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Continued: Hartman: Baseball, Vikings reach stadium dimensions compromise

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 22, 2013 - 11:38 AM

For a period of time it appeared there would be a problem satisfying the Gophers baseball program, other local colleges and amateur baseball teams -- teams that have used the Metrodome for as many as 20 hours a day for over the past 20 years -- when it came to the distances of foul lines in the new Vikings stadium.

Under terms of the bill passed by the Legislature, the new stadium had to be available for baseball just like the Metrodome is now.

Gophers coach John Anderson was very unhappy with the proposed 285-foot distance to the right field foul pole.

But apparently the Vikings and the baseball coaches have worked out a compromise.

Anderson said he hasn't seen the design, but he has talked to Ted Mondale, the CEO of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, about a design that calls for 44-foot NFL sidelines, a 26-foot right field wall and outfield dimensions of 300 feet to right field, 324 to left, 370 to left-center, 400 to dead center and 335 to right-center. Anderson said the changes are satisfactory.

In addition, the new design calls for a warning track of 10-foot-wide turf besides the 335-foot mark in center; portable dugouts with temporary walls in front of field suites; turf at home plate with a circular surrounding stripe; and club seating overhanging the right field wall that will be 4-by-11 feet and hang 39 feet, 9 inches over the field.

"I think it's a realistic compromise," Anderson said of the solution. "It's usable, it's workable, it'll be fine.

"They're going to put a baggie up in right field, from the right field line to right-center, to make a higher wall there to protect that dimension on that side, that's my understanding. It'll work fine. I'm OK with that. They just have to put a portable wall up there like they do in the Dome so you can keep some of the routine fly balls from going out of the ballpark there because the dimension is short."

U rallied last year

While the Gophers men's basketball team is experiencing a similar freefall in Big Ten play as it did a season ago, there are some key differences.

Through 14 conference games last season, the Gophers were 17-10 overall and 5-9 in the Big Ten, after starting out 12-1 in nonconference.

The thing that this year's team needs to avoid doing is continuing to lose. Last year's Gophers dropped three games in a row to fall to 5-9, then lost their next three after that before winning their finale against Nebraska for a 17-13 overall record and 6-12 record in conference.

Those Gophers then won two Big Ten tournament games before falling to Michigan in overtime in the semifinals. They then won four games in the NIT before losing to Stanford in the championship game.

So this year's Gophers, at 6-8 in conference play, have already won as many conference games as they did last season. Last year's team faced ranked teams during five of the six losses during their final losing streak. But this year's team, following Tuesday's game against top-ranked Indiana, closes with three winnable games, and there's a chance they could finish with a .500 Big Ten record and 21 victories overall before they enter the Big Ten tournament, where they have had tremendous success under Tubby Smith.

Still, it's a major issue with this team: with Trevor Mbakwe returning along with most of last year's roster, a lot more was expected out of this group.

They have four conference games left. The Hoosiers come here Tuesday, and it will be a big upset if the Gophers win that one. But they should beat Penn State in their other remaining home game and could be favored to win the final two road games at Purdue and at Nebraska.

So if they can return to their early-season form, they would finish 9-9 and some of the heat would be off Smith, especially if he followed that with some victories in the NCAA tournament.

Jottings

• Vikings owner Zygi Wilf will be recognized in Indianapolis by the Fritz Pollard Alliance with its Paul "Tank" Younger Award in honor of his record of hiring and promoting minority candidates on the football and business side of the franchise. Vikings Assistant Director of College Scouting Jamaal Stephenson was honored by the alliance as NFC Scout of the Year.

• The Gophers men's indoor track and field team, which will compete in the Big Ten championships in Geneva, Ohio, this weekend, has a talented group of seniors, including two athletes who took first place in last year's championships: Harun Abda, who won the 400 and 600 meters, and Micah Hegerle, who won the weight throw. The team finished second overall in the meet last year, and with some promising freshmen on the squad, they could do as well or better this year.

• Former Timberwolves player and executive Fred Hoiberg continues to do good things with his Iowa State men's basketball team. Hoiberg's squad is 18-8 overall and 8-5 in Big 12 Conference play and has a good chance to make the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive season, despite the departure of Royce White last year. They are the fifth-highest-scoring team in the nation, averaging 79.3 points per game. Hoiberg also has been heavily recruiting Cooper's Rashad Vaughn and De La Salle's Reid Travis for the class of 2014.

• Former Roseville standout Mike Muscala continues to add to his tremendous career at Bucknell, earning Capital One Academic All-America honors on Thursday. He also leads the Patriot League in scoring (19.1), rebounding (11.5) and blocked shots (2.7). He has a very good chance of winning league Player of the Year for the second time, and ESPN has him projected as a second-round pick in the NBA draft.

• Edina native and former Gophers golfer Donald Constable has yet to make a cut in his first season on the PGA Tour. He shot 6 over par at the Sony Open, 1 over at the Farmers Insurance Open and 4 over at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

• Edina's Brian Burke, fired last month as Maple Leafs president and general manager, was hired by the Anaheim Ducks as a part-time pro scout. Burke was the Ducks GM from 2005 to '08.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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