AP NEWS

Hometown Husker

January 23, 2019

There was no telling exactly what was on the mind of his father when Tyler Palmer watched his dad stride into the room and ask for a sit down.

It was a typical approach to the relationship. Father and son have shared many heart-to-hearts, including when Palmer found trouble and required a stern discussion.

This time however, he couldn’t quite think of any particular reason why he might have landed in the dog house.

“That’s what it’s like most of the time,” Palmer said, explaining how dad often delivered bad news. “I had my suspicions.”

One suspicion he had not considered was a conversation that began his journey down a path towards becoming a future Husker.

“I came from baseball practice, or something, and my dad sat me down in my room and was like, ‘Coach Erstad had some contact with your high school coach, and they want to set up a visit sometime this summer,’” Palmer remembered. “It was the first time I was ever in contact with a college, and I was ecstatic. It was great news to know I was on someone’s radar.

“Before that I thought, ‘I’m good at baseball here in Columbus.’ I was really shocked to hear the Nebraska baseball coaches wanted to look at me.”

Tyler Palmer has been a rising star on the diamond almost since the time he fielded his first ground ball and took his first swing. Once he reached varsity age two years ago, the Scotus Shamrock was starting on the co-op team with Columbus High.

As a freshman, he led the Discoverers with a .338 batting average, 11 RBIs, seven doubles and eight stolen bases.

It was, in a way, confirmation of all the talent he had shown in little league and club baseball.

One of dad’s friends happened to be in contact with Nebraska coach Darin Erstad. His message: ‘You need to take a look at this kid in Columbus.’

“I’ve never really thought of myself as good at baseball,” Palmer said. “I’ve just always been playing baseball, and I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember.”

Prior to NCAA rules changing governing contact with high school athletes, Nebraska assistant coach Mike Kirby traveled to Columbus to watch Palmer play. Not long after, he was invited to a program visit to tour the facilities, the campus and get a general feel for Nebraska baseball.

Attention then also came from Creighton, Wichita State and eventually Duke. Suddenly, a humble player who was in it for the love of the game found himself a hot commodity on the recruiting trail.

Still, his own opinion of himself remained modest. Nebraska made the first offer last January.

He remained unassuming.

The Bluejays, Shockers and Blue Devils wanted him as well. But it took until last summer and trips around the country playing against some of the best talent in the nation before Palmer began to feel some validation.

He could field, throw, hit and run with anybody.

“When I first got my Nebraska offer, I was very blessed to get it. I kind of sat back, looked at my opportunities and kind of took everything slow from there,” he said.

“When I first visited about a year ago, and I’ve only been in Nebraska all my life, I haven’t seen any other facilities. I thought Nebraska was cool but wanted to go look at some other options. So I looked at some other options, and no other place compares to what Nebraska has.”

Not even the allure of Duke and playing in the south where baseball is an all-year game could draw him away. From Palmer’s perspective, Haymarket Park is one of the best, if not the best, home stadium in college baseball, and loyal Nebraska fans are second to none.

Meanwhile, throughout almost daily emails, he kept excelling. As a sophomore, Palmer hit .348 with nine RBIs, a .458 on-base percentage and 15 stolen bases.

As Palmer said, he took his time, visited around the country but felt his heart drawing him back home.

Some recruiting services made it seem like Nebraska had ground to make up in order to land his in-state talent.

Start to finish however, that was not the case.

“There was nothing (other schools) really could have done,” he said. “It’s just the fact that you can’t beat being a Husker when you grow up as a child in Nebraska.”

If he has it his way, he’ll be a double Husker.

In addition to his love for the diamond, Palmer has a similar attraction to the gridiron.

Last fall, Palmer sent game film of himself from the football field to Nebraska Director of High School Relations Kenny Wilhite. Wilhite responded the same day.

“As a kid I thought, I want to play football, seven days a week, 365 days a year. I want to do this for the rest of my life,” Palmer said. ”

“I didn’t even expect a response. I’ve never really had any thoughts about football in the future until this year and I just decided to send it. He responded and I couldn’t have been happier.”

Palmer made game day trips to Lincoln this past fall for the Troy and Illinois games as an unofficial visitor.

When he mentioned to Erstad the possibility of playing both sports at Nebraska during his baseball recruiting process, it was, understandably, met with a great deal of understanding, and a caveat.

Erstad, as most Husker fans remember, was a dual sport athlete at Nebraska in the early 1990s, playing baseball on the turf infield of Buck Beltzer Stadium and booming punts at Memorial Stadium.

He went on to a 14-year career in Major League Baseball winning the 2002 World Series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

“Just know that it’s a grind,” Erstad told him. “You don’t have days off.”

“I’ll embrace that grind,” Palmer said.

For now though a football/baseball combo remains just an idea. While Palmer fully believes he can do both, and has dreamed of doing both for most of his athletic career, competing as a dual athlete isn’t the sole focus of his future plans.

Should baseball be his lone sport, he’s looking forward to a bright future with fellow Husker recruits also from within the borders.

In-state recruiting by Erstad, and assistant coach Ted Silva, have Palmer believing Nebraska will be back at the College World Series in the near future.

If he ever steps up to the plate at TD Ameritrade Park, he might think back to that afternoon it all came together in Lincoln.

It was a week ago with dad again, down the street at McDonald’s.

“All of a sudden I was like, ‘Dad, I think we should go back. I think I’m ready to commit.’ And he said, ‘It’s all up to you. I’ll support your decision.’ So I texted coach Erstad. I felt like I was ready to call Nebraska home,” Palmer said. “I felt like it was the time. Came back, told them I’d verbally commit, and I’ll see them in the future.”

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com

AP RADIO
Update hourly