Dave Van Horn, Shane Komine, Will Bolt, Jed Morris, Brandon Eymann, Justin Seely, J.D. Scholten, Jeff Blaesing..........gone.
Much of last year was spent waxing nostalgic over the talent from the year prior. Just a year ago, the team that made it to the CWS for the second year in a row was said to not have a chance. That their talent-base was too small. Well, it would appear that the experts don't know everything.
This year, it's the same story and NU has to replace some of their marquee names, but this time, they have to replace the coach that helped to build what NU is today. After Van Horn decided on taking the head coaching position at Arkansas, some thought that even with Coaches Anderson and Childress staying, it was too much to overcome. Catcher, John Grose disagrees. "Coach "A" and coach Childress, those guys did so much even when Van Horn was here." Grose stated. "I think that maybe a couple of things are different, but I am happy with it and I don't think anything is going to change."
Wednesday was among the first days that the NU team would be able to prove Grose right.
Honestly, it couldn't get any better than it was on this day. Only a slight breeze, slightly overcast skies, sporadically letting the sun through to warm our faces and the field. If you closed your eyes and listened to the players, you could of sworn it was the middle of May. The weather certainly agreed with Mr. Grose. "Nothing compares to being out here." Grose stated."I am from a hot place, so this weather doesn't do much to me, so I love it."
This year, Grose finds himself in a familiar yet foreign position. John split time with Jed Morris last year as one was either the starting catcher or the team's designated hitter. This year, that's probably going to change. Jed is gone, John is the man, but he feels that this new challenge, these new sets of responsibilities are something he's more than prepared for. "I definitely think that Jed is one guy that someone has to fill his shoes." John said. "I think I am (up for it) and my goals are to put up numbers like he did, but I think with the players we have back, there will be a lot of guys that can put up those numbers, so we'll see."
As Grose stated, there will be a lot of competition for spots. Not even he will be immune to having to fight for his job. That kind of competition though is what fuels the fire in the bellies of all those trying for their time, each trying simply to be at their best. "You have to know being where we are at and how good we are, there are going to be tons of guys at your position that are just as good as you." Grose stated. "It basically comes down to who works harder."
"I think there are all kinds of outfielders that are unbelievable, infielders to, at pitchers, plus all those guys we brought in, it seems like last year we had a bunch of good guys, it seems like this year it just keeps getting better and better."
Obviously though, John has a leg up on his would-be competitors. Grose had a stellar year last season, especially as the season progressed. Grose finished the season, hitting .384, slugging .592 and knocking in 38 RBIs. In fact, only Jed Morris led Grose in ratio of RBIs to at-bats. As good as he was last year however, John expects to be at even a higher level this season. You see, there's a major difference in the Grose you see before this season has begun to the Grose from last year. John explained. My biggest thing last year was that I didn't play summer ball." John said. "I hurt my back, came in real rusty and just had a terrible fall. This year (at summer league), it's been awesome and I am just trying to carry everything into the season."
The summer leagues were quite kind to most of the Husker players that participated, many players competing for their respective league honors.
With all that being said, what does the NU team think of this year?
Granted, the incumbents are talented and they are most definitely experienced. Add to that a stellar talent-base coming in from the JUCO ranks and high school, you would think that these players have every reason to be optimistic. But, how optimistic can you be? You have still lost a coach, your best pitcher, one of your best base runners, some other solid producers on the mound and some opportunistic hitters. What kind of goals can they have? "I am going to be very upset if we just make it to the College World Series." Grose stated. "I want to win a national championship ring."
"There are a lot of guys here that have been to, two College World Series. Everybody has been there, so now, it's like, do something."
"You aren't doing anything, if you are not getting better than the year before."