CHICAGO — Imprisoned 23 years for a crime he didn't commit, Nevest Coleman couldn't imagine a day like this.
He was back in his old job as a groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox, working the home opener against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.
"When you sit back when you're locked up, you don't think about (a day like this)," Coleman said. "You just think about what's going on trying to move forward in life, trying to figure out what I'm gonna do when I get out, how I'm gonna support myself. The White Sox gave me the opportunity."
Coleman is getting another shot after he and another Illinois man named Darryl Fulton were exonerated in a 1994 rape and murder. They were convicted in the slaying of a 20-year-old woman after her body was found in the basement of a home on Chicago's South Side where Coleman lived. Both Coleman and Fulton confessed but quickly recanted.
After DNA testing linked the crime to a serial rapist, the two men were released from prison in November. A Cook County judge issued "certificates of innocence" in March, clearing their names. Soon after that, Coleman returned to his old job with the White Sox.
"Nevest was a good friend of mine back then and I was glad to have him back," said Jerry Powe, his supervisor. "I'm real happy for him. Nice day today."
Coleman arrived at the ballpark at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. He had already washed windows, helped pull out the tarp and picked up trash by the afternoon and was prepared to pitch in "wherever they put me."
The ballpark has a different look these days, thanks to major renovations while he was in prison. The top rows in the upper deck were removed. The outfield concourse was renovated, and the seats are now green instead of blue.
Coleman is simply glad to be back.
"When I finally came home, all the anger was gone," he said. "My grandbabies, I finally saw them. You can't be miserable around them."