Clay Geary was the last of his four roommates to throw out the first pitches at the Twins game Wednesday at Target Field. Little did he know, his friends had been plotting a strike via secret group text.

When Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson, who caught the pitches, ran the ball back to the mound and handed it to Geary, he informed the junior receiver he had just earned a scholarship for the Gophers. That’s when Carter Coughlin, Thomas Barber, Kamal Martin and Antoine Winfield Jr., mounted their attack, dogpiling onto Geary, while the rest of the Gophers team’s cheers echoed from their suite behind home plate.

“All my family watching the game, my grandpa’s watching the game. I told them I was throwing the first pitch,” Geary said. “And just to have them be there watching me get a scholarship, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I mean, that was perfect.”

Geary, a Lakeville native, has yet to break into a stacked receiver lineup, though he did play in eight games last year, mostly on special teams. But Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said Geary’s determination despite his role on the team is a real representation of the culture Fleck has implemented in the program. 

Fleck gave the credit for planning this surprise to team general manager Gerrit Chernoff, who handles most of the logistics after Fleck and the staff brainstorm which walk-ons deserve scholarships and how to make the reveal personal to them. 

“We knew he was a Minnesota guy, Lakeville guy, who loves Minnesota sports, and there’s no better way than to throw out a first pitch,” Fleck said. “… It’s something that you can take that you create a moment and memory that lasts a lifetime.”

Geary said this was the “craziest thing” to ever happen to him. And he was able to share it with his teammates, who all took a break from the training camp grind to watch the game together with Fleck and his wife, Heather Fleck.

P.J. Fleck joked he sat the players in the shade this year instead of the hot bleachers like last summer because, as is his theme for his third season, the Gophers are working “smarter, not harder.”

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