A year ago, Jeff Lanning and Dan Jennings played baseball for rival schools on opposing sides of Iowa’s 4A state championship game. A month later they were teammates at the University of Nebraska.
Lanning, a catcher from Ankeny High School, says he and the Cornhusker baseball team were a good match. He says, “That’s where I wanted to play, I kind of introduced myself to the coaches to get into the program, and I got a good opportunity because they were looking for a catcher and they wanted to bring a high school kid in to get experience for the upcoming years.”
Left-handed pitcher Dan Jennings, who’s West Des Moines Valley team won the 2005 state title says he and Lanning had been opposing dugouts long before high school. Jennings says, “Me and Jeff have been playing against each other since we were 9 or 10 years old, so it’s fun to come in with a teammate, especially a new teammate. We’ve been playing against each other for so long it’s good to be on the same team wearing the same color for once.”
Lanning says the two former rivals avoid talking about their last high school game and look forward instead. He says, “I don’t talk about it that much, he doesn’t talk about it…he’s a good guy, a good pitcher, he’s got good stuff and still a lot of room to grow, and he’ll do well in the future.”
Jennings agrees the exciting 8-6 match-up at the end of last summer was important then, but not relevant now. He says, “What I remember was it was one of the best games I’ve ever played, one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of. It went back and forth. It was fun to be in it, it was fun to play against Jeff, knowing I’m going to be his teammate next year, but we don’t really like to talk about it. It was fun for both of us, but I know how he feels about it, I know how much he wanted to win it, so I try to kind of stay away from that topic a little bit.”
Both have another chance to play together this summer for the Waterloo Bucks in the all collegiate Northwoods League. Lanning says he hopes to sharpen his skills behind the plate this summer in preparation for more playing time next spring. Lanning says, “If I can hit, I can hit, but if I can’t play defense well enough, then I’m not going to play. I just want to work on my defense, get that as good as I can before I go back.”
Through nearly four weeks of the Waterloo Bucks season, Lanning is among the team’s RBI leaders and Jennings has made several appearances as a starting pitcher and in relief.