Family in Sports Industry Find Balance Between Work and Play

Samantha and Brian Nelson are the wonder-family that keep the Brazos Valley Bombers in business and Travis Field (pictured) one of the top summer collegiate baseball stadiums in the country. Photo by Steve McGuire.

By Steve McGuire

BRYAN, Texas—Commercial organizations operated by families come with unique sets of challenges, and Samantha and Brian Nelson understand these challenges all too well. Samantha and Brian are the dynamic wife-husband duo that helms the Brazos Valley Bombers baseball team in Bryan, Texas.

Samantha and Brian wear many hats for the team and Clutch Entertainment, the company that owns the Bombers and two other teams in

Samantha Nelson is rarely without a smile as she hustles through Bombers Stadium, putting out fires as she goes. (Photo by Steve McGuire)

the Texas Collegiate League.

Since Samantha joined the Bombers full-time in the summer of 2018, she has developed relationships with sponsors and the community as director of partner fulfillment and community coordinator, recruited and overseen employees as the staffing coordinator and intern supervisor and coordinated the team’s final product as the gameday operations director and assistant general manager.

More often than not, Samantha can be found hurrying across the concrete concourse at Bombers stadium, clad in a Bombers polo, dousing metaphorical fires as they arise and directing an army of interns through gameday’s many-faceted operation.

Brian’s role in the Clutch Entertainment office is more focused and direct. Simply put, Brian is the “baseball guy.” As the head coach of the Bombers, the team’s success and failure rest heavily on his shoulders. But Brian also serves as the director of baseball operations for Clutch Entertainment, meaning that he scouts and recruits the rosters, not just for the Bombers, but for the Baton Rouge Rougarou and the Texarkana Twins as well. On top of his baseball duties, Brian works as the face and voice of the franchise through press releases and conferences.

Brian Nelson (blue shirt) talks through starting lineup decisions with Sean Arnold (foreground) and his coaching staff. (Photo by Steve McGuire)

While Samantha hustles through the stands, Brian mulls over strategic decisions by third base or delivering words of encouragement to the players in the dugout.

But while the Nelsons are an integral part of the teams that work out of the small office on Mitchell Street and the stadium on Bomber Drive in Bryan, they co-captain another team outside of work hours. The Nelsons have a three-year-old daughter named Sloan.

According to Samantha, the duo averages a combined 220+ hours a week during the Bombers 60-game season, making family life a balancing act.

“Honestly, there’s not much balancing it,” says Brian. “During the season, it’s all baseball, but we look at it as a three-month burst.”

The Nelsons say they get to spend an hour with Sloan every morning before work. They drop her off at a Montessori program that keeps her busy from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. every weekday. On days when the Bombers play at home, Samantha says she either picks Sloan up and takes her to Brian’s parents’ house or the assisting grandparents will pick her up themselves.

Occasionally, Sloan makes an appearance at the stadium. She toddles through the postgame intern debriefings, sometimes as late as 11:30, squealing gleefully.

Samantha says spending quality time with Sloan during the hectic summer season can be a struggle.

“We make those off-days as consistent as possible from an 8-5 perspective and work really hard to make sure when we have the opportunity to have a weekend day off that that happens,” says Samantha. “Any off-days that we have, I try to do as many activities with Sloan as I can to keep her feeling the love with me and Brian the same.”

Despite the chaos and intensity of the summer schedule, Samantha says she prefers this job to the one she held previously. Before joining the Bombers full-time, she served as the nutrition director at a long-term assisted care hospital. At the hospital, she says, the chaos was year-round. With the Bombers, things slow down during the off-season, allowing her to spend more time with her daughter for most of the year than she would have at the hospital.

The off-season is extremely important to maintaining the Nelsons’ home life.

Samantha and Brian met in 2007 through mutual friends at Texas A&M University. Samantha had moved to College Station from Pennsylvania because her stepfather was serving President George H. W. Bush as a secret service agent. Brian had returned to Texas A&M after playing baseball for the US Air Force Academy, Sam Houston State University and Texas A&M a few years prior.

Seven years later, they were married. They traveled around Texas for a while, following Brian as he coached baseball at various universities across the state.

But after two and a half years at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, things took a sideways tilt. The school hired a new head baseball coach, and the new coach decided to bring in a whole new assistant coaching staff, making Brian obsolete. Around the same time, the hospital Samantha was working at closed.

“We like to say our life was like a bad country song. Our dog had just died, we both lost our jobs, we’d just had a kid, just bought a house,” says Brian.

Fortunately, the Bombers offered Brian a full-time position with the team. He had played for the team during his initial stint in College Station, so he was familiar with the organization. Brian accepted the position in 2017. Samantha joined the Bombers full-time staff in 2018 as the director of fulfillment.

Working in the same building as your significant other may seem like a tricky situation to navigate, but the addition of Samantha to Brian’s workplace did not have much of an effect on their relationship.

According to both Nelsons, the relationship did not change much, if at all, once they began working together.

Samantha says their spheres of responsibility are so disparate that they do not often interact during the workday.

In a pre-season meeting, Coach Nelson outlines his high expectations for the Bombers upcoming campaign.

As she hustles around the office calling local schools and non-profits for on-field philanthropy events, Brian is usually on the phone with scouts or collegiate coaches. When things shift into game mode in the afternoon and Brian begins putting together gameday rosters and crafting strategies for that night’s game, Samantha is writing scripts for the public address announcers and directing interns to their stations for the day.

Brian says it helps that work typically stays at work as well.

“We really don’t talk about work while we’re at home,” says Brian. “I mean, we have conversations about our relationships at work, but we don’t talk about the stuff we did or how things went.”

Keeping their work life separate from their home life may seem like a tall order, but at the end of the day, working in the same industry, in the same office, for the same company is a breeze for the Nelsons.

“It just works out. His dreams are my dreams, and my dreams are his dreams.”