INDIANAPOLIS — Trev Alberts reached the peak of his baseball career in early high school.
It was the late 1980s and Alberts spent a few summers in northeast Iowa pitching, catching and playing shortstop. He gave it up to focus on football — becoming an All-America linebacker at Nebraska and a first-round NFL draft pick — right around the time he stopped seeing all fastballs.
“I was really good at baseball, awesome, until they started throwing curveballs,” Alberts said at Big Ten media days last week. “Then, not so much.”
Now Nebraska’s athletic director doesn’t need to hit a breaking pitch to know Husker baseball is in a good spot. But a line he heard recently from volleyball coach John Cook stuck with him, and applies to both programs.
It’s difficult to get to the top. It’s twice as hard to stay there.
NU baseball — reigning Big Ten champs — is already migrating toward the latter category, even as it seeks to end decadelong droughts of hosting an NCAA regional and reaching the College World Series.
Alberts said he will be open-minded about potential upgrades in and around Haymarket Park that coach Will Bolt hinted at seeking earlier this month.
“The reality is facilities don’t win you games, but facilities inspire,” Alberts said. “They help you recruit. What I have found with donors is it’s hard to raise money and say, ‘Help us build a facility so we can start winning.’ You’re going to be asked to find a way to win yourself, then facilities seem to come to reflect that growing excellence.
"So Will’s got the program in great shape and we’ll do whatever we can to help ensure that we have the resources that we can retain a great coaching staff and retain the momentum.”
Alberts and NU's executive team will first create strategic plans for all sports. That starts with defining the Huskers’ standing in the Big Ten and explores how they can take or maintain a leading position. Strategies flow from there.
Baseball may have less ground to make up than other Husker sports. Alberts said its culture reflects Nebraskans. And the A.D. was impressed by the “personal security” Bolt showed this month in hiring his former boss, Rob Childress, as director of player development.
“He appears to be a gritty fella,” Alberts said of Bolt, adding he’s looking forward to getting to know the coach better. “And I like those kind of people.”
Alberts invested in baseball as athletic director at UNO, which opened a $23.5 million baseball and softball complex this spring after the Mavericks spent years playing at parks around town. All funds were raised privately.
Childress — who spent the past 16 seasons as coach at Texas A&M — and Bolt said earlier this month that the 20-year-old Haymarket Park could use an upgrade in various off-field operational areas, including more office room and on-site nutritional options. The left-field side of the park in particular has room for potential expansion.
“We’ve got plenty of space over here to do some things,” Bolt said. “I’m not a very good artist, but I’ve sketched a few things after the season.”
His new boss will be happy to take a look.
“If you never sit down to define where we are relative to our peers today, how do you know where you’re going?” Alberts said. “Then you’re just wandering around in the wilderness. We don’t want to wander around.”