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PRO BASEBALL

Lincoln Pius X grad returns to Nebraska — this time as a professional baseball player

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Michael Helman

Lincoln Pius X grad Michael Helman bats during a St. Paul Saints game earlier this summer. In his return to the state, Helman recorded hits in his first six at-bats against Omaha.

Michael Helman's return to Nebraska has brought out a big rooting section for visiting St. Paul at Werner Park this week.

He's given them plenty to cheer about through the first three games of the Saints' series with the Storm Chasers.

The Lincoln Pius X graduate delivered hits in his first six at-bats this week, including three home runs, as he's playing as a professional for the first time in his home state.

"It's great to be in Nebraska, seeing family, friends, everyone," Helman said prior to Wednesday's game. "I played so many games here in Omaha, Lincoln, in the area. It's nice to get back home."

Helman spent time catching up with friends and family outside St. Paul's clubhouse after the first two games. He has some good memories of playing at Werner Park. He helped Pius win Class B state baseball titles in 2014 and 2015 — one of those titles came at Werner. Tuesday's game this week provided another unforgettable moment.

He led off the game with a ground-rule double that hopped over the fence in left-center. He singled in second and then hit the first pitch he saw in the fourth over the fence in left field. He lined a single to center and stole second base in the sixth, then he capped his night in the eighth with his second home run, a no-doubter that traveled 417 feet to left field.

With his 5-for-5 night during St. Paul's 13-4 win, Helman became the second player in franchise history with five hits in a game. For an encore Wednesday, Helman hit the fourth pitch of the game 389 feet for another homer.

The right-hander continues to show he can hit at the Triple-A level. Since being promoted May 31, Helman is batting .289 with nine homers, 25 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.

Not bad for someone who hadn't played above Single-A before this season.

"I think it's going into every game with the same mentality. All in all, baseball is baseball and wherever you go it's just a little different atmosphere," Helman said. "That's what I've tried to take with me. Play the game hard, play the game right. Things fall into place if you do that."

After high school, Helman played two seasons of junior college baseball before playing one year at Texas A&M, where he hit .369 in 62 games and was second-team all-SEC. His coaches with the Aggies included Rob Childress and current Husker head coach Will Bolt.

"Those guys are as close as you'll get to professional coaching. I mean, they were great to work with and honestly they're great human beings off the field, too," Helman said.

Helman was selected in the 11th round of the MLB draft by the Twins. From 2018 to 2021, the right-hander played either rookie ball or Single-A, but things have taken off this year.

He started 2022 in Double-A and hit .278 in 39 games before being called up to St. Paul.

"Whenever you get called up, it's always nerve-racking for a little bit. But you just have to get comfortable as soon as possible. It was great coming up here because I already played with some of the guys (at lower levels)," he said.

In the field, the 26-year-old Helman played third base in the first two games of the Omaha series. He said a majority of the time he's played third or second base, but he also can play outfield spots. That versatility will help him if he get called up to the majors.

"My goal is I'll play wherever it helps the team. I'm pretty comfortable anywhere," he said.

The Chasers-Saints series continues through Sunday.

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