The Indiana Hoosiers never had qualified for the College World Series before, so when they take the field Saturday in Omaha, all of the state will pulling for the Hoosiers in their game with Louisville.
But there will be plenty of Minnesotans with a strong interest in the Hoosiers, too.
Terry Ryan is one of them.
“I’m certainly going to pay attention, see how they do,” the Twins general manager said. “It’s not really a be-all, end-all, but there’s nothing wrong with seeing these guys.”
The guys he will be watching? Aaron Slegers, the 6-9 righthander who is likely to start Indiana’s second game Monday. Dustin DeMuth, Indiana’s third baseman, who batted .389 this season. And Ryan Halstead, the Hoosiers closer, who earned 11 saves this season.
All are helping Indiana make history this year. Ryan hopes they will do the same for the Twins someday. Slegers was the Twins’ fifth-round pick in the amateur draft earlier this month, DeMuth was their choice in the eighth round and Halstead was added in the 26th round.
On Sunday, they will watch an even more highly touted draftee pitch, when Louisiana State righthander Ryan Eades, the Twins’ second-round pick, takes the mound against UCLA.
“It really is a positive, going into that venue, that attention, that competition,” Ryan said. “It can do nothing but help them.”
The Twins will watch, but they have been careful not to interfere, Ryan said. Each player was contacted by the scout who recommended him last week, “but we tell them we’ll get back together after the series,” Ryan said. “That’s about as far as we want to go. You go in there and try to help your team try to win the College World Series, and when you’re done, we’ll get together.”
There’s a certain risk, Ryan acknowledged, to having players still competing after they have been drafted, but it’s a small one. Gone are the days, for instance, when some college coaches overworked the arms of their best pitchers in the Series.
“You don’t see as much as you did 10 years ago, because there’s so much attention now, there’s so much at stake,” Ryan said.
Eades, for instance, is in line for a bonus of more than $1.5 million.
“We haven’t signed him — he’s LSU’s guy, and they’re going to do what they feel is best for LSU, but also for the kid, I suspect,” Ryan said.
And while the players will be intently focused on their own play and their team’s, it won’t matter to Ryan and his staff. Some players thrive in that spotlight, he said, and some don’t. Brian Duensing posted an 8.10 ERA during Nebraska’s run to Omaha in the 2005 NCAA tournament, but he still rose to the major leagues. And Levi Michael, the Twins’ first-round pick in 2011, batted only 1-for-12 and left seven runners on base during North Carolina’s three CWS games.
“It’s not exactly what you want to see, but it doesn’t affect much,” Ryan said. “You’d like to see a guy go in there and carve people up. If Slegers or Eades go in and have a good game, there would be a nice little reception here. A lot of people who follow the Twins will be watching.”
Phil Miller • firstname.lastname@example.org