LINCOLN — Like he used to do with fastballs, Will Bolt had his introductory press conference timed perfectly.
Nebraska’s new baseball coach wore a red tie under a navy sport coat behind a podium on the sixth floor of Memorial Stadium. He referenced his time playing under the program’s most successful coach (Dave Van Horn) and coaching under its most recent one (Darin Erstad). He half-joked that he already knew longtime secretary Renee Brinkmann “is really the boss” around Haymarket Park.
Bolt hit on other points that surely had Husker fans nodding along Thursday morning. The need to lock down in-state recruiting borders — ironically, he helped siphon away plenty of talent to Texas A&M during his five years there as an assistant. The importance of developing players. Ending the drought of hosting an NCAA regional that is 11 years long and counting.
What about his style of baseball?
“Winning,” Bolt said, to some applause. “Whatever that’s gotta look like. Honestly, whatever it takes.”
Nebraska’s 24th head coach demonstrated further why Athletic Director Bill Moos and much of the fan base considered him the top candidate to replace Erstad, who resigned after eight seasons to spend more time with his family.
With family, friends, former teammates and current NU players looking on, he noted that he has sat in just about every chair in the baseball program. He had a locker in Haymarket Park’s first year in 2002. He was a student assistant and grad manager, stocking the coaches’ locker room with shampoo and soap and organizing equipment. He was a volunteer coach, learning under former NU head coach Mike Anderson along with Rob Childress and Andy Sawyers. Then he learned about the Big Ten as an associate head coach under Erstad from 2012-14.
“This is the highlight of it all, is to be the head coach of Nebraska baseball,” Bolt said.
Bolt interviewed with then-A.D. Tom Osborne for the head job following the 2011 season and chuckles now that he’s glad the 31-year-old version of himself didn’t get it. He spent the past five years running an SEC offense, building already strong recruiting ties in Texas and learning that baseball isn’t always as easy as it could seem when he was playing in two College World Series as a Husker in the early 2000s.
Bolt also applied for the Sam Houston State head job before joining A&M for the 2015 season. Since then he hasn’t been turning down offers “left and right” but wanted to wait for the right time to leave his native state.
When Nebraska came calling following Erstad’s surprise announcement June 3, it was a “no-brainer” to pursue the opportunity.
“To be a head coach, it needed to be a spot where I felt like you could win a national championship,” Bolt said. “Honestly, that was a prerequisite for me.”
He brings with him a pair of full-time assistants he’s known at various stops along the way. Pitching coach Jeff Christy, a former Nebraska catcher from Lincoln Southeast who was A&M’s volunteer coach the past two seasons, is also a past NU volunteer (2012-15). Hitting coach and recruiting coordinator Lance Harvell filled the same roles for the past five years at Sam Houston State and knew Bolt as a player at Texas A&M. They later worked together at Texarkana College.
Bolt said he had thought about a potential staff for a long time and quickly met with both men when his hiring appeared imminent.
“He kind of asked me, if this goes down, are you in?” Harvell said. “And I didn’t hesitate.”
Said Christy: “(Bolt) played with a chip on his shoulder, and he coaches with a chip on his shoulder. He’s always wanted the best for his team and his players.”
Moos drew on recommendations from the likes of Erstad, Childress and former Oregon State coaching legend Pat Casey before making Bolt the only candidate he offered. He said Bolt’s time as head coach at Texarkana (2008-11) was attractive for the do-everything nature of the position that included making the coffee and driving the bus. He also noted that the former Husker was voted a two-time captain by his teammates.
It was all more than enough to convince the A.D. about his latest hire. They shook hands Thursday as Moos handed Bolt a jersey — and control of Nebraska baseball.
“We got the full package here,” Moos said. “A scrapper, a winner, a beautiful family. He’s back with us now.”