KEARNEY — Ask Jessica (Kedrowski) Carlyle where she’s enjoyed living the most and you’ll have to wait a bit.
She has a lot of choices.
That’s what happens when you’re married to a professional baseball player who falls under the description of "well-traveled."
The former University of Nebraska at Kearney basketball standout has packed up and moved to Japan twice, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York twice, Scranton, Pennsylvania, Atlanta and now, Austin, Texas.
"Every place I’ve lived has done something or represented something pretty amazing in our lives," she said.
She did a little bit of her own world travels before getting married to Buddy Carlyle. She played one year professionally in The Netherlands after graduating from UNK and before coming home to teach and coach girls basketball at Boys Town.
Back in Omaha, she reconnected with Carlyle, who was two years younger than her, but still a good friend while both attended Bellevue East. They were in the same friend group. They played pickup basketball together.
"We were like brother-sister," Jessica said.
Buddy’s professional career started when he was drafted out of high school.
"We just stayed really good friends. ... But he was all over America playing baseball and I was young and immature and wanting to play basketball," Jessica said. "When I came back from Holland, we were able to hang out together for the first time in years when he came back in the offseason."
Eventually, they came to the conclusion they should "properly date." The courtship didn’t last long.
"We dated for like 13 days and, I know this now, he literally started designing my wedding ring. He proposed less than a month later," Jessica said.
Two days later, Buddy left for Japan to pitch for the Hanshin Tigers. Jessica followed after the end of her school year.
"We’re bored. We’re oddballs living in Asia learning how to be independent and learning how to be part of a couple," Jessica said.
The Carlyles would return to Japan in 2010 when Buddy played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. This time, they came with kids — Carter, then seven, and Kennedy, age 4.
"Going back to Japan and living near Tokyo with my kids is probably one of the more memorable places I’ve lived because we only had each other. You grow so much as a family and you spend so much time with the kids," she said. "My favorite memory of that is we bought the kids basketballs ... and they would dribble all the way down the streets of Tokyo to the subway and they would just dribble these little basketballs."
Basketball has won out over baseball in the Carlyle family.
When she graduated from UNK in 1998, Jessica was the second all-time leading scorer for the Lopers with 1,682 points. She holds the school record for field goals made (690). She earned All-RMAC and All-NCAA Tournament honors and was inducted into the UNK Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011.
During her four years at UNK, the Lopers won 97 games and lost 23. In her junior year, UNK reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament and set a school record with 28 wins.
"It was so fun to be a part of such a winning program, such a hard-nosed program, such a no-nonsense basketball program," Jessica said. "Amy (Stephens) was such a fantastic coach. She taught us how to play the right way, how to focus on ridiculously tough defense, team defense and an up-tempo style of game that’s now kind of the college thing. Everybody plays up-tempo but Amy was kind of revolutionary in that because she wanted a quick game — defense-transition, defense-transition.
"And I loved it. I loved the way we got to play ball and I loved the fact that no excuses were ever accepted. That has bode well for me my whole life because I’ve never had to work harder or have more discipline. As competitive as I am, to be part of such a group of girls and a coach with such a winning mentality ... it was just so fun."
Much of what she learned as a player at UNK she’s taken to heart in her own career as a coach and teacher.
When Buddy was signed by the Atlanta Braves in 2006, it was time to settle down.
"When I had one child and he was young, we were able to follow Buddy," Jessica said. "But when the kids were in school. ... I went back to teaching full time and coaching. So we pretty much stayed put all the time."
Braves teammate Tim Hudson steered them to Peachtree City, just south of Atlanta — "a quaint, little golf-cart town," Jessica said. She got a job teaching English and coaching girls basketball at nearby Landmark Christian School in Fairburn, an Atlanta suburb. She was there for four years before moving to McIntosh High School, a larger public school, in Peachtree City where again she taught English and coached girls basketball.
At each place she’s coached, Buddy has been her assistant coach or her junior varsity coach.
"We’re so basketball, it’s funny," Jessica said. "Buddy says he gets greater joy coaching the girls teams he’s coached with me, and watching these kids develop, than anything he’s ever done professionally."
And he has some credentials in that area.
He’s now the minor league pitching coordinator for the Los Angeles Angels and has been able to use his Japanese language skills to act as a liaison between coaches and Japanese players in the United States. And, according to Jessica, he taught all-star pitcher Yu Darvish how to throw the cut slider he learned from Mariano Rivera while pitching for the Yankees.
When Buddy’s pitching career ground to a halt, the Carlyles had one more move to make. Two years ago, they left Georgia for Austin, Texas.
"My favorite boss of all time left Georgia, came here, became head of schools of this particular school. She has been trying to get us to move here. ... We took a leap of faith and moved our kids, seventh and 10th graders at the time, poor kids, and it ended up being a good move. Everybody loves it here," Jessica said. "Austin is fantastic. A really cool town, it’s seriously amazing," Jessica said.
She agreed to teach, but gave up coaching, for now.
"I wanted a break from coaching because I wanted to go to my kids’ games. I want to see my kids play basketball. I want to be present instead of constantly going to be with my own program," she said
Carter is now 17, a 6-foot-4 senior and a shooting guard. Jessica said he has the potential to play college basketball as well as the academics to excel at college.
"He was a 5-3 freshman and he was so upset. He had to really scrap and claw. But his sophomore and junior years he grew a foot and now he’s the tallest in the family. ... Because he grew so late he’s playing catch-up strength wise," Jessica said.
Kennedy, who will be a sophomore, is a 6-1 guard and has been active in travel basketball.
They are all anxious to get back to normal, but the coronavirus pandemic has had positive aspects.
"I did remote teaching in the spring for my ninth graders and, as everybody else knows in the country, that was a challenge. It was a pretty big success because everybody knows it could have been worse and our school did a really good job with that," Jessica said. "The good part was, because baseball was delayed so long, Buddy was home during the majority of the initial lockdown, the end of school and most of the summer."
That gave the Carlyles a lot of family time. They’ve spent plenty of time on nearby Lake Travis, a recreation resort where boating, fishing, swimming and other activities can fill day after day. Buddy and Carter also have also shared plenty of time on the golf course. And the whole family has shot a lot of hoops.
"Both of us say this is one of the greatest things and the worst thing that’s ever happened to us because we’ve never had more time with our kids this age. ... It’s great that we’re getting that time together because next summer he’ll be gone," Jessica said.