Former 'Hoo Irving lands spot on Reds staff

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Nate Irving played nine games for the New Britain Bees of the independent Atlantic League last season. It was the end of the line for the former Virginia catcher as a professional baseball player.

But now Irving is headed to the big leagues.

Irving had returned to Disharoon Park to serve as a student assistant coach this season. Now he's headed to Arizona to join the Cincinnati Reds in spring training this week -- as the team's head major league bullpen catcher.

Irving got the call from the Reds organization last weekend. Sunday's 10-2 win over Villanova was his final game with the Wahoos.

"My blood pressure shot up there pretty quickly," Irving said of that phone call. "Just hearing hey, you're going to get to spend the whole summer with the big league team, it's gratifying, and I'm very honored to be in this position."

Irving played in 162 games in three college seasons at UVA, earning All-ACC third team honors as a junior in 2014, and helping the Wahoos reach the College World Series that same season. A 34th round pick in 2014, Irving played two seasons in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. He also spent time with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and two seasons in the independent Canadian American Association.

JR House was one of Irving's managers in the Diamondbacks organization. The former major-league catcher was added to Cincinnati's coaching staff as third base coach and catching coach this off-season. House was Irving's connection to the Reds coaching staff, which will be led by another former big leaguer, first-year manager David Bell, this season.

Irving said his long-term goal when returning to UVA was to get back into pro baseball as a coach. In addition to working with the Reds pitchers, he'll also work with the team's catchers to analyze pitch-framing and other data.

It's an opportunity that Irving says he's ready for.

"Just to be able to help a team win. Help a team create a championship culture, a winning culture. And to be able to learn as much as I can," he said. "We have an unbelievable coaching staff, which I'm really looking forward to honestly just being a fly on the wall, and soaking up and learning as much information as I possibly can while I'm there."

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