A pitching coach and downtime were two things CJ Hood never had until this spring. A few months later, both are key reasons why he will be playing college baseball at Nebraska.
The 2021 three-sport standout from Norris knew he had athletic ability — a 34-inch vertical and naturally strong arm are obvious indicators. He knew plenty about the Huskers too since his brother, Byron, was a pitcher in the program from 2015-19.
What the younger Hood has learned in recent months is how high his ceiling could be. The pandemic-related shutdowns in mid-March allowed him to work with Tom Oldham — a former Creighton player and minor leaguer — at his performance center in Omaha. With extended time away from competitive sports for the first time in years, the 6-foot-4 teen gained 15 pounds to reach 195 through better eating and weightlifting.
With that came a velocity increase of about 6 mph on his pitches. The right-hander touched 94 mph recently, he said, but sitting 90-91 with his fastball as a prep junior drew the interest of Nebraska coaches. He publicly committed Monday, becoming the 11th known member of the Huskers’ 2021 class. NU sees him primarily as a pitcher — he throws a fastball, changeup and slider — but will give him a look as a two-way player.
“I never really pitched for my team because I was always an outfielder,” Hood told The World-Herald. “I could always throw hard but I could never throw strikes. These coaches are trustworthy and know what they’re doing. I know when I leave Nebraska I can be a top-round pick. They’re doing great things there.”
Hood said Creighton and Arkansas-Little Rock had also offered him. He could have waited and collected more options, but didn’t see the point after his dream school came calling. Next up is a year focusing more on baseball and physical development as he begins to explore just how good he can become.
“There’s going to be a lot more coming from me, I’ll tell you that,” Hood said. “I’m expecting to hit 100 (mph) by the end of high school. Nebraska sees a lot of potential out of me.”