Returning to the UNO baseball team next season makes good business sense to senior Parker Smejkal.
Given the choice by the NCAA to return after a season cut short by the coronavirus, Smejkal said it’s a no-brainer.
“It’s a relief that the seniors will get a chance to come back and play,” he said. “I’m not ready to jump into the adult business world just yet.”
Smejkal, the team’s top hitter in 2019, helped the Mavericks get off to a 10-4 start this spring. But that’s when the NCAA pulled the plug on the season, leading to an emotional time for him.
“I remember going back to my room and fighting back tears,” he said. “I thought that was it for me.”
But Smejkal, one of 10 seniors on this year’s team, later found out otherwise.
“My phone was blowing up with calls from family and friends about the NCAA saying that we’d get our year back,” he said. “It was a big relief.”
Smejkal, who graduated last year with a business degree, is in the first year of his two-year MBA program.
“If things went according to plan, I’d have finished baseball this season and had another year to go academically,” he said. “Now I’ll get the opportunity to finish my master’s and play baseball at the same time.”
Smejkal (pronounced Smeckle) was a four-year letterwinner at Columbus High, where he batted .455 his senior season. He played one season at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, starting 55 games and batting .309.
He batted .237 as a sophomore at UNO before playing in just 17 games as a junior, earning a medical redshirt because of injury.
His breakout year came last season when he batted a team-high .329 to earn first-team All-Summit League honors. He led the team in doubles, homers and RBIs and helped the Mavs capture the Summit League championship and net an NCAA regional berth.
That success had him fired up for his senior season, which officially ended a few days after an 8-1 victory March 7 over Creighton. Smejkal, the designated hitter that game, had a hit and scored twice.
“We were pretty confident heading into conference play,” he said. “Then we got the news that the season had been suspended and the next day found out that it had been canceled.”
UNO coach Evan Porter said it was a relief to get that subsequent ruling from the NCAA, sparing Smejkal and the other seniors who want to return.
“I was very pleased that was the result,” he said. “In my mind, there’s no doubt that was the right thing to do.”
Porter said he’s been busy talking with his seniors, trying to determine who will be coming back.
“It’s a difficult time for everybody,” he said. “A lot of tough decisions will have to be made.”
The Mavs were going to host the Summit League championship this year at Seymour Smith Park, but that’s been postponed until 2021. By then, UNO’s new baseball/softball complex near Baxter Arena will be finished.
“The coaches said that might be the one positive,” Smejkal said. “To be able to play at our new field next season and host the league tourney there will be awesome.”
Until then, Smejkal said he’ll continue his studies and do his best to mentor the younger players.
“I’ll be 24 next season,” he said. “I’ll be a lot older than most of the guys, but I’m going to be the best leader I can.”