His swing was broken, discombobulated and out of sorts. At the time, it probably didn’t matter to the kid from south Lincoln.
Football was Max Buettenback’s first true love. He grew up engraved into a sports family with a father and uncle who both achieved greatness as members of the Huskers football team in the 1990’s. Buettenback’s mother played softball at Grand Island back in high school, and it would be mistaken if there was a thought that she didn’t fix her child’s swing at the plate.
As passing period concluded at Lincoln Southeast High School, Buettenback strolled around the hallway corner with a smile on his face. Most casual onlookers wouldn’t have known he was named all-conference for a third consecutive season earlier in the day based on his stoic, down to earth demeanor. Strictly business. Unparalleled work ethic.
Buettenback is a multi-sport athlete who has been committed to Nebraska for baseball since his freshman year. His high school baseball career has come to a conclusion, but as this chapter of Buettenback’s life concludes, his baseball journey is just getting started.
“I knew I had the talent and could be really good, but I honestly just played baseball for fun as a kid,” Buettenback said. “As I started getting older, I realized I could go places and play at the next level. I know I was a really good football player, but once I realized how good I could be at baseball I knew this was my sport going forward.”
Buettenback was a three-sport athlete at Lincoln Southeast. He managed to balance three sports year-round, to go along with his studies in the classroom, which helped him establish a tireless work ethic.
“There really isn’t any time to sit around and do nothing,” Buettenback said. ”I remember my freshman year when I would go to basketball practice after school and baseball practice right after. Playing three sports cuts out time to focus on the other sports, but it’s all about how you make the most of your time.”
Buettenback’s steady progression in baseball has vaulted him to one of the highest ranked prospects in the state of Nebraska in the 2023 recruiting class, in part due to his selfish demeanor.
“I’m always working hard,” Buettenback said. “I try to be a humble person that’s always the best version of myself because you never know who is watching, so you always want to set an example.”
Montana Jones, head coach of the Lincoln Southeast baseball team, said he has seen Max’s potential flash in front of his eyes. The versatility Buettenback displays on the diamond is unique compared to many, with the potential to play anywhere on the diamond and excel at the top of his craft.
“When he got to high school, he was a shortstop and third baseman,” Jones said. “We had a lot of depth at those positions, so we moved him to the outfield and tried him out at pitcher. When you get a good athlete and a baseball player like him, usually they translate well to being a pitcher. You want your best players and best competitors on the mound and he’s one of the best competitors I’ve ever been around.”
Buettenback will go to Nebraska listed as a position player on the depth chart but his 8-0 record on the mound this season is a prime example of the all-around athlete he is. To go along with his undefeated mark on the bump, Buettenback batted .485 from the plate in his senior season with the Knights, as he achieved super-state status for a third consecutive season after his commitment to Nebraska.
“I remember being on the phone when I got the news I got offered,” Buettenback said. “I immediately told my mom. It was crazy cause I hadn’t been in contact with them that long so it was surreal when it happened so fast. My mom was so happy for me. Her reaction was priceless.”
Buettenback’s early recruitment is not common in the current landscape of collegiate athletics. He said the pressure he had on himself to prove Nebraska right was felt on the diamond, but all it did was help grow him even more as a player, and as a leader.
“There was pressure, especially at the age I was when I committed, with an entire high school career still in front of me,” Buettenback said. “I felt I had to prove to everyone that I deserved it. The character I’ve built here stands out above all else. I was a shy kid when I first got here and now, I’ve molded myself into a leader for all these younger kids that look up to me.”
The desire to continue to get better is something Buettenback takes pride in. He said his business-like mantra is what sold him on his commitment to Nebraska, as he knew it was the perfect fit.
“I remember one of the first things the coaches told me was if you want to play at Nebraska you have to work your tail off every day,” Buettenback said. “That aspect was the part that appealed the most to me. And of course, it’s Nebraska. That was my dream school growing up.”
Lincoln Southeast finished the 2023 spring campaign with an 18-12 record, as they lost to Millard West 7-5 in the district championship game. Now that his high school career has concluded, Buettenback has his mind set on this upcoming fall. The 2024 spring season is a long way away, but that doesn’t take away from the excitement Buettenback has about getting started for the scarlet and cream.
“Playing at Haymarket Park is going to be awesome,” Buettenback said. “I know a lot of guys that are on the team now or will be there next year so it’s nice that I’ll have some familiarity when I step in the door.”
One of those familiar faces will be his current teammate Will Jesske, a senior baseball player at Lincoln Southeast and 2024 walk-on commit to Nebraska.
“My favorite part about sharing the diamond with Max is knowing how much of a competitor he is, “Jesske said. “Max and I want to win so badly and to me that is why we get along so well. He has a great personality aside from baseball that people want to be around.”
Buettenback’s infectious personality isn’t just noticed by his teammates. His coaches are well aware of his even-keeled persona and Jones labeled Buettenback as “the perfect player to coach.”
“I always tell people, as good of a player he is, he is an even better human being,” Jones said. “I don’t have a son but if I had a son, I would want him to be just like Max. He’s a humble young man, he’s one of the best players I’ve coached but also one of the best individuals. He’s very smart in the classroom. You don’t have to ask him to do anything, he just does it. You wish all your athletes could be like him.”
The way Beuttenback carries himself is a testament to the way he was raised by his parents according to coach Jones. The term leader is a term that often gets brought up in conversation about athletes, and for Buettenback, despite his star status, he is no different.
“If I could describe Max in one word, it would be leader,” Jesske said. “Max is not only a leader on the field, but he is a leader off the field as well. He is a guy that you know will always come in with a big hit or make a great play when it is needed. He’s an outgoing person that will go so far in life.”
Buettenback will continue to carry himself to a high standard across town under the tutelage of Huskers head coach Will Bolt. According to coach Jones, Buettenback’s impact should be made immediately.
“I told the Husker coaches not only are you getting a good player but he’s going to do everything you ask him to do,” Jones said. “He’s going to represent his family, his community and his university in the right way. I probably won’t coach another player with as much character as him. He’s a great baseball player and a great football player but what gets lost is how great of a person he is. He’s going to have a lot of success in baseball and a lot of success in life.”
As he is set to embark on the next stage of his baseball journey, Buettenback’s goals in baseball and beyond are set very high.
“I’d love to be a great student and player at Nebraska,” Buettenback said. “My goal is to help lead this program to the College World Series, and eventually play in the MLB as well. If not, I’d love to use my mathematics degree to become a sports statistician.