Unfortunately, they both were released -- Nelson toward the end of spring and Kepel midway through the season while with the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones.
When the 2006 season rolled around, Nelson, 31, was the first to see the full list of players for the Royals, who he had been picked up over the offseason. As Nelson scanned the list, he recognized one name: Keppel.
"As soon as I saw he was on there, I was excited and happy," said Nelson, who has taken Kepel, 23, under his wing since the rookie was called up.
They both spent the first month and a half with Omaha, until Nelson was recalled on May 15 while Kepel was called up on Thursday.
Keppel made his debut Thursday, pitching 3 1/3 innings, giving up one run and two hits while striking out four.
On Friday, the two friends returned to New York together as members of the Royals. While they had been to the city before, it was the first time they had ventured into Yankee Stadium. Since their first time would be as players, they decided to arrive to the ballpark earlier than usual. And they took the No. 4 subway train from Manhattan to get there.
"We wanted to take in the whole experience of getting to the ballpark with its history and everything," said Nelson.
They came in through the players' gates and showed their player identification cards.
"We had to do that," joked Nelson. "It wasn't like we were Jeter or [Alex Rodriguez] or something like that."
As the two entered the expansive surroundings, Nelson admitted it was a bit nostalgic.
"We started to walk down into the locker rooms and I was like, 'Hold up, I gotta stop and take some pictures, bro,'" Nelson said.
Both players went back to the bullpen and hung out for a while. They took their camera phones out and began taking pictures. They called their friends and family members.
"This is what people dream about," said Keppel. "It was crazy to sit there and look around. The seats go straight up from you. I even saw them giving tours to people earlier. It's incredible."
For Keppel, it will have even deeper meaning. Most of his extended family from Pennsylvania were in attendance, including his parents, Kurt and Denise; his sister, Kathy and his fiancée, Suzanne, who will make the trip from Atlanta, where she is on a business trip.
In addition, Keppel will carry with him the memory of his cousin, Jim, 22, who passed away in 2003 from a rare heart disease. Jim, who played football at Yale, worked in New York City trading commodities and was very close to Keppel.
"It's kind of ironic that the first road trip we go on happens to be in New York," said Keppel. "Jim always said that he'd be there to see me pitch my first time in New York. So, I'll definitely feel him there with me."
Reg-gie, Reg-gie: With Reggie Sanders' second-inning home run on Friday, he needs just one homer to become the fifth player in Major League history with 300 home runs and 300 steals. He will join an impressive list of Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Andre Dawson and Bobby Bonds. Sanders also needs just one run to top 1,000 for his career, and he is one of four active players with more than 250 homers and 250 stolen bases. He joins a list that includes Steve Finley, Craig Biggio and Bonds.
Whirlwind trip: By the time Keppel makes the return trip back to Kansas City with the Royals, he'll have put on some extensive frequent flier miles.
Already in nine days, his itinerary has looked like this: Omaha, Phoenix to see his fiancée on an off-day, Sacramento for three games, Fresno for two games before being called up, Kansas City for one game, and now in New York.
After the series against the Yankees, the Royals travel to Oakland for three games and then to Seattle for three more before returning home.
"I would get some good bonus miles with an airline for the places I've been," said Keppel.
Speaking of Omaha: Center fielder David DeJesus began his rehabilitation with Omaha on Thursday. DeJesus led off and went 0-for-4. He went on the DL on April 19 with a strained left hamstring and his timetable for his return is still undetermined. The Royals' brass, though, said, if he continues the next few days with Omaha and feels healthy, he may return towards the end of next week.
It is still unknown whether Mark Redman will return from bereavement leave (for undisclosed reasons) to pitch against Oakland on Monday. If he is not available, Jimmy Gobble will most likely get the start.
Chris Girandola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less