Baseball coach Darin Erstad landed his latest verbal commitment this week and its a name longtime fans of Nebraska football might recognize.
Michael Klein, an infielder and pitcher for Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo., is the son of former Husker place kicker Dale Klein who was inducted into the Nebraska Chapter of the College Football Hall of Fame last week. Dale, a walk-on from Seward, famously kicked Nebraska to a 28-20 win over Missouri in 1985. He was 7-for-7 on field goals in that game, still an NCAA record.
“It’s huge for me,” Dale said of Michael’s decision to play for the Huskers. “That was me and my wife’s number one school that we hoped he’d get an offer from.”
Last year Michael was an all-state honorable mention player in 5A, Colorado’s largest classification, and also played at Coors Field on the underclassmen team in July’s Colorado Rockies Futures Game featuring the best high school talent in the state. At 6-3, 185 pounds, Michael is a power pitcher with a fastball in the low-90s. He went 3-3 in eight starts last season with a 2.31 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 42.1 innings pitched.
But Michael also might see some time in the field based on his outstanding bat. He started as a freshman at designated hitter for Mountain Vista and has also played third and first base. In 19 games last year he hit .386 with 33 RBIs and nine home runs. Dale said Michael is coming in as a pitcher but will also transition more to first base in the upcoming season to give him more flexibility when it comes to playing in the field on non-pitching days.
Michael chose Nebraska over offers from Washington, Washington State, Creighton and Gonzaga. The presence of Erstad played a big part in the decision.
“It’s a big factor,” Dale said. “You’re playing for a former Major League Baseball all-star. Obviously he knows what it takes to be successful. He’s not just an ex-Husker, or an ex-major leaguer but also a guy who played the right way. He’s a straight-shooter, and he tells it like it is.”
Not surprisingly given his father’s success, Michael is also a place kicker on the Mountain Vista football team. Through four games this season he was 10-for-10 on extra points and 4-for-4 on field goals with a long of 42-yards. Given that success, his family history and Erstad’s experience as a dual-sport athlete, Dale didn’t want to rule out Michael giving football a try at Nebraska too.
“In the back of my mind, I was hoping he’d pick a school that had football too,” Dale said. “You never know down the line, maybe he could be a kickoff specialist.”