Efry Cervantes at a podium

College baseball is evolving.

The collegiate sports world has been a whirlwind over the past couple of years. Conferences are realigning, players are not only getting paid, but some are making serious money, and the transfer portal has gotten student-athletes closer to that of a professional league.

However, even through all of the changes, some things stay the same. The game being played on the field is still between nine defenders and one batter. The goal is still the same, to win games. But, on an individual level, a lot has changed.

In the past, a player had the ability to transfer schools at any point during the offseason, but often had to sit out a season if they were receiving a scholarship to play.

However, in the offseason following the 2022 season, the Division I Board of Directors agreed upon a ‘transfer window.’ This window gives players 45 days after championship selections are made to notify of their transfer. For the 2023 baseball season, May 29 is the deadline of that notification.

Following that, a player must have his transfer paperwork submitted by July 13 to successfully transfer.

Although the rules haven’t changed immensely as far as the transfer portal, baseball brings a unique angle when it comes to the use of the portal. Baseball is one of the most individual sports in collegiate athletics.

On offense, it is a one-on-one battle with the pitcher. No matter what team a batter is playing for, he will always have that battle with the pitcher who’s throwing to him.

On defense, a baseball player gets their biggest opportunity to work as a teammate. They can make a throw to their first baseman, trail behind their second baseman in case of a wild throw, or even catch a double-play ball. However, oftentimes it is again a one-on-one battle with the batter. For example, a fly ball. The only two players to touch the ball would be the pitcher, batter, and outfielder.

This is exemplified at the pitcher position.

In an inning, a pitcher can theoretically throw the ball nine times and retire the side. During this, the only other player who would touch the ball is the catcher. From an outsider’s perspective, that wouldn’t seem like a huge change from one school to another.

“When it comes to pitching, nothing really changes,” Nebraska senior pitcher Mason Ornelas said. “Just competing with your best stuff and throwing strikes no matter where you’re at.”

Ornelas transferred from Texas A&M where he made 25 appearances in his first two college seasons. Since joining the Huskers pitching staff, he has found himself right in the mix of the bullpen, and appeared in 17 games in 2022.

However, it was everything off the field that Ornelas expressed being the best changes after he transferred.

“The guys were very welcoming and brought me in,” Ornelas said. “I can call my new teammates lifelong friends and I will always cherish these relationships.”

This atmospheric change for a player often brings a multitude of positives, similar to Ornelas. For one of Nebraska’s captains, that was exactly the case.

“I was used to not having anything,” graduate infielder Efry Cervantes said with a reminiscent grin. “In junior college the facilities aren’t as nice, you don’t get much gear, you don’t get a training table.”

Cervantes transferred from South Mountain Community College to the Huskers prior to the 2021 season. Cervantes was a standout in his league, and hit .305 in his second season with 19 RBIs.

After his transfer, he has found himself as a leader for Nebraska in his third season with the team. Cervantes was voted as a captain before the season started. This role shows his ability to lead and how he is appreciated by his fellow teammates. However, he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to display that.

“I never try to be anyone that I’m not,” Cervantes said. “From day one I’ve always been myself.”

The Huskers allowed Cervantes to fit into the roster where he was a part of the Big Ten winning team in 2021. The same team that took a game off the No. 1 ranked Arkansas team in their regional.

“He is an extremely hard worker,” coach Will Bolt said. “He’s been that since the day that he came in.”

In that 2021 regional series, Cervantes was relied upon to come up with big plays in the biggest moments. That’s something that he had to earn.

“On a championship team, he was the shortstop in the biggest moments,” Bolt said.

Through it all, Cervantes has seen changes in the level of play and even from team to team. However, through the team change, one thing stayed the same.

“It’s still baseball at the end of the day,” Cervantes said.