The practice was the first of Jake Meyers’ freshman season. And as is the case with all freshmen, Meyers was responsible for something, in his case the fungo bag.
Because of the weather, of course, the Nebraska baseball team’s first practice was in the Hawks Championship Center. And the problem was, the fungo bag was at Hawks Field. Meyers was made aware of that while stretching.
“The older guys were like, ‘Hey, where’s the fungo bag?’” he said. He stopped stretching, hurried to Hawks Field and returned with the bag.
Coach Darin Erstad “was just standing there, kind of shaking his head at me,” Meyers said. “It was a rough experience. Now that I look back at it, I laugh. It’s pretty funny.”
Meyers, surrounded by reporters, recounted the experience on Friday, before the Huskers’ first full practice of the season at the Hawks Championship Center. He’s a junior now, following a season in which he led the team in hitting (.326) and pitching (6-1, 1.42 ERA).
Based on that, Meyers was a third-team Perfect Game Rawlings All-America selection, announced three weeks ago, listed, appropriately enough, as a utility player.
“It takes a special person, with a special work ethic and mentality to be able to do that,” Erstad said of Meyers’ pitching and hitting. It requires not only the skills but the endurance, and “he puts the work in to be in position to do that, takes care of his arm to be able to throw from the outfield and then pitch on the weekend. We throw him on Sundays, just so we can give him the maximum amount of rest and recovery to be able to throw again. That would be the plan going forward this year as well.”
Meyers will move to center field when he’s not pitching, replacing Ryan Boldt, one of the team’s key losses. Boldt “covered an amazing amount of ground,” said Erstad, who’s in his sixth season as the Huskers’ head coach. “Ryan was a huge part of what we did.
“We’ve got a couple of holes to fill, but that’s the fun of it, seeing a team come together and mesh, different personalities and hearing those new voices . . . see who kind of steps up and takes control of the group and how they become a family together.”
In addition to Boldt, among the position players who must be replaced are starters Jake Placzek, third base; Steven Reveles, shortstop; and Taylor Fish, who shared catching duties with Jesse Wilkening. Among those gone from the pitching staff are Jeff Chesnut, Garret King and Max Knutson.
All the starters at season’s end return, as does closer Chad Luensmann.
The Huskers finished 37-22 last season and played in an NCAA regional. They won 11-of-13 to finish the regular season but went 0-2 in the Big Ten Tournament and 0-2 in the regional at Clemson, S.C. They were “ice cold” offensively at tournament time, Erstad said, scoring only four runs total.
Part of the reason was an injury that sidelined Scott Schreiber, “probably not an ideal situation,” said Erstad. Schreiber hit .325 with 16 home runs and 55 runs-batted-in and was hot down the stretch.
Nebraska opens the season on Feb. 17 in Tempe, Ariz., playing the first of four games against UC Riverside at Diablo Stadium, spring training home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Returning to an NCAA regional and beyond is “always a goal of ours,” said senior first baseman-designated hitter Ben Miller, who also has pitched and could again.
What’s the Huskers’ strength, Miller was asked.
“Just the pitching, the hitting, the fielding,” he said.
That pretty much covers it, as reflected in Meyers, who has done it all.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.