to get a good stretch in and let my muscles get loose because I don't want to get injured.
TW: Do you have any running superstitions?
NT: No, I don't have any superstitions. I listen to Bob Marley—that's one of the main things I listen to, but I listen to a lot of things.
TW: Is it easy to transition back to groundskeeping after the race?
NT: The other guys give me a chance to breathe. I make sure I stretch, put my clothes back on and get back to regular game duties.
TW: What does your training look like in general?
NT: I put my season on hold this year since I work two jobs and finishing up school, but I just train when I can. I run some miles, but I try to do repeat 300 meters or 150 meters because I need to up my speed. Most of the distances are 150 or 120.
TW: How does your current situation compare to training at the collegiate level?
NT: Right now it's not too organized because I'm not training with my coach right now, I'm training on my time. I'm praying I can get back to a normal schedule, but I'm just taking it one day at a time to see where it goes.
TW: Any luck getting interest from a sponsor with this attention?
NT: That's a big hope and dream that a sponsor would take a chance on me, and possibly a training camp or something. I take it one day at a time, keep my faith. I’m praying that something comes, a door opens for me. But if track is not what God wants me to do, I'd love a job in sports because I love sports.
TW: What type of other sports job would you want to pursue?
NT: My goal is to be a director of player personnel, a director of operations, a general manager or a coach. Whichever one.
TW: Anything else you want to get out there with this newfound fame?
NT: If a sponsor or anyone wants to contact me, they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!