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NU's Jaxon Hallmark inks pro contract with Houston as he puts MLB Draft behind him
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NU's Jaxon Hallmark inks pro contract with Houston as he puts MLB Draft behind him

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Nebraska vs. Michigan, 5.29

Nebraska's Jaxon Hallmark (2) raises his hat to the crowd after the Huskers defeated Michigan in the second game of a doubleheader May 29 at Haymarket Park.

Jaxon Hallmark isn't thinking about the MLB Draft anymore.

Nebraska's first-team All-Big Ten outfielder signed a free agent contract with the Houston Astros on Wednesday, a most effective cure for a humbling draft experience.  

20 rounds of not hearing his name called caught Hallmark off-guard. It surprised some draft pundits, too. After all, Hallmark led the Big Ten champions in batting average (.342), home runs (10) and steals (16) in 2021. 

His impact went beyond the bat. He flew around center field, making diving catches an abnormally regular occurrence. He played with swagger — Husker fans won't soon forget his stomp of home plate after hitting a leadoff home run in Game 2 of the Nebraska-Arkansas trilogy in the Fayetteville Regional. 

Put simply, he's fun to watch. 

On July 12, when the draft concluded, he tweeted a video of himself smirking during a Husker game earlier in the season, a not-so-subtle memo to front offices around the game.

But don't expect Hallmark, a Midland, Texas, native, to enter his next chapter with a "chip" on his shoulder. It's not about that, he says. 

"It's not so much that I want to prove that I should have been drafted, it's more to prove that I belong here," Hallmark said. "My entire life, I feel like I have been overlooked a little bit in the sport of baseball. I am just here to prove that I belong here and that this is what I wanted to be doing and I plan on doing it for a while."

Hallmark's decision-making progress regarding his future was in full-swing when Houston called him last Saturday. He still had a year of eligibility remaining with the Huskers, where he could return to a rising program and take a shot at building upon a highly productive season. 

By Sunday, he made his decision. On Monday, he was on a plane to Florida to meet with officials from the Astros' organization. 

"It came down to I wanted to play professional baseball since I was a little kid, so I got the opportunity and I was all-in on it," Hallmark said.

He sought advice from some of the figures that have shaped his baseball career: Will Bolt, Darin Erstad and his Texas high school coach. 

"I was bouncing the idea that if I came back would I have a better chance of getting drafted," he said. 

Hallmark joins two former Huskers in Houston's organization: Scott Schreiber, who is playing in Double-A and Jake Meyers (Triple-A). 

The centerpiece: The stories that have highlighted the Journal Star's sports sections in July

The big headline. The big photo. The centerpiece. We've collected the stories that have stood out the most this month. 

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The Huskers were selected for the Fayetteville, Arkansas, regional where they could see top-ranked Arkansas and former Nebraska coach Dave Van Horn.

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Nebraska had the Big Ten title locked up with three games to play, and Will Bolt was named the league's coach of the year. Don’t overlook the work of his assistants in that regard. 

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ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson says major league scouts to whom he's talked are split on whether NU's Spencer Schwellenbach will pitch or play infield.

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The Van Horn/Bolt connection is one of the weekend's biggest storylines, with no guarantees Nebraska and No. 1 national seed Arkansas play each other.

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Next up, Arkansas: "These are the moments you live for, being able to play the best." 

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Drew Christo has 15 to 20 pro scouts showing up for games. He's likely to be drafted next month. Then it's decision time: college, or pro ball?

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Scoring eight runs in the fourth inning and six more in the fifth, the Cornhuskers blasted NJIT 18-4 in a Sunday afternoon elimination game.

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Husker pitchers threw 11 straight balls in a disastrous eighth inning, and the Razorbacks scored four times to pull away.

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Nebraska's Mikey Hoffer overcame obstacles of all sorts in qualifying in two events for the NCAAs.

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Nebraska AD Bill Moos believes it's harder to be the hunted than the hunter, which is why he should help Will Bolt as much as he can.

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Abigail Knapton now has two chances to make the U.S. Olympic team. It's what she grew up striving for — just in a different sport.

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Ryan Psota says, "We've had some really good long-term successful coaches here that I can take away a lot of knowledge from." He's not kidding. 

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The beauty was in the imperfections. Those who played at Buck say it fit the Huskers: "Hard-working, blue-collar, straight to the point-type people."

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"It was spectacular": Omaha had to wait an extra year, but the city and USA Swimming didn't forget how to put on a great show.

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Nebraska has its 2022 quarterback after securing a verbal commitment from three-star San Antonio native Richard Torres. 

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Representing Texas A&M and her home state of Nebraska, the Lincoln Pius X graduate reached a national television audience with a top-16 finish.

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Katie Ledecky is expected to win every time she dives into the pool. But what if she doesn't? That's what captivated the crowd Wednesday.

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Sights and sounds, news and notes from Scott Frost's Big Red Blitz appearance in North Platte. 

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With the likes of Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps no longer being the clear-cut top male swimmer, Dressel seems ready to take over that role.

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"You're never going to get another one like her. "No way. You might have one girl in one sport that just really excels. She excels in all three."

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A 15-strikeout performance by Vanderbilt wasn't enough to beat North Carolina State.

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Henrichs is no rookie to the CWS' umpiring crew. Even still, "it does make it special" when that call arrives on the third Monday of May.

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OMAHA — Momentum and confidence go a long way at the College World Series.

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“It means everything to all of us, our fans, our administration and our players," said Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis after the Bulldogs' 9-0 clinching win Wednesday over Vanderbilt.

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On the first day student-athletes could begin making money on their name, image, and likeness, several Nebraska athletes took advantage of the new rules that went into effect at midnight Thursday.

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Adi Kunalic would have loved to have the opportunity in his playing days that Nebraska's college athletes have in front of them now. 

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An indoor-outdoor national championship sweep was a huge accomplishment for Concordia pole vaulter Josie Puelz, but she thinks there's more to come.

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Shandon Reitzell was primed for a big meet.

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It started with pen and paper. It will end with memories and see-you-laters.

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In back-to-back groups the six players have combined to win 11 major championship on the regular professional tour, in addition to numerous other majors on the Champions Tour.

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A reader points out that a certain columnist gets "worked up" when Husker fans show Fred Hoiberg more grace than they show Scott Frost.

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Nebraska's Spencer Schwellenbach could be selected as a pitcher or as a position player in the MLB Draft, which starts Sunday.

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The Nebraska baseball team made a huge splash in the Big Ten this season, and on the recruiting trail the last two years.

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The Nebraska shortstop and pitcher was taken by the Atlanta Braves Monday in the second round of the Major League Baseball Draft.

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An agreement was sealed by handshakes Tuesday night. Contracts were signed Wednesday morning. Then, a news conference.  

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Alberts takes over Nebraska Athletics during an important stretch: "We have to be the hardest working athletic department in the country."

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Trev Alberts never gave athletic administration any thought. Not while in college. Not while working on TV. But that changed in 2009.

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Last year's opening ceremonies were virtual due to COVID-19. This time, a welcomed return of normalcy — "We are very happy with what is going on."

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She says Lincoln hosting the event is weird. In a good way. "I have family here and it’s awesome to see my friends come and watch too.”

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