CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago man who served 23 years for a rape and murder he didn’t commit returned to his old job on Monday, working on the grounds crew for the White Sox.
Guaranteed Rate Field has gone through a few different names, not to mention some major renovations since Coleman last worked on the grounds crew, but to Nevest Coleman it’s still Comiskey Park.
Flanked by former colleagues who are still on the grounds crew, a thankful Coleman stepped onto the grass at 35th and Shields for the first time in more than two decades.
For Coleman, the return to the ballpark the White Sox call home is more than just having his old job back, it’s about gaining independence many men don’t get after leaving prison, even when they’ve had their names cleared as Coleman has.
“I don’t have to worry about everybody giving me things. I can support myself now,” he said.
Coleman was released from prison in November, after DNA evidence cleared him and a co-defendant of the 1994 rape and murder of Antwinica Bridgeman.
He interviewed with the White Sox in February, after his childhood priest reached out to the team on Coleman’s behalf. Coleman had worked a variety of jobs, often more than one at a time, when he caught on with the Sox before the 1992 season.
“I felt comfortable here; everyone was like family to me,” Coleman said. “I’d wake up in the morning and be proud to come to work.”
Since stepping away from the decades of wrongful imprisonment, Coleman’s family has been in awe of his optimism.
“If I’m miserable, that means everybody else around me will be miserable,” he said. “So if I’m happy, everybody else will be happy. I don’t have time to be miserable, you know?”
During his time in jail, Coleman often saw old colleagues pulling the rain delay tarp across the field on TV. He bumped into some of them when officially accepting the job in February, and said seeing them in person set him at ease.
His new duties on Monday started with power-washing the Gate 4 entrance to Guaranteed Rate Field, where the team’s 2005 World Series commemoration plaza and sculpture are located.
Coleman has said he hopes to move up to full-time staff in the future.