Baseball as a Universal Language: Nathan Landry's Journey to the States
Updated: Sep 18
The sparkle of gold pom-poms is prominent as cheerleaders begin to ascend each other’s shoulders to form a pyramid and chant, persuading the crowd to rise to its feet. Heavy music begins to fade in, and the echo of metal cleats hitting the pavement grows near. Suddenly, the University of Missouri football team rushes out onto the field to greet over 50,000 fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium.
Among those in the sea of black and gold is a new face in the Missouri Baseball program, Nathan Landry; a pitcher who grew up in Quebec, Canada, who was experiencing his first-ever college football game.
A native of Victoriaville, Nathan did not get his hands on a baseball until he was 12 years old. In Quebec, it is most popular among citizens to play sports such as ice hockey or Canadian Football.
“Hockey was my first sport, I started baseball later than most players that did,” Landry said. “I played hockey through high school but ended up choosing baseball to stick with.”
Dominantly serving as an outfielder, it was not until he was 14 that he stepped onto the mound and emerged as a pitcher, and until around the age of 16 when he progressed to being a starter. Between the ages of 18-22, Nathan competed in the Ligue de Baseball Junior Élite du Québec, the top amateur summer baseball league in Quebec, where he posted a 2.17 ERA in 53 career games.
With the support of his family and coaches, he made the decision to further his academic and baseball career in the United States, where there would be more opportunities to continue playing baseball long-term.
After posting videos online to different platforms and sending individual emails to coaches in hopes of being scouted, he quickly caught the eye of the coaching staff at Mineral Area College, a junior college located in Missouri.
“We saw his videos online and talked with him over the phone for a few weeks before he made his decision to join our program,” Head Coach Blake Jones said. “When we watched those videos we could see he was competitive and had great talent he could develop further with us.”
Nathan flew into St. Louis where a few of his teammates picked him up from the airport and drove him a little over 60 miles to his new home in a town called Park Hills.
Despite the fact that Nathan had never visited the U.S. before making the move to the Show-Me State, growing up in a dominantly french-speaking province provided a notable obstacle he would have to endure.
“I had taken a few English classes in high school as a second language, but my family only spoke French,” Landry said. “I knew maybe four to five sentences in English when I left for Missouri, and the language barrier was by far the biggest challenge I faced when I arrived.”
Nathan proved to hold his own on the baseball field very quickly after getting settled. He was able to process the English language by hearing his teammates speak and using common baseball terms.
On the other hand, as a student-athlete, Nathan had to rise to the challenge of using English in the classroom full-time.
“The classroom part was extremely difficult for me,” Landry said. “There were terms that I had already learned in french, but had had to re-learn in english and use twenty-four seven for the first time.”
During his first year with the Cardinals, Nathan posted a 2.63 ERA in the shortened 2020 season with 34 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched, and was garnering attention from college coaches at Division I institutions. Nathan caught the eye of one coach in particular during the spring of his freshman year, Steve Bieser, the former head coach of the Missouri Baseball program.
“I took notice of him in his first year competing for Mineral Area College and thought he would be a great fit for our program,” Bieser said. “I could see he was very competitive and meticulous in everything he did on the field and in the classroom.”
Knowing he wanted the chance to compete for a bigger institution after his time in Park Hills, Nathan made the decision to become a Tiger and play for Bieser during the fall of his sophomore year.
“I was really excited to have a chance to play in a tough conference and it was really close to where I was already,” Landry said. “All around it was an amazing offer and I was grateful to have this opportunity.”
Nathan rounded out his junior college career in 2021 with a 5-2 record in nine starts with 51.0 innings pitched. In just 11 appearances he struck out 82 and walked only 20. Additionally, he received a certificate in business after completing courses including economics, public speaking and accounting.
Right before classes began in August, Nathan made the 200 mile move north to Columbia, a city located in the middle of Missouri that was about ten times the size of Park Hills, which had a population of roughly 9,000.
Even though Nathan remained in the same state, there would be more adjusting to do. For the first time he would live in an apartment, attend class in an auditorium with a few hundred students, and even experience his first college football game.
“Before the first day I took my schedule and walked around campus to locate everything so it would feel smaller,” Landry said. “It was almost like a scene out of a movie because it was so stereotypical of the new kid being lost and trying to find his way around.”
On the baseball side, Nathan once again had no issues fitting in with his teammates and proved to be a strong asset for the Tigers right out of the gate.
In his junior campaign he appeared in 15 games with four starts and earned a 3.67 ERA through 41.2 innings pitched. Even more impressive, he struck out 54 batters while walking just seven, holding his opponents to a .200 average on the season.
“Even after a stellar junior college career he developed even further at Mizzou,” Bieser said. “He proved he was capable of multiple things because not only could we have him serve as a starter, but he would also come out of the bullpen and shut it down.”
Proving the Canadian had a natural talent for baseball, he garnered attention from across the nation after being noticed by Major League Baseball scouts. Nathan managed to get onto the radar of the Boston Red Sox Midwest Scout, Alonzo Wright.
Similar to Beiser and Brown, Wright noticed his tenacity and was intrigued to learn more about him.
“He was effective in every role and I called him Lights out Landry,” Wright said. “But I gained so much more respect for him when I learned about his journey to the states and everything he has overcome.”
Although the Tigers saw progress in 2022, the season concluded with a tough loss to No. 25 Georgia on the road, after the Bulldogs walked it off in the bottom of the ninth. Since the season was done and finals were over, Nathan was able to go home for the summer before potentially returning to Columbia for his senior year.
Though it was not anticipated, on Tuesday July 18, Nathan’s dream of playing baseball professionally became official while he was at home spending time with his family in Quebec for the summer. Boston drafted him as the No. 459 pick in round 15.
“I did not at all expect to get drafted and was prepared to go back to Mizzou for one more year,” Landry said. “I was playing video games with my brother at home when I got the call and we saw my name come up on the tracker, my family was so excited.”
Soon after, Nathan packed his bags and headed to the states once more, but this time his destination was Fort Myers, Florida, to sign his first professional contract. He would spend roughly six to eight weeks in Florida before returning to Quebec for the majority of the offseason, where he would keep busy as a co-owner for the training facility, Baseball 360, and taking online courses to work towards earning a business degree.
Picking up where he left off, Nathan excelled on the mound after starting his first full professional season in Salem, Virginia, with Boston’s Low-A affiliate. Through 8 games and 10.1 innings, he managed to accumulate 11 strikeouts, while only giving up six hits. After less than a month in Salem, he was promoted to High-A.
“Our team was all packed and ready to get on the bus when our manager called for a quick meeting in the locker room,” Landry said. “In front of everyone he announced I would be going to Greenville and it was something I did not expect at all.”
Currently, Nathan is coming out of the bullpen for the Greenville Drive, and helped the team to its first South Atlantic League postseason appearance since 2017. Continuing to show dominance, he had amassed 20 strikeouts through 17.1 innings pitched.
While the list of baseball players born in Quebec competing in the majors is not particularly long, Nathan hopes to see an increase of athletes from the city making their way to the states.
“It’s exciting because every year more and more athletes from Quebec are going to the states to play in college and potentially get drafted,” Landry said. “I think for me a big factor is opportunity, and I definitely got that in Missouri and now with the Red Sox.”