LINCOLN — The day after Nebraska’s Chad Christensen was drafted about 20 rounds later than he’d hoped, he took off for his summer ball assignment in Minnesota, determined to move on to his next challenge.
The sting vanished just like that.
Christensen had already spent one restless night trying to shake some devastating thoughts — he presumed there was a chance his name would be called on a Tuesday last June, within the MLB draft’s first 15 rounds, but he heard nothing until the next day.
It was the Miami Marlins who selected Christensen in the 35th round, making him the 1,067th player taken.
“I was very disappointed,” Christensen said. “But I had to move past it. There’s a whole bunch of things that go into that. You can’t let it bring you down.”
Having another option helped, too.
Negotiations fizzled with the Marlins, so he stayed with the Huskers, who are now benefiting considerably from Christensen’s perceived snub last summer.
Christensen, an All-Big Ten first-team shortstop in 2012, leads the team with a .352 batting average. His 15-game hit streak was just snapped Tuesday, but not before he drove in the winning run with a two-out single to end a 16-inning game against Northwestern last weekend. He’s scored more runs (19) than any Husker and he’s one off the team high at 15 RBIs. And he’s stolen eight bases in nine attempts.
He’ll lead Nebraska (11-16, 5-1 Big Ten) into Iowa City this weekend for a three-game series against the Hawkeyes (10-13, 1-5).
For Christensen, it’s a homecoming trip — and a nice treat for friends and family in the area. He grew up in Cedar Rapids, about 30 minutes north of the Iowa campus. The Hawkeyes recruited him, but Christensen was set on Nebraska the moment he visited Lincoln.
“I’m real excited about it, being a senior and getting to go play one more time in Iowa,” said Christensen, who was a two-time first-team all-state honoree.
He’s in the process of remaking himself defensively, getting comfortable as a left fielder — he briefly made the move from shortstop last year, but injuries forced him back to the infield.
Christensen hasn’t committed an error out there yet. He gunned down a runner at the plate on Tuesday.
A baseball did pop out of his glove last weekend as he slammed into the scoreboard that sits on the base of the left-field wall at Haymarket Park — he’s still working to accurately track those deceptive line drives blasted right at him.
But that’s what this year is for. Individual drills are once or twice a week. He’s hauling in fly balls whenever his teammates are taking outdoor batting practice. Christensen’s already made improvements, said NU coach Darin Erstad.
“His development has been really rapid,” Erstad said. “It’s been impressive.”
Christensen recognizes the progress. He knew last summer there was plenty of room to grow, which is why the draft results never bothered him for too long.
“You’ve just got to kind of learn to take things in stride,” Christensen said. “Who knows? Maybe I’ll get a better shot at it this year.”
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