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Shatel: Storm Chasers' return is reason to celebrate after last year's toll on baseball

Shatel: Storm Chasers' return is reason to celebrate after last year's toll on baseball

The study, conducted by Creighton economics professor Ernie Goss and commissioned by CWS Inc., showed a major bump from the $63.7 million calculated in 2014, when Goss last compiled the numbers.

First downs and second guesses:

Gentlemen, start your mini helmet sundaes.

Welcome back, Storm Chasers. Great to have you back. You and all your summer nights, ballgames and kids, blankets and fireworks, ice cream and designer hot dogs were missed.

The last time we saw the Chasers, on Sept. 2, 2019, Round Rock was in town. When the Werner Park gates open on Tuesday, St. Paul will be in the visitor’s dugout.

Time hasn’t exactly flown. It’s been a long, hard year. The pandemic hit all businesses like Pete Rose headfirst into home, baseball included.

Omaha’s Triple-A baseball club, a staple of the community since 1969, went from 30 full-time employees to seven. Good, loyal Omaha folks. An entire season of games, and revenue, was lost.

Local baseball fans were deprived of seeing Kansas City prospects who have helped the Royals secure the early lead in the American League Central this year.

And we had to do without all those crazy, fun promotional nights. No Runza or Potholes jerseys to make us smile.

The Storm Chasers have carved a place in this market, a niche. And they do it well. They were able to mostly hold onto their identity.

During the year off, Major League Baseball took over the minor leagues, whittled down some teams and reorganized the rest. The Chasers are now grouped with affiliates in the American and National League East divisions.

Omaha was able to hold onto its ties with Kansas City and its Triple-A standing. Fresno was not so lucky, dropping from Triple-A to Single-A.

Opening day will be "a celebration that Triple-A baseball has returned," Storm Chasers President Martie Cordaro said, while recognizing the painful losses of last year.

This opener is about a month late, but the season now goes until mid-September. Capacity at Werner will start at 3,600, but Cordaro thinks that will expand as the season goes into summer.

Summer. Baseball. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Hey Sandy Buda, there’s another UNO-Kansas football connection.

Lance Leipold was named head coach at Kansas on Monday. Of course, a lot of UNO fans and Beef Club members have fond memories of Leipold as an excellent young assistant for Pat Behrns from 1994 to 2000 and again from 2004 to 2006 (offensive coordinator).

In between, Leipold served as an assistant to Frank Solich at Nebraska.

Soon he would find his calling as a head coach. And how. Leipold won six Division III national titles at Wisconsin-Whitewater and lately had Buffalo on the uptick.

Kansas football isn’t for the squeamish or the lazy old coach in it for the money. Leipold, 56, is perfect for KU.

He’s an established winner with a system. He’s hungry to prove himself at the FBS level. He understands the task. And he’s a good coach, at a place where the expectations are to make a bowl game and don’t embarrass the folks at Allen Fieldhouse.

I’m not saying Leipold will win the Big 12. But he’ll get players, win games and probably retire there as the most successful coach since Glen Mason and Mark Mangino.

I’m sure Buda, who coached at UNO and Kansas, agrees.

Now, a few questions from Sunday night Twitter:

“Who will be the next Husker first-round (pick) in the NFL draft? Was he on the field Saturday?” — Mark Eiserman

Obviously, this is a best guess, Mark. But I like the young offensive linemen coming up. If Nebraska indeed establishes a dominant run game, behind that line, those guys will get noticed. So I’ll go with Turner Corcoran or Thomas Fidone, hopefully with a healthy and successful tight end career.

“People say Nebraska looks like a Big Ten team now. Does the coaching staff look like a B1G staff?” — “Friedyo”

Closer than ever, Fried. The Big Ten has a way of making you see things their way. Check out how the power run game, special teams and attention to details look next season. If they aren’t up to Big Ten standard, that’s a problem.

“Does (Jaquez) Yant remind you of Jerome Bettis?” — Larry Podojil

Let’s let him play some games, Larry. But this young freight train is right on time.

The walk-on freshman running back is listed at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, but some NU coaches swear he’s 255. What everyone knows is he's a load to tackle and the kind of big-body back Frost hasn't had since Devine Ozigbo. And if he can lead the transformation of the run game, Mr. Yant will be making his own name next season.

“When does pressure come to relieve some assistant coaches?” — Chris Andersen

Frost actually made a couple of changes after his first two seasons. Frost likes his staff and is loyal, but if this season falls short of .500 and a bowl, there will be heat.

Here’s my take: I think this is still a potentially good college football staff. I think it caught lightning in a bottle at UCF and has had to grow up in a hurry in a good coaching conference. They haven't been nearly good enough and have to get better. Getting good players and more of them always helps.

I think they’re going to get there. But this is a big year for that timetable.

One more and I’m outta here: Fordham. Vince Lombardi U. Love it as a home opener.

That’s smart management of the schedule. Set up momentum early. Provide a break in November. Should have just done this and left the Oklahoma thing alone.

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