Randy York’s N-Sider
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Red Wing is a city of 16,500 people in Southeast Minnesota, located about 50 miles straight down the Mississippi River from Minneapolis/St. Paul. It’s nearly a 6½ to 7-hour drive from Red Wing to Lincoln, but the parents of two of Nebraska’s most pivotal baseball players don’t mind making that drive almost every time Darin Erstad’s Huskers play a home game at Haymarket Park. Pat Kelly, Nebraska’s junior second-baseman and cleanup hitter, and Ryan Boldt, the Huskers’ freshman centerfielder who has hit in the No. 5 slot for four of his team’s last six games, are first cousins who grew up in Red Wing, and they pack a powerful punch.
Kelly’s dad, Jim, and Boldt’s mom, Chris, are brother-and-sister in a family that included 10 children, who all grew up on a farm near Red Wing. All still live in or near Red Wing, so you can imagine how many seats they take up when a family entourage of more than 50 will come to Lincoln for Easter next month. Their arrival will coincide with Nebraska hosting Northwestern on a Friday afternoon, Saturday afternoon and Easter Sunday, April 18-19-20. Talk about parents, grandparents, great grandparents, kids, grandkids, great grandkids, spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends, and you get a pretty good idea of how much baseball binds together a Red Wing family that Nebraska relates to baseball more than industrial strength Red Wing shoes, Riedell ice skates and roller skates and Red Wing pottery and stoneware that have helped make this River City famous.
Know this. The Kelly/Boldt cousins are catalysts for a Nebraska team that has won seven of its nine games in Lincoln this season and is hosting its final non-conference weekend series of the season. They are tough-minded performers who hope this weekend’s three-game series against UNLV jumpstarts the Huskers as they prepare to compete at Arkansas next week and go on to contend for a Big Ten Championship before hosting the conference tournament at Omaha’s TD AmeriTrade Park in late May.
Freshman Centerfielder Ryan Boldt leads the Huskers this season with a .375 batting average.
First-Team All-Big Ten Player Kelly Still a Leader
Kelly, 5-foot-11 and 187 pounds, was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore after earning second-team All-Big Ten honors as a freshman. He can hit with collegiate baseball’s best. The only Husker who has started all 24 games this season, he leads Nebraska in both hits (33) and RBIs (21) and collected five hits in a Feb. 15 game against touted Oregon State in Tempe, Ariz. This season, he has nine multi-hit games, a team-best eight-game hitting streak and another team-best six multiple RBI games. Last season, Kelly led Nebraska with 85 hits and ranked third in batting average (.331), RBIs (33) and doubles (12) before ending the season on a career-high 13-game hitting streak.
Boldt has been equal lightning at the plate as a 6-foot-2, 198-pound true freshman who accepted Nebraska’s scholarship offer to join his cousin. Drafted in the 22nd round of MLB’s 2013 Draft out of Red Wing High School, he ranked as the nation’s No. 15 overall recruit, the nation’s No. 3 outfielder and was considered the top player in the state of Minnesota. The MVP of the 2012 Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego, he opted to accept Nebraska’s scholarship after a leg injury disrupted his thoughts about playing pro baseball immediately out of high school.
Boldt’s performance is proof that the product lives up to the promotion. He leads the Huskers with a .375 batting average and is tied for the team lead in doubles (7) and triples (3). He has started 22 of the 23 games in which he has played. Boldt is third in total bases (43), one behind team co-leaders Michael Pritchard and Austin Darby. He also leads the team in slugging percentage (.538) and stolen bases (5). He has eight multiple hit games, three multiple RBI games and a hitting streak that reached six games, two behind his cousin’s best.
From left: Mitch and Chris Boldt, Ryan Boldt's parents; and Beth and Jim Kelly, Pat Kelley's parents.
Red Wing Native, Husker Father Has New Friends
Red Wing’s contributions to Nebraska’s baseball team are impressive, if not enormous, and in a There is No Place like Nebraska coincidence, Jim Kelly, a former football player at Nebraska, has been a good friend with another Red Wing native, Dave Sundberg, for 30 years. A former Husker himself, Sundberg is a longtime Lincoln resident and the father of former NU quarterback Craig Sundberg, the MVP of Nebraska’s 28-10 win over LSU in the 1985 Sugar Bowl. Dave and wife Linda Sundberg, grandparents of two former Husker student-athletes, have developed a friendship with both Red Wing-based families, and they share another tight bond besides a hometown on the Mighty Mississippi. They are, in almost every sense you can think of, Big Red fans.
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