LINCOLN — Nebraska baseball recruit Ryan Boldt hasn’t swung a bat in two months, and that’s driving him nuts.
This is the kid who was told as a little leaguer that an injury to his left arm would prevent him from ever throwing a baseball with it again. So he taught himself how to use his right one, instead.
The first pitch he contacted in a junior varsity game as a high school sophomore was deposited over the fence. He played for Red Wing (Minn.) High School’s varsity squad the next game. Husker coaches started contacting him that summer.
Boldt was the MVP of Perfect Game’s All-American Classic in August, a member of the USA U-18 national team in September and a top 50 MLB draft prospect last month.
But his bat and glove have been packed up since April, when he needed surgery after a partially torn meniscus ended his senior season one game in.
He was on crutches for a while. The brace came off last week. Now, it’s full rehab mode until he feels fully healthy again, and he’s not quite sure when that will be.
“It’s tough. You can’t rehab all the time,” he said. “There’s a lot of down time. I’ve just been hanging with my family and friends as much as I can before I leave.”
That’s the silver lining for Boldt. He’ll be a Husker this fall, passing on a pro contract with the Boston Red Sox — they drafted him far lower than expected, in Round 22.
The injury presumably tainted Boldt’s stock just enough that MLB franchises, restricted by predetermined signing bonus amounts, assumed they wouldn’t be able to persuade him to go pro. Not uncommon, but slightly unexpected.
“I enjoyed the process, but I’m glad it’s over,” Boldt said. “Definitely a lot of phone calls, and a lot text messages.”
It was a similar story for two NU pitching recruits, Derek Burkamper and Max Knutson, who were expected to be drafted within the first 10 rounds. The Red Sox picked Burkamper, out of Iowa, in the 20th round, while Knutson, a Minnesota product, went undrafted. The deadline to sign a pro contract is July 12, but both plan to be in Lincoln this fall.
Boldt will be there, too, considerably motivated to get back to playing the game he loves.
The last time he was on the diamond, he entered the game on crutches as a pinch runner. It was senior day at Red Wing. A planned tribute. Boldt stayed on the bag for one pitch. Fans from both sides stood and cheered.
“It’s a close community and everybody’s just real proud of him,” Red Wing co-coach Jim Bohmbach said. “He got pretty emotional at that time. The whole team came out and got around him. It was a pretty cool moment for everybody.”
But it was not exactly the way a high school career was supposed to end for the guy who belted a bomb on his first JV swing. Boldt has a “strut to him,” Bohmbach says, always the one outworking his teammates. Boldt hit the ball so hard in batting practice, coaches throwing the pitches had to be extra careful, even when behind a net or a cage.
Boldt missed the first three weeks of his sophomore year after undergoing another surgery on that ailing left arm. Something popped once when Boldt threw as a kid. It never felt right again.
But Boldt had been using his right hand to write, so he figured he could learn to throw with it, too. He took the cast off, then hit a home run. His stock blossomed from there.
Now he’s a 6-foot-2, 185-pound outfielder headed to Lincoln, where he’ll join cousin Pat Kelly on the Huskers. And Boldt said he’s excited. He can’t wait to swing again.
“My rehab’s going pretty well, so I’m not going to rush it,” Boldt said. “I want to get back to 100 percent before I even think about playing again.”