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These Iowans are Flocking to Nebraska
Sunday, April 25, 2010
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Jon Keller, Jonathan Musser and the Christensen brothers, Chad and Austin, haven’t figured out the car-pool assignments yet for their trips to the University of Nebraska, but that’s OK. They still have time.
After all, it shouldn’t be too hard to iron out the details. Keller and the Christensen brothers all live in Cedar Rapids, so they can get together pretty easily before heading west on Interstate 80. And they can stop in Waukee, just west of Des Moines, to fetch Musser before resuming the journey to Nebraska.
All four Iowans are – or will be –Cornhuskers, members of the University of Nebraska baseball team. Chad Christensen is already there and he’s already established himself as Nebraska’s starting shortstop as a freshman, hitting .329 with six homers. Keller and Musser will report for duty this fall, while Austin Christensen will follow them a year later.
These young men are all going west to Lincoln, Neb., unless pro baseball intervenes at some point. For now, however, it’s Nebraska all the way.
“I think it’s going to be a fun time. We’re all good buds and stuff,” Keller said. “It’s going to make the program better, I think. So it will be fun.”
Chad Christensen graduated from Cedar Rapids Washington High School in 2009 as an all-state shortstop. Keller, from Cedar Rapids Xavier, and Musser, from Dowling Catholic in west Des Moines, are high school seniors and will graduate this May. Both are hard-throwing right-handers and all-state pitchers. Austin Christensen is a junior at Cedar Rapids Kennedy, and he’s already made a pair of all-state teams as a left-handed pitcher and outfielder.
By the 2012 college baseball season, they all could be teammates in Lincoln, Neb.
“I think it’s great,” Austin Christensen said. “I’m glad they’re starting to recruit more Iowa kids. I know we have a lot of really talented kids here. And I hope they keep recruiting here.”
Keller, Musser and Austin Christensen participated in the Spring Top Prospect Showcase at Perfect Game Field this weekend in Cedar Rapids. Keller flashed a 92 mph fastball during his two shutout innings on Sunday, Musser flashed a 91 mph heater during his two perfect innings on Sunday, and Christensen kept batters off-balance with his deliveries during two shutout innings on Saturday. Christensen also collected several hits and played the outfield.
Chad Christensen was busy playing for Nebraska during the weekend, but he’ll be in eastern Iowa on Tuesday night when the Cornhuskers face the Iowa Hawkeyes at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City, about 30 miles south of Cedar Rapids.
Chad Christensen got this “Let’s go to Nebraska” ball rolling when he committed to the Cornhuskers. Chad Christensen helped convince Keller to sign with Nebraska, and Keller worked on getting Musser to climb aboard. Austin Christensen, meanwhile, took several trips to Nebraska when his brother was being recruited and fell in love with the place, too. He said committing to Nebraska was an easy decision to make.
“Yeah, it was very easy,” he said. “I knew the whole time, if they offered, this was where I was going to go.”
Austin Christensen was just a freshman when he decided he wanted to attend Nebraska. The offer came last fall, near the start of his junior year in high school, and he jumped at it.
Austin Christensen is delighted by his brother’s early success at Nebraska, but not surprised.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” he said. “He’s the hardest-working kid I know, and I knew he’d be good once he got in there. I know they’re kind of struggling, but give team a couple of years and they’ll be back on top.”
Keller considered other options before committing to Nebraska, then went to work on getting Musser to commit. Musser had other options, too.
“It was a pretty tough decision,” Musser said. “I’ve known Jon pretty well, so I was able to talk to him about it. And he was able to convince me that it was the right thing to do.”
Keller, Musser and Austin Christensen all said they’re impressed with Nebraska’s facilities, like the coaching staff and are excited about playing in the Big 12 Conference. Keller and Musser, however, probably will be drafted this June and could have a decision to make about pro ball.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Keller remarked. “I’m just trying to get better every day.”
Musser, like Keller, has had private workouts with major league teams, but has no idea what will happen in the draft. He looked good at the Showcase Sunday, and his crackling 91 mph fastball was just a touch behind his all-time best of 92.
“My goal has been low 90s, to be able to pitch there,” he said. “So I’m happy that I’m able to hit that now, and hopefully as the season continues going I’ll keep gaining velocity.”
Keller has hit 94 on the radar gun and has been working on his off-speed stuff this spring. Christensen, a left-hander, throws in the low 80s with good movement on his breaking balls, but he’s not sure what position he’ll play with the Cornhuskers.
“They said to keep working on everything,” Christensen remarked. “They don’t know if I’ll be pitching or first base or outfield, just keep working on all of them and they’ll choose one of them once I get there.”
Musser, Keller and Austin Christensen are all 6-foot-5. Chad Christensen is 6-foot-3. They’re all big guys, so that car-pool could get a little crowded with all those arms and legs.
“We’ll probably have to get it planned out,” Keller said with a smile.