By Todd Hansen
The Maverick baseball program sent two more players up to the pros after shortstop Evan Porter and pitcher Chris Kessinger were picked in last month’s Major League Baseball draft.Porter was tapped in the 23rd round by the Philadelphia Phillies and Kessinger in the 37th by the Seattle Mariners.
Porter concluded his career at UNO as the program’s all time leader in games played (239), at bats (869), hits (323), doubles (75), home runs (43), runs batted in (249) and total bases (527). This past season he also set a single season record with 97 hits.
Kessinger led the Mavs with a 3.02 ERA and finished the season with a 9-4 record in 14 starts. He also led the team with 82 strikeouts.
Between the last two years UNO has now sent eight players into the pros.
“I’m very happy for them, it says something about our program and helps us recruit new players,” said head coach Bob Herold.
The players will have quite a grind ahead of them, though, Herold said. Both players will start in rookie ball where the season lasts 144 games.
“Playing every day takes some getting used to, you go 14 days with only one day off, you have to be strong all around,” Herold said.
Porter has started practicing already. He said the experience from the coaching staff has helped.
“They have all either played or coached in the majors and have a ton of experience to pass on,” Porter said.
The most noticeable adjustment from college to the pros might be the use of the wooden bat. Porter, however, said he’s used the wooden bats on every summer team throughout college.
In addition to using a new bat, Porter said the pitchers will be throwing harder, which will take some getting used to.
“I’m looking to improve on every aspect of my game but mostly my speed and hitting,” Porter said.
Kessinger said he would rely on his competitiveness and work on both velocity and movement on his pitches.
“The next step is trying to work my way through the farm system and try to take it as far as I can,” Kessinger said.
The thought of actually making it to the MLB came when Kessinger was in high school.
“It was about my sophomore year when my coach told me that if I work hard I may have a future in professional baseball,” Kessinger said.
For Porter, the thought of making it to the pros came later.
“I started thinking I had a chance during my junior season at UNO when I was first contacted by some scouts,” Porter said.
When the calls came to both Porter and Kessinger, they were playing it low-key. Kessinger was by himself, and Porter was with his family and girlfriend. They had both looked forward to that day since childhood, though.
“I remember playing backyard baseball at a very young age and thinking I would like to become a professional baseball player,” Kessinger said. “I don’t think I really believed it would happen.