If you’ve driven by Tal Anderson Field at all in the last two weeks, there’s a good chance you’ve seen members of the Omaha baseball team out of the field. With bright sunshine and mild February temperatures, the Mavericks have been gearing up for the 2022 season, which begins on Feb. 18 at San Jose State.
“This is the most exciting time of the year,” said Omaha head coach Evan Porter. “Everybody’s really excited and I know everybody is ready to compete this season and get after it.”
It’s still hard for Porter to believe that opening day is less than a week away. But it’s even crazier to think this will already be year two at Tal Anderson Field, the Mavericks’ still sparkling new facility. However, it’s made a difference this spring.
“This is the most we’ve ever been able to get outside before a season in the spring semester,” Porter said. “Part of that is the weather, but even when we’ve had nice weather before our season starts it’s been hard to find a place or some artificial turf to go get some work in.”
The Mavericks head into the 2022 season with work to do after a 22-25 season, which included a 14-12 record in Summit League play. That was good for third in the conference.
There are multiple key returners from 2021, including Mike Boeve, Harrison Denk, Joey Machado and Mark Timmins, but five of Omaha’s eight starters are gone. The big story heading into this season are the newcomers, as Porter and his staff added 17 players for this spring.
The first month of the season especially will give Porter a chance to see what he has to work with.
“These non-conference games the first four weeks of the season are usually when we find those things out,” Porter said. “We’ve got eight games out in California to start off and we can kind of find out who we are and find our identity through those games.”
From an overhauled infield to questions surrounding the pitching staff, Porter said all of those will answer themselves after the first few weeks. The sixth-year head coach is confident in where his team is at though, and likes the experience. Even though they might not have been with the Mavericks, many of those 17 have experience at the college level.
Porter’s also confident in the type of kids they’ve brought in, saying they’ve fit in both on and off the field.
“Coach (Brian) Strawn and Coach (Payton) Kinney do a really good job recruiting,” Porter said. “Not only are we trying to bring in talented players, but guys that will fit in with the team.”
Those who returned from last spring have noticed the new guys fitting in too.
“Our chemistry really just clicked right away,” Timmins said. “That’s something you don’t really see with 17 new guys, but I think everyone’s really gelling together.”
This season also presents a lot of opportunities. The Mavericks welcome Nebraska to Tal Anderson Field this spring, along with Creighton. Those will both be home-and-home series. Kansas, Kansas State and Rutgers will also come to town, along with a road trip to Penn State.
But there are two specific games on this year’s schedule that stand out. March 2, in Fayetteville, Ark. and March 23 at Kauffman Stadium, both against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
“Definitely looking forward to it, especially against an opponent like Arkansas,” said sophomore infielder Mike Boeve. “Playing them twice this year is going to be a great opportunity and playing in a place like Kauffman, where you grow up going to watch those games, is going to be something special.”
Whether it’s against the Razorbacks, Huskers, Bluejays or anybody else this season, there’s one thing Boeve said the Mavericks will be playing with: pride.
“You wear the Omaha on your chest and you really want to represent the city, university and what it means to be a Maverick,” Boeve said.