Nebraska is home, and a potential launch pad back into the majors, for ex-Husker Asche

April 2, 2018

PAPILLION — Cody Asche doesn’t exactly know why, but he’s always in a better mood when he’s in Nebraska.

The former Husker baseball player says the people here are always nice. Friendly. Kind. Genuine.

Though he grew up in the St. Louis area, Asche has always had Nebraska ties. His parents grew up in Columbus and Leigh. He played baseball at Nebraska, and his wife is from Lincoln.

While Asche spends his springs and summers on the road playing professional ball at the highest levels, Lincoln is his offseason home.

“I may not have been born here, I may not have grown up in Nebraska, but Nebraska just always has felt like home to me,” Asche said.

So maybe it’s fitting, and maybe good timing, that Asche is set to begin the next chapter of his pro career playing in front of these kind, friendly Nebraskans at Werner Park in Papillion.

The 27-year-old signed a minor-league contract during the offseason with the Kansas City Royals, and will start the season with the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers, who begin their season Thursday at home against Colorado Springs.

For the near future, Asche will be driving up and down Interstate 80 for work.

“I love it here,” he said. “When it was time to figure out where I wanted to plant some roots … I knew this was where I want to be.”

Let’s be clear. While Asche said there are perks to playing at Triple-A Omaha, the five-year major-leaguer wants to get back to the big show.

Asche spent his first four major-league years in Philadelphia before signing with the Chicago White Sox prior to the 2017 season. But Asche struggled, batting .105 in 19 games before being sent down to the minors. Asche called it “the biggest disappointment I faced in my career.”

“Getting released by the Phillies, I could kind of see the writing on the wall at that point,” Asche said. “But going to a new team (Chicago), making the squad and then having my time cut so short so soon, that one hurt.

“I just learned to have confidence and persevere.”

Asche had a good stint with Chicago’s Triple-A club in Charlotte. He hit .292 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs in 87 games.

Now with the Royals’ organization, his third franchise in three years, Asche sees an opportunity to re-ignite his big-league career.

“I feel like the organization is what you want as a player,” he said. “I think from where my experience is and then coming into spring training this year, I think the Royals are kind of what you want. They shoot you straight, talk to you like a man and tell what’s expected of you, and that’s all you could really ask for.”

Asche, primarily a third baseman, hit .269 with three doubles, a homer and five RBIs during Royals spring training. But there isn’t an immediate spot for him on the 25-team roster. The Royals re-signed third baseman Mike Moustakas just weeks before the start of the season. And while Asche has learned to play multiple positions — first base and both corner outfield spots — the Royals are leaning on some younger players right now.

“As a player, you’ve got to understand you’re not guaranteed anything, and you can’t expect anything to be handed to you,” Asche said. “To be upset about more competition, I don’t think that’s me. I don’t think that’s what most athletes are about. You can’t fault an organization for trying to improve the big-league club.”

Asche’s plan in Omaha: Take care of his business, and not worry about what’s going on roughly 180 miles south of Omaha.

Once given a taste of the big leagues, it may be hard for baseball players to take on minor-league assignments. Staying positive is key. For Asche, that’s not a problem.

“Maybe I’ve had some days where I wasn’t happy to be where I was at, but once the game started and you get between the lines, you kind of forget all that and you go compete,” Asche said. “As long as you keep that competitive drive and that care of winning and care of taking care of your own self and your business, and being a good teammate, it’s really easy to stay positive.”

Asche played at Nebraska from 2009-11 before he was drafted by the Phillies. He earned second-team All-America and first-team All-Big 12 honors in his final season, as a junior, at NU.

Asche, who works out at the Gordon Training Complex during the offseason, said he wears the “N” with pride every day. After all, Nebraska played a big part in Asche’s quick rise to the majors.

“When you’re an athlete at the University of Nebraska, you’re held responsible for everything you do on every single day,” he said. “And I think that kind of mentality that I learned there I think really helped me. It helped me really separate myself from the pack early in my career, because a lot of times I think in baseball you see guys that have talent, but don’t make it, (they) don’t do things as quickly as they should.

“It’s the ones that don’t really have that inner sense of responsibility, being on time, getting your work done every single day, and I think going to Nebraska, and the fact that we’re required to keep our grades up. We’re required to be here, here and here on a strict schedule, and if you weren’t, there’s really no leeway. It’s the way it should be in college, and I think it helps kids grow up.”