For Omaha Storm Chasers reliever Brian Duensing, this opening weekend is a little different for him than usual. For starters, Duensing begins this baseball season wearing an Omaha Storm Chasers jersey after spending the past ten seasons with the Minnesota Twins organization.
This weekend is also a sort of homecoming for Duensing, an Omaha native and Millard South graduate.
“It feels good. I mean obviously I would rather be in the big leagues, but if I’m going to have to play in Triple A then playing at home is always special,” Duensing said.
Duensing earned second-team All-State honors both his junior and senior years at Millard South before spending his college days at Nebraska.
During his time at Nebraska, Duensing was teammates with major leaguer pitcher Joba Chamberlain and Royals left fielder Alex Gordon. Duensing went 8-0 in 2005, leading Nebraska to its second College World Series. He earned Collegiate Baseball Honorable Mention All-American honors with the Huskers. Duensing said that season with the Huskers helped prepare him for the big leagues.
“Playing in the College World Series, and even just playing with players like (Alex) Gordon and Joba (Chamberlain)...I think it kind of prepared us a little bit for the next level,” Duensing said. “We learned a lot. Those coaches and that coaching staff helped motivate you. Especially when you have so much success, we knew that we were fairly good.”
After his time with the Huskers, Duensing was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the third round of the 2005 MLB Draft. He notched 41 wins in his seven year career with the Twins, giving him some of the most experience in the Storm Chaser's locker room. Duensing said his experience with both the positives and negatives to the game of baseball helps him mentor his teammates who do not have the same experience.
“Everyone fails at some point in their time playing this game,” Duensing said. “I think with the young guys, obviously they see the highlights. Every time you watch a game it’s always highlights, but there’s a lot of downside to the game. I think being there this long you kind of learn some mental tricks to keep yourself in it and keep yourself positive.”
One of those downsides to the game came for Duensing after being released by the Twins. Once he entered free agency, Duensing knew he had a decision to make. He said the thought of maybe having to play in Omaha influenced his decision to sign with the Kansas City Royals organization.
“We knew that it would be tough to make the big league team because they have a really good bullpen,” Duensing said. “If we had to play Triple A somewhere, obviously playing at home in Omaha is a lot more comfortable than playing somewhere else.”
The Stormchasers dropped their home opener to the New Orleans Zephyrs 6-3. The Zephyrs put up five runs in the first inning, but the Storm Chaser’s bullpen held New Orleans to just one run for the remainder of the game.
“There was a lot of strike throwing,” Duensing said. “I think, especially with this bullpen, if things don’t go your way early in the game, the best thing to do is just pump strikes and keep your defense in it.”
The Storm Chasers face off against the Zephyrs again tonight at 7:05, and again Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 2:05.