LAWTON, Iowa (KTIV) -- The Explorers have already signed 21 players, hoping their season starts on time in May. Fifteen of those players are pitchers and only 12 will make the team. One is a Siouxland native who's making a position change.
A.J. Nitzschke was an outfielder and pitcher at Lawton-Bronson High School. He played at Northwestern College where he earned all-GPAC honors as an oufielder during his first three seasons. Nitzschke made ten relief appearances on the mound as a senior for the Red Raiders, graduating in 2019.
The X's want him strictly as a pitcher, which is fine with him.
"I'm a ball player. At the end of the day I'm a ball player," said Nitzschke. "If they ask me to pitch, I'm going to pitch. Heck, if the Explorers asked me to play first base, I'm going to do my best job to play first base and help the team. At the end of the day I just love playing baseball. I haven't done this forever. In high school I threw a little so maybe this is may calling. I should have been here the whole time, you never know."
A.J.'s best year in college was in 2018. He hit .311 with five home runs, while scoring 37 runs. While giving up hitting isn't easy, it gives him a chance to concentrate on pitching. Consistenly throwing in the 90's, he's anxious to face pro hitters.
"I'm super excited for it," said Nitzschke. "It's a new challenge and it will be a new struggle too. We're going to hit rough spots but you got to figure out how to battle through them. I'm close to family and friends. I don't think my mom has missed a game since I was this tall. I think she would have flown anywhere to see me play."
Opening day is scheduled for May 19 in Kansas City. The home opener is set for May 26 against Sioux Falls.