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Green and gold motivation for Nilsson
A multi-million dollar contract or Olympic Games?
06/21/2018 1:07 AM ET
David Nilsson, former Major League Baseball player has been appointed as the Head Coach / manager of Team Australia in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo OLympics.
David Nilsson, former Major League Baseball player has been appointed as the Head Coach / manager of Team Australia in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo OLympics. (SMP Images)

A multi-million dollar contract or represent your country on home soil at an Olympics?

It is a question new Team Australia manager David Nilsson's agent Alan Nero begged and answered - like many would - in 1999 during an interview with Sports Illustrated.

"Could you turn down $50 million to represent your country?" Nero said to Sports Illustrated journalist Gerry Callahan in July 1999.

"I know I couldn't.

"But, believe me, David Nilsson could."

Nero was not wrong.

At arguably the peak of his powers - on the back of selection in the 1999 MLB All-Star Game - Nilsson chose to put his MLB career on hold and represent Australia at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Fast-forward nearly 20 years and Nilsson will attempt to guide Australia to Tokyo as manager when baseball makes its return to the Olympics.

He brings a wealth of experience with him to the role.

"What a wonderful experience it was playing in the Sydney Olympics," Nilsson told baseball.com.au.

"It put me in a good position to understand the journey of what it means to play in the Olympics.

"It's a whole different tournament, a different world and a different environment

"While we didn't achieve the result we were after in 2000 … it put us in good stead for the 2004 Olympics."

Nilsson's decision to represent Australia at its home Olympics was not an easy decision, nor one he made overnight.

It became a genuine possibility at the end of the 1998 season when he renegotiated his contract with Milwaukee to become a free agent at the completion of the following season.

"I always toyed with the idea and thought about the idea of playing in Sydney … it was very attractive to me playing for my country in my own country," Nilsson said.

"During the 1999 Spring Training I had a lot of questions about the Olympics

"My focus was squarely on Major League Baseball, representing the Brewers and trying to have success and a long career."

At the end of the 1999 season Nilsson returned home and helped Australia claim gold at the Intercontinental Cup.

"As soon as that finished my focus switched to signing another Major League contract," Nilsson said.

"It didn't eventuate, I think with a lot of the media that had been thrown around the previous year owners started to doubt my intention towards the Major Leagues.

"During the next few months, the negotiation period, offers were coming back and forth and I had a lot of interest from Major League clubs but couldn't get anything in writing."

In the end an offer from Japan, which gave Nilsson the chance to represent Australia in the Olympics, helped him make his decision.

"It was a real attractive offer I thought would give me a year to have break, prepare for the national team and experience the Olympics in my own backyard and get back on the horse and continue my career in the Major Leagues," he said.

"Within a couple of days I had made that decision I was going to choose the Olympics over Major League Baseball.

"At the time I didn't know that would the end of my Major League career.

"That whole journey was life-changing."

Click here for the full one-on-one video series with new Team Australia David Nilsson.

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.