A Longhorn fan his whole life, Nebraska baseball senior Jaxon Hallmark joked about how “irrelevant” the Huskers were to him as he grew up in Texas. He recalled the only time hearing about the Huskers before was the Big 12 championship.
That all changed when he was recruited by the Huskers back in 2017.
As a kid, Hallmark said he was “born into baseball,” frequently going to the backyard with his older brother, Jeremy, to toss a baseball around. Now 15 years later, the senior utility player has been named a captain of the team with their sights set on an NCAA Tournament appearance.
“I got recruited to come here and immediately knew that this was going to be my home, and it took me four years to be voted a captain,” Hallmark said. “It’s good to know I’ve meant enough to this program and put my entire life into this team, and for them to recognize that, it means so much.”
Last season, Hallmark was on a tear before the year was cut short due to COVID-19. He missed five games after suffering a partially torn MCL in the season opener against Baylor, but thrived in the 10 games he did play, hitting .368 with a home run and nine RBIs.
Hallmark said the nagging injuries forced him to become a smarter, more technical player instead of relying on pure athleticism. He noted that his health is at 100% this year, allowing him to use both his talent and baseball IQ in his final year with the Huskers.
“What I learned to do with my messed up wrist and knee, is I can’t just be an athlete but learn proper situations and take a more technical approach,” Hallmark said. “I found out I can put all that stuff together this season, and it has been a real eye opener for me.”
Even though he’s pitched just six innings in his collegiate career, Hallmark will see significant work out of the bullpen, according to head coach Will Bolt. A pitcher all throughout high school, he looks to return to the mound and replicate what he did in high school, posting a 1.12 ERA in 81 innings pitched.
Hallmark said that he’s capable of throwing his fastball, changeup and newly-developed slider for a strike, no matter the count.
“I didn’t come to college thinking I was ever going to pitch and now there is real opportunity for me to have a legitimate role out of the bullpen,” Hallmark said. “When I’m on the mound I don’t think I’m a pitcher, but rather as a hitter getting inside the batter’s head and using that to help me be effective.”
A transition back into the outfield is also in the works, according to Hallmark. Of his 100 career starts for the Huskers, 62 have been in the outfield. Hallmark played all 10 games of last season at second base, but says he’s more than ready to move back to center field, which he played his freshman year.
“My entire freshman year for me was played in center, so I’ve played plenty in the outfield over my college career to this point,” Hallmark said. “My entire game is based around speed so the outfield wasn’t too difficult for me and the adjustment has been relatively smooth.”
With the season cut short so early last year, Hallmark is focused on the things he can control and will look to guide the underclassmen through a challenging year ahead.
“Ever since the season got canceled last year, it was sort of a reality check that you can only control what you can control,” Hallmark said. “As a collective unit we just try to dominate every day we have like it’s our last.”
However, he praises the brotherhood that has been built here at Nebraska over the past three years.
Hallmark said that the last time he’s been on a team this close to each other was back in 2019, when Nebraska earned a position in the Oklahoma City regional. He said that the pandemic brought the team close together, and caused younger players to step up in order to contribute immediately for the Huskers.
“This team is really really close, this is my fourth team in my years here and the only other team I can relate it to is my sophomore year, but this team seems closer,” Hallmark said. “We have a bunch of dudes who love each other and are willing to fight for each other and that’s a blessing.”
As the beginning of the season grows near, Hallmark has dialed in and focused as the Huskers prepare for their first games on the weekend of March 5.
“Coach Bolt likes to say we have 38 guys who can make a huge difference on the field, and I couldn’t agree more,” Hallmark said. “The game is becoming easier for me in the outfield, and I feel like a very confident baseball player right now going into the season.”