LINCOLN — Nebraska's Ted Silva recently got a new office. He wore the tires off the last one.
It's been that sort of travel season for the Huskers' pitching coach and recruiting coordinator, scheduling all his own trips across the country to meet with prospects, coaches, scouts and whoever else might have insight or tips in a highly competitive search for the nation's best players.
That space inside the NU baseball facility assigned to Silva — you know, where there's a desk, and a computer and walls — doesn't really suit a guy who feels like when he's sitting still, he's losing. The hectic circumstances someone else might think are overwhelming, that's when Silva tends to thrive.
“If you can't play, you coach. If you can't coach, you recruit,” Silva said. “Got to stay busy.”
Silva's efforts, boosted by the work of coach Darin Erstad and assistant Will Bolt, have produced quality results, at least according to the recruiting analysts.
Nebraska's missed the NCAA tournament in both of Erstad's two seasons, extending the Huskers' drought to five straight years. But a couple months from the start of the 2014 season, optimism continues to build.
The 2013 class, signed a year ago and added to the program this fall, was evaluated as the 11th-best in the nation by Baseball America, which had never ranked a group of NU recruits higher. Collegiate Baseball had the class at No. 26, and Perfect Game rated it 23rd.
The MLB draft next summer could still poach a few from Nebraska's most recent recruiting class, which became official in November. But an early ranking by Perfect Game slotted the Huskers' 2014 collection of commitments No. 26 in the nation (it's unclear if that ranking includes two-sport star Monte Harrison, a highly regarded recruit from Missouri who's expected to sign a football scholarship with the Huskers in February).
The nonbinding pledges for 2015 should be secured by spring. Evaluation of 2016 and 2017 prospects is underway.
“The quick fix is always (desired) when you first take over — everybody wants it now,” Erstad said. “We stayed disciplined and developed those relationship. We just were patient.”
The NU coaches compiled their first class in four months, while most were working a full year ahead.
But the Huskers are caught up now.
They're evaluating the guys they want, starting close to home and working toward the coast. They look for a certain body type, athleticism and kinetic movement, Erstad said. They're sort of picky with who they offer, Bolt said. But they're determined to follow every lead, prompting Silva to caution: “It can be a little crazy.”
Part of that is because NCAA baseball rules allow coaches to make off-campus contact with recruits from March through June. And again all through August. And again during an eight-week stretch that starts in September and ends right before the November signing period opens.
Silva doesn't mind that, though.
It's why Jakson Reetz and Byron Hood, the Norris teammates who signed in November, learned of Nebraska's interest as high school freshmen. It's why Silva knew in advance about Garett King, a right-hander from Anaheim, Calif., and formed a strong bond. It's why lefty Jake McSteen ultimately felt comfortable enough to sign with NU — who's set to be the program's first letter-winner from Virginia.
“You go where the talent is,” Silva said.
If that means missing a few fall scrimmages, managing a cell phone that buzzes nonstop, booking a trip from Omaha to California to Philadelphia, or turning a car into an offseason office, so be it. Silva doesn't mind the grind.
“He's kind of a nomad, kind of a ghost,” Bolt said of Silva's offseason whereabouts.
That's always been his personality, anyway. High-energy. Searching for a new challenge. Stretching his limits. All to be the best.
That's why Erstad, hired two years out of the big leagues, wanted Silva on this staff in the first place. Bolt was already on board, but he'd spent his college coaching career in talent-rich Texas.
Silva's a 39-year-old California guy who'd never once left the state for a recruit — but his approach, organization and drive overshadowed his inexperience.
“It's impressive to watch,” Erstad said. “I've been around a lot of dedicated people in my life. He's right up there.”