LINCOLN — Shane Komine climbed out of an SUV two hours before the 6:35 p.m. first pitch Friday, his two sons trailing their father who has suddenly been a celebrity all weekend.
Half a dozen media members waited to talk with the former Nebraska standout who still holds school career records for strikeouts (510), innings pitched (431) and wins (41). A few yards away, a display table on the home-plate concourse at Haymarket Park held hundreds of bobbleheads bearing his likeness.
Ever since Komine learned Nebraska planned to recognize him — with a miniature figurine of himself with a jiggling head and right arm — he said he hasn’t been able to stop smiling.
“It’s a huge honor and I’m humbled by it,” Komine said. “I hope that more players get the opportunity in the future and we keep building this collection of bobbleheads.”
The four-time All-American who was a guiding force in on Nebraska’s College World Series teams in 2001 and 2002 went on to make two starts for the Oakland Athletics in 2006 and two relief appearances in 2007. He last competed in a winter league game in the Dominican Republic in 2010 before an injury forced him to retire.
He returned to Nebraska that spring — the last time he had been back to Lincoln before now — for a semester to complete his degree in sociology. Then he fulfilled a promise to his wife that they would move home to Hawaii after baseball was over.
Komine still keeps up with with the Huskers “here and there,” checking on top recruits and who gets drafted. He ran into his coach at Nebraska, Dave Van Horn, on Maui last year and pitching coach Rob Childress the year before that.
This weekend he spent time in the dugout and took a tour of the updated Nebraska facilities with some current players. He said the program is heading in the right direction despite the struggles this season.
“They’ll get there,” Komine said. “I think with the team that I saw playing (Thursday) night, they definitely have it in them and it’s just getting everything to click. If they can get some breaks going their way and keep pulling for one another and just having each other’s back, I think they do have an opportunity. And with Coach (Darin) Erstad at the helm, he’s got a ton of experience and knowledge. I think he can really instill that in them again and get them there.”
Komine, now the director of banquets at the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui, is still recognized by vacationing Nebraska fans even though his only baseball activity these days is coaching his sons in Little League. He threw out a first pitch at Haymarket Park in 2010 and said his only goal Friday was to get it to the target.
“I was telling everybody I was just going to break off another 12-to-six curveball, but I don’t know if my arm’s going to let me do that,” Komine said. “As long as I can get it over that 60 feet, six inches, I’ll be happy.”
Arm injuries hampered Komine throughout his professional career. At Nebraska, he threw 162 pitches in a super regional game in 2001 — a 12-strikeout, three-hit shutout of Rice — then 138 a week later in the College World Series. He said it’s “great” how the game has evolved to handle pitchers, but that he wouldn’t change anything about how he was used during the Huskers’ greatest baseball run.
“Looking at even my career, who knows how long I could have lasted,” Komine said. “But there’s no regrets. And I think really taking care of players’ arms and bodies and really watching that for more of the longevity, I think it’s not a bad thing.”