Patrick and I discussed:
- The Big Ten’s conference only schedule. There is no such thing as RPI this season. Will that help or hurt the Big Ten when it comes time for the NCAA tournament selection.
- Is there anything that stands out about the Big Ten’s baseball schedule?
- Who are the top four teams in the conference?
- Where you see Nebraska?
- What was your reaction to Darin Erstad’s resignation?
- What is your impression of Will Bolt?
- Give us a breakdown of Nebraska’s pitching staff. Who do you see as starters?
- The Big Ten doesn’t care about baseball. Give me a reaction to that statement.
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On August 21st, 2015, I unexpectedly dropped dead of a widowmaker heart attack. I was shocked five times on the way to the hospital with no response. I was shocked two more times in the ER. I was dead for over 20 minutes. A stent was placed, and I was induced into a coma. In January 2016 I received a second stent and in June I was diagnosed with an anoxic brain injury.
I wrote a book about my death and recovery. The title, “Been Dead, Never Been To Europe” reflects the ironic nature of life, what happens versus what we want to happen. It’s available at Amazon.
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About The Transcript
Keep in mind that the following is a transcript. I use a service that automates the first draft. As much as “artificial intelligence” is included in the description of every bit of technology these days, it’s clear that computers understanding human speech is more artificial than intelligent. The transcript has been edited to take out human speech bites, you know, um, okay, uh, but it’s not been edited to be an “article”.
Jon Johnston Welcome to Jon’s Postlife Crisis. I am Jon Johnston, founder of CornNation.com, your Nebraska Cornhuskers sight of the highly anticipated Nebraska baseball season since we didn’t get, we didn’t get anything. Last year we got 15 games and everything just kind of abruptly stopped. There was no College World Series no big 10 tournament. No fun. I am joined today by Patrick Ebert, Midwest correspondent for D1baseball.com, your source for everything college baseball. How you doing Patrick?
Doing great today? How you doing today, Jon?
Jon Johnston It’s above zero. So, you know, it can’t be too bad. I live in Minnesota. And we’re used to this. So it hasn’t, you know, it hasn’t kicked our butts like it has those people in Texas.
we’re used to it. I’m in Wisconsin right next door. So we’re used to this.
Jon Johnston So you’re, you’re in the big 10 area. And we’re here to talk about big 10 baseball. And Wisconsin does not have a baseball team. And I honestly I bring that up every time I get into conversations about big 10 baseball, because I just want the Wisconsin people to feel bad.
And you should.
Jon Johnston Let’s get right into this. I’ll leave Wisconsin. I was gonna ask you more questions about Wisconsin, but I’ll leave him alone. It’s enough that you know, they’re just left out of a major sport.
Let’s say we all know, it’s not a good situation, they should have a team.
Jon Johnston All right, the big 10 is going to play conference only schedule. They’ve done this. I mean, they played conference only schedules for pretty much the rest of their sports. But in baseball, it looks like pretty much every other conference is playing a regular season. Is that correct?
Yeah, there may, you know, to be honest, I haven’t looked at every single conference, I want to say there may be a few on the West Coast that are playing? If not, I think there’s a couple that are playing just strictly conference. And if not, they’re playing a pretty strict regional schedule for the season. And it’s going to be somewhat similar in that, you know, they’re playing all the same teams, all the California teams, when they play all the same teams, it’s hard to measure, you know, like they’re, you know, just how good they are. Right? If teams are just beating up on each other, like the big 10 is gonna end up doing. It pretty much nullifies RPI, which the primary factor of RPI is your opponent’s winning percentage, and your opponent’s opponents winning percentage. So if you’re playing all the same teams, you can throw RPI out the window. So everybody else in the nation, for the most part, yes, is trying to do their best to play a, quote unquote, regular season. But as Here we are at the beginning of the season, and there’s already shutdowns left and right. So this is already proven to be more difficult than what we hope so. So
Jon Johnston The big 10, they’re probably the premier conference of basketball. They may be second football to the SEC. And those obviously, the huge sports but in baseball, they are way down the list, like fifth or sixth, at least behind even smaller leagues that most people don’t even pay attention to. If there’s no RPI, I mean, what’s that going to do to the big 10 overall game when it comes to the NCAA tournament?
Yeah, and then, you know, you know, for people that don’t understand college baseball, there’s these different different regional advisory committees. And these are made up of coaches from the region that they’re the ones that submit the recommendation to the the overall selection committee when they’re making the picks. Now, historically, the NCAA tournament in college baseball has been largely determined by RPI, the teams with the better RPI are the ones that make it in. I think that’s going to have to change this year, you’re gonna have to rely on those kind of firsthand observation observations more you’re gonna have to do that. That kind of, you know, the gut feel of a team. You know, it’s like whether or not a team truly belongs, you know, do they pass the eye test right?
Jon Johnston Oh, my God. It’s College Football Playoff time. With the eye test thing.
Yeah. But you know, if you look, you know, college basketball got rid of their metric for ranking teams. I don’t know. I don’t think it was called RPI announced, but they got rid of that. And I personally think they’re much better off for that too, because, you know, you do get more of those fields or how good a team actually isn’t. And for the big 10, specifically, I think this is actually stacking up to be what should be a pretty good year for them. Like, talent wise, the problem is, is they can’t all win. And another problem is you don’t have the big 10 tournament, which could allow like that, that one extra team to make it. So. Yeah, it’s it’s gonna be a year full of questions without a doubt.
Jon Johnston Okay, the big 10 finally released the baseball schedule this past? Well, the past couple of days, actually, you you’ve looked at the big 10 schedule. What do you think overall?
Yeah, you know, and I think fans and people that cover the sport, you know, we’re for so long, just kind of frustrated that, you know, it took so long to get it out. But when it came out, I think it was clear that they put a lot of thought into it, because first of all, like over the first two weekends, they’re pretty much sending all the teams either to Round Rock, Texas, they’re sending to the US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, where they’re sending them to Greenville, South Carolina. So they’ve established these pods as they’re calling them for these teams to go to warm weather or domed climates to compete. I know from event business, that that didn’t happen overnight, you know, that took a lot of coordination to make that happen. During the course of the season, they will continue these pods. mean, you know, a big part of that is because Wisconsin doesn’t have a team, meaning the big 10 has 13 baseball programs and not 14, if Wisconsin would get a team, you’d get that nice, even number and make a lot of these problems go away. But, you know, here we are. So they’re going to continue to have povs over the course of the season where you have three teams playing each other on one weekend. So you’ll have say, like Nebraska, and this isn’t an actual series, but you’ll have like Nebraska, Iowa, both playing Minnesota in Minneapolis. And they’ll each play each other twice. So they’ll play four games over the weekend. But they’ll play each other twice. But they’ll still end up playing Minnesota or Michigan, if this was a Nebraska hypothetical, they’ll still play those in more traditional series at some other point during during the season. So I think that in itself is unique. And again, that planning, you know took a lot of creativity. No one has a by thought at some point because of the 13 teams that someone might have a bye every weekend. That’s not going to happen. They start March 5, they’re playing through Memorial Day weekend like they normally do. There’s no big 10 tournament. They’re playing 44 games. They’re playing four games on the weekend, some weekends, three games. No midweek games, no non conference. So that’s how it’s gonna stack up.
Jon Johnston I’m a Nebraska guy, obviously. And we’ve kind of I don’t want to say we’ve made a living out of beating on the big 10. But it’s become kind of a learned behavior. So would you you basically are standing up for the big 10 they did it right. With the baseball schedule.
I think they deserve more credit than what they’re receiving as what I’m saying. I’m not so sure that did it. Right. I do think I think they’re being way too protective, not allowing non conference games. Like it’s one thing if you want to stay regional, but there’s some other good teams in the Midwest, you got the Missouri Valley Conference, which is a good conference, you got the Mac which is a really underrated conference. And then you have you know, like other team but the summit, as far as like Nebraska, Omaha’s and the summit and North Dakota State, South Dakota State and you have the horizon League, you have other teams in the area. It’s not just the big 10 and I think that that gets a little overlooked at times
Jon Johnston There’s not going to be a Nebraska Creighton series this year. I mean, my God, we’re not gonna be able to stomp on those stinky poopy butts. Something I look forward to come on. I mean, they usually are killing us a basketball. We need some way to get back at them. Should we get into the teams? We should get into the teams. Baseball’s like something that’s way out in the universe to me. And I have not looked at the teams I have not even looked at Nebraska’s roster. And I Mojo Hagge still around which I you know, everybody loves him, Spencer Schwellenbach, other than that, I mean, who would you say the top four teams in the big 10?
Yeah, so the way we have them stacked up and I work with a guy named Burke Ranger he and I tackle the Midwest together and he’s based out of Ohio. So he kind of gets a better look at those Eastern teams. I get a look at the western teams and you know, we do we do Have a fair understanding of the whole league. But number one for us is Michigan. You know they were the national runner up two years ago, I think they will continue to be really good. They’ll continue to have a really good pitching staff they get some really good transfers in at key positions, shortstop and catcher, to help bolster what was already a good team. Indiana’s number two for us. They got a guy by the name of Greg Richardson, who’s going to be a favorite for the big 10 Conference Player of the Year this season. Just had a huge season a year ago as a sophomore. Number three for us as Maryland, we think they’re going to bounce back with a really loud year, they got some, they got some really good talent on that team, they got a starting pitcher by the name of Sean Burke, who’s like six, six, 230 throws mid 90s. So that’s pretty much all you need to know there and their first baseman’s name, Maxwell Costes. And he’s also going to have a big year. And then number four for us is Ohio State, who we think may have the best collection of arms in the Midwest, and they just go deep. For them, it’s a matter of how things shake out the offenses, and as proven they have a pretty balanced lineup. But those are the four teams that we like the most.
Jon Johnston Nebraska was not in the top four.
Nebraska is not not top four, we have them. I think them eight. And I will say what Nebraska is that they’re going to score runs for sure, you know, head coach will bolt comes from that Texas a&m coaching tree that they know how to score runs. It’s the pitching staff how that comes together, and they have the pieces, but we haven’t seen it, you know, in the past couple of years, they need to prove it on the field, that pitching staff comes together. Nebraska could definitely be in that top four conversation. We put all the teams that we have ranked, you know, 5678, who’s Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska, those four teams all have the potential to be as good as the top four teams, but they just don’t have as many proven pieces to be able for me to confidently say that they’re going to be a top team.
Jon Johnston So my understanding about Nebraska and I said earlier, I haven’t even looked at the roster and you know, it’s like orbiting somewhere around Mars is that we have a number of people who have potential, in quotes, as pitchers and they look like they might be talented. But again, like you said, Nobody knows. Who are the guys that you might look at there as pitchers that are going to be the starters are going to be the top guys for Nebraska.
Yeah, it starts with a transfer from New Mexico State. His name is Chance Hroch, it’s H-R-O-C-H, kind of a unique last name. He was something like 10-1 with an era below three and New Mexico State which plays in the WAC, I’m almost positive and that’s unheard of. And that was two years ago. So I mean, this guy, he doesn’t throw especially hard but he knows how to command, he knows how to keep the ball down. He knows how to you know do all those things that pitchers that have success without the greatest stuff succeed with so and that’s perfect for Nebraska like a guy to come in. You know? Will Bolt and his staff certainly did their homework and deserve a lot of credit for going and getting that guy and giving them up to Lincoln. Cade Povich is another guy. He’s a little more proven. He’s a guy that’s gonna get drafted. And you know the top 3-5-7 rounds somewhere in there. But he throws you know low to mid 90s got has good stuff. Shay Schanaman is another guy that’s been with the team now and has some success. Colby Gomes who was a freshman all American two years ago, but he may be in the bullpen. Spencer Schwellenbach, they expect him to actually pitch this year. He’s actually supposed to be there closer he’s a guy that can actually get it up to the mid 90s with an absolute hammer breaking ball and and when I talked to will bolt in the fall he wasn’t he didn’t even want to restrict Schwellenback into the closer like he said that, you know, we’re gonna start him in short relief and kind of see where his season goes. I don’t want to say he hinted that he could be a starter but it almost believes like, like he had he throws four pitches for strikes and he throws mid 90s. You know, that’s a guy at the pro level, like he’s gonna get a chance to start right and he also plays shortstop by the way so so this guy is just has tremendous talent, Jaxon Hallmark’s going to be your centerfielder this year, he’s going to pitch in, out of the bullpen a little bit too. So there’s a lot of names there’s a lot of guys that are going to bet are gonna, you know, compete for spots and put things together. It’s just you know, a few of those guys stepping up, you know, what do you have in Chance Hroch, is he going to be just as good as Nebraska or close to being as good as he was previously? Is Cade Povich ready to take that next step forward? Just questions like that. And if they’re answered mostly in a positive manner, you know, you guys could have a pretty good staff.
Jon Johnston Let’s go back a bit. What was your reaction to Darin Erstad resigning?
Yeah, that’s a good question.
Jon Johnston It’s 20 or 30 years ago, it seems like.
You’re right. So it’s, I guess it goes to show like, during the college baseball coaching thing isn’t as easy as, I think what some people think it is, right? Like, you are managing a program for the future. And if you are trying to accomplish overnight success, like just day and night success, you’re gonna fail. Like you need to build with recruiting, you need to build with player development. And you need to make sure like, every year when you lose someone to the draft, or if their time is just up, you know, and they move on in their lives, like you have the next wave ready to go. You can’t, you can’t have a gap year, when you have a gap year, I mean, that’s when things fall apart, you need to have that consistent pipeline of talent. And if you’ve been following Nebraska baseball long enough, in the late 90s, and early 2000s, when they had Will Bolt, when they had Shane Komine, when they had these other players, I took them to what three College World Series in four years or something like that, that that didn’t happen by accident, you know, that was a program built for sustained success. And I’m not saying Darin Erstad wasn’t prepared to do that. I just don’t know if he was, if he was prepared to be all in for that long haul, or at least not for, I guess the consequences, you know, off the field, you know, like, you have to commit your life to this right, and head coaches, assistant coaches, they all have to go all in with the recruiting, because it’s a year round cycle. When you’re not coaching your team, you’re out recruiting kids, and you’re talking to them and trying to convince them to come to campus. And I and if I had to guess that just got to be too much.
Jon Johnston I enjoyed being around him, because you just whenever you’re around him, you felt like you’re around a guy that just exuded, his aura was like winning, you know what I mean? He was a winner of a person, but I can see, the points you made. I don’t think I could do that myself. I mean, I couldn’t coach baseball, but the whole commitment thing just seems, that’s the reason why you’d have to pay me like $5 million a year to do that kind of stuff. Alright, and then your impression of Will Bolt. I mean, we haven’t really seen much of Bolt. I think my favorite thing every year is when Nebraska plays their first series of this season against some non conference team that’s good. And Twitter is full of they should need to fire the pitching coach. Will Bolt, what do you think of him as a baseball coach, a head baseball coach for Nebraska?
Yeah, I think he certainly you know, like qualified and he’s certainly the right man for the Nebraska job specifically given given his past there, you know, I’m always a little leery of like, bringing back guys to the bring the same program, because it’s almost like you have this, this unrealistic expectation for success just because they had success playing there either previously as like an assistant coach or as a player. But the fact that he went and I mentioned before, he was an assistant coach under Rob Childress at Texas a&m, like, that’s a proven program, and a lot of those coaches have, have spread out and extended their coaching careers that other programs will bolt being, you know, one of the most recent doing so and, and when I talked to him in the fall, and it was the first time I’d ever spoken to him, you know, I just I liked how, you know, just he’s calm. He’s very calculated, like, they have a plan, they know what they’re doing. He and his coaching staff. As soon as the season ended last year, they were they were already getting ready for this season. They were looking at the transfer portal, and going after and, and doing their homework to find someone like Chance Hroch, who’s going to be a big part of their pitching staff this year. But he knows what it takes, he knows that you need to have you you just it’s not just about having three starting pitchers in a closer and, and in a competent starting lineup. You got to have depth, you know, you got to have guys competing for spots. And it’s like I said, it’s just never ending. I like his demeanor going into it. I like I think he brings a lot of those new age metrics into the equation too.
And I think that if just Nebraska sticks with him, you know, and they’re patient with him to allow him to build the program, and I think they’ll see more continued sustained success.
Jon Johnston You mentioned earlier, Nebraska’s offense, who are the big hitters there, who are we going to see is the guys that are gonna produce runs?
Yeah, so Spencer Schwellenbach, of course, he’s the shortstop. He’s probably going to bat in the three hole that’s That’s their star and he hasn’t been healthy enough to put in a full productive season. He hasn’t pitched as a result. But if he stays healthy, we get a look at him and he’s, he’s truly a breakout type of player as both a shortstop and a right handed pitcher. I mentioned Jaxon Hallmark, he’s going to hit towards the top of the lineup. He’s going to be their centerfielder this year after batting our excuse me after playing second base last year. Leighton Banjof. He was a freshman last year. He’s probably going to play third base or possibly first base. He has a little bit of versatility there where he can play on the field. He actually played shortstop last summer in the summer collegiate league and and apparently held his own at that position. But I think banjo is going to be one of your bigger hitters. Cam Chick is another guy that can play a bunch of different positions. He may be he may have been the most productive hitter a year ago. I think he’s penciled in to be their DH but I think he can play you know, like left field right field first base. I think he may even play a little third base. I’m trying to think who else they have. You mentioned Mojo Hagge was one of their hitters to their Look, they lost Aaron Polansky that was their big hitter from a year ago, I think he was drafted and or signed with the Yankees. That was big for them. Max Anderson’s a freshman, he’s a local kid, he’s probably gonna play mostly third base, but he can play pretty much anywhere on the infield. And then Logan Foster, the transfer from Texas A&M is going to be playing on at one of the outfield spots and, and he’s going to play a pretty big role. So all those guys, you know, this is a team that should have one of the better offenses in the big 10 with that group of guys.
Jon Johnston So how have you heard, they haven’t released any kind of schedule for televising any of these games or anything like that? There’s, I think they’re still trying to work that out right.
Now. I haven’t seen anything. Yeah. Maybe we’re still two weeks out from the beginning. So I’ve already reached out to see if they’re going to let media and or scouts. And, and they don’t know the answer to that. So they are allowing immediate family members. So they basically kept 250 people for games. And that’s the players, the coaches on both teams. And then, you know, the immediate family members. And then I’m assuming, you know, you’re gonna have a radio team, and a TV team, possibly. So yeah, we’ll see if they let me in. I don’t even know yet.
Jon Johnston I reached out to Nebraska about shooting because I want to. I work mostly at home, you know, in IT and I don’t get out at all, I have not literally, I, I made the joke to my wife two days ago that I have literally, and this is an I’m not exaggerating, I’ve worn one pair of pants. One pair of pants, it’s like March, and they’re not even getting worn out. You know what I mean? So one of the things that they start letting us go to these things is I’m gonna have to get used to wearing pants and clothes again.
Right? Yeah, not sweat pants.
Jon Johnston pandemic wear? That’s what I call it. Is there anything else about the big 10 that, that I missed that you want to tell us about? About baseball?
The one thing that just stands out to me is Rutgers. And Rutgers has always kind of been the bottom of the barrel. That’s not going to happen this year. Their head coach that they hired, similar situation as well bowl is Steve Owens, and he’s going to turn that program around, and they’re going to be more competitive more consistently. I don’t you know, that I don’t think they make the postseason. But they’re not going to be the last team in the big 10. I can tell you that.
Jon Johnston Okay, I guess that brings up one more thing is, throughout, I don’t know the last 83 years or it’s been a while since we moved to the big 10 now, and since I’ve covered big 10 baseball. My attitude always has been that the big 10 doesn’t care much about baseball. And I think Nebraska fans had the attitude that when we moved in the big time we just take over the conference. But since we’ve moved on, everybody has replaced their baseball coaches. And you know, everybody has I don’t want to say everybody, almost everybody isn’t is vastly improved their facilities. They’ve, everybody’s, well, not everybody, almost everybody again, has improved their out of conference scheduling, which we’re not going to see this year. Like Penn State ticks me off every year because they still want to play Elon 30 times and their RPI is crap and it always you know what I mean? They haven’t done anything else. But is that what you see when you look at the big 10? If I say to you, the big 10 doesn’t care about Baseball. Your response is?
The league doesn’t give it as much weight clearly as basketball and football. Those are the those are the revenue making sports and they have made the big 10 conference, a very wealthy conference. And based on in that conversation, the individual schools take baseball very seriously. Us, Michigan, us, Ohio State us, Nebraska, us, Iowa, US Illinois, they all take baseball very seriously. And it’s clear because what you just mentioned, they invest in the programs, they all have, you know, really nice facilities, they have renovated ballparks, a lot of places have installed turf, you know, so they can handle these crappy springs that we have. I know, the coaching staffs are, you know, it’s not just some, some guy that, you know, like some leftover, you know, they’re very competitive on the coaching circuit. And I mean, they have one of the best and Eric backage at Michigan and what he’s doing. And so the T the individual programs take baseball very seriously, I would agree that it would be nice to see the conference itself, take the sport more seriously.
Jon Johnston I remember a few years ago, I mean, I was going out to the big 10. org site. And I was looking for like statistical leaders. And I was looking like, I don’t know, pitching and batting. And you look at it, you go, why are all these guys that have pitched one inning at the top of the list. And then I realized they didn’t they didn’t categorize it by minimum innings pitch. They just put up the best statistics. And I sent him a letter and I said, Why are you posting these statistics. AThey never responded to me.. Next time I went out there, I checked it. And it was, you know, they have minimum at bats, minimum innings pitch, stuff like that. And that’s where I kind of got, wow, they’re not really even paying attention at the league office to what’s going on. So there is some you know, I did have evidence I did.
And it’s funny, you bring that up, because it’s not too long ago that the NCAA itself didn’t post college baseball stats until the college basketball season was over. It’s almost like they couldn’t post stats on their website until the best basketball statistics were down. And I mean, it just sounded like that wasn’t that long ago. I mean, now I want to say 10 years ago, or less than 10 years ago, like until, you know, early April, there were no baseball stats on the ncaa.com website. So and it just shows you the sport as a whole and how it’s it’s viewed. And I think that’s changed a lot, especially with how ESPN is trading college baseball, and the platform that they put it on and they’ve definitely elevated most the SEC, you know, and then somewhat deservedly so. But I think I think the rest of the nation has caught on to
Jon Johnston Would you would you say that baseball has risen to the number three sport I mean, we got men’s football obviously way at number one men’s basketball even for a lot of people might be number one and two this way those two sports but number three, I you could argue it’s women’s basketball and parts of the country volleyball for Nebraskans is huge, and huge throughout the big 10. But where do you think baseball in the huge scheme of all the college sports? Where do you think it fits?
Yeah, I’m sure you know, and I know like lacrosse is a big deal on the East Coast too. But I’d have to say college baseball. I mean, there’s nothing like the College World Series in any of the other college sports. So I think I yeah, I mean, I can’t imagine it not being college baseball. I will say it’s a distance third, you know, right. But it’s it’s still I think a firm third. So yeah.
Jon Johnston Okay, this will end with you. Well, if people want to know more about what you do, where do they go? And how do they get to your stuff and how did they get to you guys coverage? And this is where you plug the one baseball?
Well, I’ll start with D1baseball. So it’s simple. It’s D1 baseball.com and Kendall Rogers, Aaron Fitt are the main two and Mike Rooney who I’ve worked with for for quite some time. And there’s correspondence that they have all over the nation you know, Eric Sorenson and Shotgun Spratling, Walter Villa. I mentioned Burke Ranger and there’s some guys that I’m forgetting I apologize to them for not saying their names but yeah, they just cover the game of college baseball like no other outlet and it’s it’s fun to be a part of because of that. So me personally, I also do my own scouting. I also do like graphic design work. I cover travel team baseball, I have a deep history with that. I do my own stuff on a site called thegrindbaseball.com. My contact info is on there. Samples of my work, my writing, my design, my whatever. It is I try to cover it so I do it in a variety of ways. So always like talking baseball with you and other people. So I just encourage people to, to reach out and contact me and hopefully we can start up a new conversation.
Jon Johnston You know, that’s a good that’s a good ending and I’m not great at ending so we’re gonna end there. This has been Jon’s Postlife crisis with Patrick Ebert of D1baseball. Go big red, and I hope we have a baseball season that is kind of actually a season. You know, we don’t get we don’t get what we got with our basketball team where they didn’t get a play for 30 days and then they come back and get destroyed. Anyway, thanks for listening. Go big red. Take care of yourselves.