Tag Archive | werner park

Put Me In, Coach!

I love softball.

I used to be alright.. even good as a kid.  I remember once getting an in-the-park homerun when my friends came to watch my summer team in high school.  Not a lot of power, but I was quick.

Two babies and xxx pounds later.. I am slow.  No, really, you can hear Chariots of Fire playing in the background as I hustle to first.  And since I still don’t have a lot of power, I also earned the nickname 1-3, courtesy of my friend and current ESPNU superstar, Matt Schick.  STILL, I love softball.  So I was pretty geeked up when I was asked to take play in this summer’s Celebrity All-Star Softball Game as part of the 2015 AAA-All Star game at Werner Park.

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I was pretty terrible.  In fact, I was the only girl of the four of us who did NOT get a hit.

CLICK HERE to watch Matt Lothrop’s ‘highlights’ from the game.. at least Thor was good!

The MVP of the game was also one of the most popular targets for autographs after..

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Joe Ganz not only PUMMELED the first home run of the game, he casually mentioned that he actually planned to be a baseball player rather than a college football quarterback.

What?!?!

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

CLICK HERE TO WATCH’S KETV’S HUSKER THROWBACK THURSDAY ON #12 JOE GANZ!

THIS is the Joe Ganz most people know and remember, the guy who started as a backup behind quarterbacks Zac Taylor and Sam Keller, then took Nebraska on an offensive thrill ride when he became the go-to QB in the second half of the 2007 season.  All of this might never have been in a different place and time.. picture a scene from the Sandlot, in south side Chicago, with a shorter Joe “The Jet” Ganz playing baseball with his buddies.  It may not be so far-fetched; sources tell me Ganz’s Palos Heights Pony League team once played Papillion’s 10-year olds in a bid for nationals.

“I love baseball, it was my first love, growing up I played it and it’s all I wanted to do,” Ganz told me recently.   “Before Bill Callahan got here, I was going to play baseball for the University of Illinois-Chicago.”

That all changed the summer before Ganz was supposed to leave for college, when his parents received a phone call while Ganz and his siblings were on vacation in the Dominican Republic.

“They called me upstairs after I got done packing and they told me Nebraska offered me to play football,” said Ganz.  “The first memory I have [of Nebraska] is Tommie Frazier’s run against Florida.  I was hooked, both my Dad and I.  It was really a dream come true.”

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

Fast forward to the Texas game in 2007.  Sam Keller hurt his shoulder late in the game.  Joe Ganz took the field and brought Nebraska within 3 points of clinching the game, finishing a touchdown drive and converting a 2-point play.

Two games later was one of Ganz’s favorite moments.  He started the game, and his parents and friends got to hear his name announced and see him on the big screens at Memorial Stadium.  He also TROUNCED one of college football’s biggest prospects, Josh Freeman. The Huskers beat Kansas State that year 73-31.  Ganz shattered several Nebraska records that day including 7 touchdown passes, and 528 yards of total offense.

“It was just something about beating Josh Freeman that really got me going,” said Ganz, who beat Freeman TWICE in his collegiate career.  It was a highlight for a team that saw plenty low points and ultimately, ended with Coach Bill Callahan losing his job in November.

Ganz was the starting quarterback when Coach Bo Pelini took control in 2008, not only learning a new offense but embracing it.  Ganz was named one of four team captains, the Husker’s MVP of the 2008 season and the MVP of the 2009 Gator Bowl.  When he threw a football for the last time as a Nebraska athlete, he held 23 Nebraska school records.

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“You wish you were still out there playing the game,” said Ganz.  “For me, I only got 16 games to play, so I always wanted to play more, play more.”

And clearly, Coach Pelini still wanted Ganz around, hiring him as an assistant.  Ganz learned an entirely new element of the game under his mentors and coaches, Bo Pelini and Tim Beck.

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“I had some great teachers that really taught me how to teach kids the game of football, not just to go out there and coach,” said Ganz, who says he formed an extra-special bond with one player in particular.

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“Probably the kid throwing the ball a little bit.  I’m always pulling for #4,” said Ganz.  “Tommy [Armstrong] and I are so close, to this day.  We talk all the time, I text him, wish him the best of luck.  He’s got all the talent in the world.  Now, it’s just–can he understand the different steps of this West Coast Offense Coach Riley and Coach Langsdorf are going to bring in?”

And Joe Ganz will be watching how that plays out much like every other Husker fan.  He was released from the Nebraska coaching staff along along with Pelini and his other assistants last fall.  Ganz talked quite a bit in our interview how difficult that is for coaches after recruiting these players, spending countless hours with them and their families, and building incomparable relationships with them in an environment few get to experience.. you just MISS that.  Ganz hopes he’ll get another opportunity to coach at the college level in the near future.

For now, Ganz is putting his Communications degree to use, offering radio analysis every week through the fall on The Bottom Line with Mike’l Severe.  The Chicago kid calls Nebraska home for now, often flying under the radar among Nebraska fans who don’t always recognize him.

“I don’t have the Kenny Bell afro, I’m not the polarizing figure,” said Ganz.  “Everyone always says ‘you looked a lot bigger on TV’, everyone thinks I’m really small.  I’m like, I used to be bigger, but after you’re done playing, you don’t want to go up!”

To those who do know and remember Joe Ganz, #12 hopes to show his appreciation.

“It’s very flattering,” said Ganz.  “I always take time to try and talk to everyone I can because you never know when that’s going to run out and people are going to forget your name.”

From what I saw this summer, the line of dozens upon dozens of fans standing in blistering heat for an autograph and a handshake, no one is forgetting Joe Ganz anytime soon.  It’s just one of those things about Nebraska Football; these aren’t just players, they ARE statewide celebrities.. often during their time on the field and sometime years after when they trade that football jersey for a Sunday softball replica.

“Soak everything up.  Relish everything,” Ganz says to today’s players.  “When you’re done, you miss going to work every day, going to practice the game that you love.  Relish it.  Embrace everything Nebraska’s about.”

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Thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the Photo!

For more on #12 Joe Ganz, CLICK HERE to read his official bio from Nebraska Athletics.

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WEEK ONE… CLASS OF 2010 ALEX HENERY!

WEEK THREE… CLASS OF 1971 JEFF KINNEY!

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For a full list of KETV’s Throwback Thursday Huskers, click on the Throwback Thursday index at the top of the page!

Home Of The Brave

Our national anthem is arguably, one of the toughest songs for an artist to perform.  So much range, pressure to make it your own without offending traditionalists, and most of the time, acapella.  Easy to veer off the rails, tough to swerve back on.

Lately, Miss America veterans have been REPRESENTING the stars and stripes.

Both Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson and Miss South Dakota 2008 Alex Hoffman (now KETV’s morning anchor) were selected as finalists to audition to sing at the College World Series.

CLICK HERE to listen to Megan, who will perform before the 7pm game on June 15.

CLICK HERE to listen to Alex, chosen as an alternate (the same night she’ll be performing the anthem at the Miss South Dakota pageant!)

And if you’re bored (GULP!) CLICK HERE to hear MY rendition before the Nebraska & Creighton baseball game back in April… if there’s an alternate game Saturday June 20th at the CWS, I get to sing, too!

The list continues.. Miss Nebraska 2011 Kayla Batt-Jacox sang in front of thousands at Werner Park this spring before the Nebraska & UNO baseball game.  Miss Omaha 2014 Payton Merritt will sing at TD Ameritrade Park this weekend during the Big East baseball tournament.  Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev sang before the Washington Nationals & Miami Marlins game on May 7th.  We’re everywhere!

And this last weekend, a huge honor for one of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants, chosen to sing the anthem in front of thousands at her own college graduation from Creighton University.

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MISS NEBRASKA STATE FAIR 2015 MARIE ALLISON

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“Blessed to have been fortunate enough to graduate from Creighton with degrees in Philosophy and Music, summa cum laude, and to have sung the national anthem for the graduating classes of 2015,” Marie posted on Facebook.  “It is humbling to realize the massive investment of time, the support of my wonderful family and friends, and the connections with faculty and fellow scholars that I have made throughout my Creighton experience. I may not be certain of what I desire to be in my future, but I know I am well primed to realize that truth as a process that will happen. Thank you to the people who always believe in me.”

These thoughts, showing appreciation and reflection, mirror the messages Marie sent me recently regarding the Miss America program.

“I never, EVER thought I would be a girl who competed in pageants,” Marie told me recently.  “This decision changed the trajectory of my life dramatically because I learned how pageants challenge you to grow.”

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Marie’s first pageant exposure came through her love of horses; she was a rodeo queen.  She is also a passionate equestrienne, behind the training of two national caliber show horses, and a volunteer at the Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy.  Those roles, however, didn’t always put Marie in the spotlight.

“As I am an introvert, appearances were very challenging to me,” said Marie.  “I was pushed outside my comfort zone to become equal to the take of being a good representative of my program.”

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Marie herself had what she calls personal stigmas about pageantry, something she confronted directly when she competed for Miss Colorado last summer.

“I became involved in the Miss America program when I realized I could be impacting real change in my community and earning scholarships to fund my education,” said Marie.  “This program has made me consider what I value deeply, and the issues I feel need to be adequately addressed by our society as a whole.  I have come to profoundly respect my fellow contestants as outstanding individuals and community servants.  They are authentic leaders with humble confidence that lights up the world around them, providing examples that empower all youth and particularly young women.”

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Marie is a true example of that.  She spends time doing crafts with patients at Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, she’s active with Omaha’s Urban Abbey Methodist Church and Coffee Shop, and she’s a volunteer with the Stephens Center for the homeless.  Marie does all of this not because she has to, but driven by her own background.

“I chose my platform (‘Communication: Proactive Prevention’) because I would not have attended college, nor would I be the person I am today if I did not have a strong social network and people believing in me,” said Marie.  “Given my personal experience with socioeconomic stress and homelessness, and how difficult these experiences were, I now that I would not have survived or thrived without the help of the communities I was involved in.  It is my goal to help build meaningful relationships and communities to help others the same way people have helped me to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances.”

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Homeless.  To college.  To singing at her own graduation from Creighton University.

The words of the Star Spangled Banner are etched into every American’s heart and soul.

What so proudly we hailed..

Through the perilous fight..

O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Courage when things are tough.  Standing tall and persevering.  Being a beacon for those who may come after you.

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May 18, 2015, standing in front of her fellow Creighton University graduates, singing those words.  What a special moment for a young woman who has lived her own version of the Star Spangled Banner.  And the journey for Marie Allison isn’t over yet; next stop, Miss Nebraska.

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Follow Miss Nebraska State Fair Marie Allison and contact her for appearances and events on Facebook.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Chelsey Jungck at 308-382-1710 or by email at cjungck@statefair.org.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

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NEXT.. Miss Chadron 2015 Tosha Skinner

To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.