Red Wing’s Boldt picks NebraskaRyan Boldt was thrown a curveball at a young age.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
Ryan Boldt was thrown a curveball at a young age.
A misdiagnosed broken left elbow at age 9 created permanent damage to the growth plates in the young baseball player’s throwing arm. Boldt was forced to learn to throw right handed or risk losing the game he loved.
That adversity created quite the player.
Boldt said he’s still a work in progress but the University of Nebraska-Lincoln saw enough to offer him a baseball scholarship and Boldt rewarded the Cornhuskers’ faith by verbally committing for the 2013-14 season.
“It’s exciting,” said Boldt, a junior at Red Wing High School. “It’s definitely always been a dream of mine to keep playing as long as I get the opportunity to.”
As a sophomore outfielder, Boldt led the Wingers with a .446 batting average and a .520 on-base percentage. He finished with eight doubles and two triples. He also showed some power, hitting three home runs out of the leadoff spot.
But it’s his speed that stands out, whether it’s chasing down balls in the outfield or stealing bases, he said.
“Speed is the biggest thing,” Boldt said. “Whenever you can get that extra step in the outfield, that’s definitely an advantage … (Offensively) try to steal as many bases as you can.”
Boldt said that will fit in perfectly at Nebraska, where first-year head coach Darin Erstad expects players to be aggressive running the bases. The Nebraska coaches told Boldt that if he gets on first base, he won’t just have a green light to steal second base, but a blinking green light encouraging him to take every extra base, he said.
Erstad played 14 years as a Major League outfielder, was named to two All-Star teams and winning three Gold Gloves. He played as a starting outfielder on the Anaheim Angels’ World Series championship team in 2002 and won a Division I National Championship in 1994 as the punter for the Cornhuskers’ football team. Getting to play for such a decorated player will be a thrill, Boldt said.
“He’s a great guy,” he said. “I got to know him pretty good over these past couple months. He’s got the program steered in the right direction. He’s got the mindset; he just wants to win. Winning is a big deal.”
Nebraska is also moving to the Big 10 this season and that created the possibility for his family to attend games, Boldt said. He won’t need to worry about constantly being on the east or west coasts during the season.
“That was a big part of my decision,” Boldt, 17, said. “It’s nice to only be seven hours away from home. It’s not close by any means, but it’s not like you won’t be able to see your family. It’ll be nice to have them watch some games.”
Boldt’s mother, Chris, said it will be nice having Ryan in the Big 10 and close enough that the family can make trips to see Ryan and his cousin, Pat Kelly, play for Nebraska. Kelly is currently a freshman on the baseball team and is expected to start at shortstop in the team’s opening series Feb. 17 against Gonzaga.
Kelly, a graduate of Red Wing High School, helped make Ryan’s decision easier. He was honest about the program and what to expect if he committed. He also sprinkled in some old fashioned recruiting of his own.
“We kept in touch when he started going there,” Ryan said. “He let me know how things went. Every once in a while, he’d send me a text saying, ‘go Big Red.’ It was nice to have someone who’s going to tell me how everything works and how the coaches are when they’re not trying to recruit you.”
Ryan spent time weighing the positives and negatives of each school and as a 4.0 student at Red Wing he wanted to make sure academics were an important component at his university of choice, he said. Visiting the Lincoln campus, he noticed that the Cornhuskers boasted the highest all-time number of academic All-Americans in the NCAA. Nebraska has 291 academic All-Americans, including 14 in 2010-11, which puts the Cornhuskers ahead of Notre Dame, Penn State, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Only Stanford had more in 2010-11.
“That was intriguing,” Ryan said. “At any Big 10 school, you know you’re going to get a good education along with the sports side.”
Chris said Ryan invested plenty of time into weighing each school carefully to make the right choice. His parents believe he made the right one. Notre Dame, the University of Iowa and the University of Cincinnati also offered him scholarships to play baseball.
“Ryan has been blessed with many gifts and does not take them for granted,” Chris said. “Prior to making the decision to attend Nebraska, he did his homework, looking at the academics as well as the athletic components of the universities we visited … we are confident he has made an informed decision and will continue to put 100 percent effort in whatever path he takes.”
Ryan said he is leaning toward studying biology or chemistry, but hasn’t decided.
This summer, Ryan plans to play baseball for the Ohio Warhawks, a traveling baseball team that plays across the country for the entire summer. The Warhawks website boasts Major League baseball players Brandon Phillips, Brian Roberts and Colby Rasmus as alumni.
Ryan’s throwing arm is still gaining strength and as a junior, he still has time to develop. He’s already overcome one challenge, now on to the next.
“It’s exciting,” Ryan said. “You don’t really know what to expect going in. Keep working hard and hopefully things work out for the best.”