Jake Hohensee may technically be considered a rookie by American Association standards, but the Lincoln Saltdogs closer feels like a veteran in the clubhouse.
It is a comfortable feeling for the Lincoln native and former Husker, playing his second season with the Saltdogs and having spent half a decade on the same home baseball diamond. Hohensee signed with the Saltdogs after his five-year career — he missed all of the 2016 season after Tommy John surgery — with the Nebraska baseball team came to a close in 2018.
“I think it's huge spending six years here,” Hohensee said Tuesday. “I have a little bit of an advantage. I know how the ball flies on certain days. It's always windy here, so I take advantage of that and it works in my favor most of the time here.
“It feels comfortable to me. Being at home and seeing familiar faces, it just doesn't feel like you have any pressure at home.”
The Lincoln East graduate is one of eight Saltdogs to return from last season's roster. The others are Ivan Marin, Curt Smith, Randolph Oduber, Kyle Kinman, Christian Ibarra, Shairon Martis and Daniel Herrera.
But it was former Saltdogs J.R. Bunda, Derek Gordon and Dan Johnson who helped shape Hohensee at the this level. Gordon, another Lincoln native, recently retired from playing baseball.
“They taught me a lot,” Hohensee said. “How to handle certain hitters. J.R. just went out there and showed and was a big asset in the (bullpen). He's always positive, but once it came down to the game, he was locked in and showed me what it takes to succeed here and he did.
“Dan Johnson, like I said last year, just kind of took me under his wing and showed me a lot on how to go about baseball a certain way.”
Though Hohensee had spent the past five seasons feeling at home, it took a little while for him to feel like a pro.
“We were playing in Kansas City and Derek Gordon comes up to me and says, 'Just pitch and go have fun,'" Hohensee said. “I went out there, had fun, and threw two scoreless innings against one of the top teams in the league. At that point, right there, I knew I was in professional baseball.”
The right-handed reliever appeared in 22 games last season, tossing 30 innings with 26 strikeouts.
Lincoln begins the regular season May 16 with a four-game set against the Sioux City Explorers.