johnanderson

Coach John Anderson said part of the donation was used to renovate the team’s locker room.

Whether you’re trying to patch together $100 for a youth trip or $100 million to pay for a facility upgrade, fundraising can be an arduous task. Even if you make an emotional connection with a prospective donor, there’s still the matter of convincing that person to give his or her hard-earned money away.

Fundraising can be an arduous task. On occasion, though, it happens naturally, and when it does, it’s a beautiful thing — as Gophers baseball coach John Anderson can attest.

His baseball program announced recently that it had received a $419,000 gift from an anonymous donor. 

“It was from a donor, a lifelong Gophers baseball fan,” Anderson said. “Early in the 2000s, I used to see the guy at games. Finally we connected, and I got a call from him one day maybe eight or nine years ago. He indicated that he wanted to leave something in his will for the program. He was never married and had no children. He asked if I could hook him up with someone in the University Foundation, and I said absolutely. 

“I had no idea what this guy was talking about in terms of money. I didn’t ask how much it was, I just asked how he would like us to use it when the day comes — is there anything specific in his wishes. He said no, he wanted it to be at the discretion of the baseball coaches and however it could help the program. He was just a lifelong fan of the program and its impact.”

Anderson said he would occasionally see the fan at games and chat with him, but that he had “somewhat forgotten about” the fan’s promise of a legacy gift until a few months ago, when Anderson found out the fan had died.

“I would have gone to the funeral, but I was at Flip Saunders’ funeral. It was the same day, same time,” Anderson said. “But I wrote back to the foundation and asked how much the gift was. I was curious. And it was $419,000. I just about fell over when I read my e-mail. It was quite an inspiring gift.”

Anderson said $150,000 of the gift was used for renovating the Gophers locker room.

“We had an antiquated locker room with no security. Guys had a hard time getting things in and out of their lockers, which were from the 1970s,” he said. “It’s been a point of contention with me for a long time. And the kids are ecstatic about it. We did the renovation over [winter] break, and to see them when they came back, it lifted their world. They finally have something that’s special and that’s for them. 

“It’s a place where we can really grow our culture. Players are living all over the place, and it’s a place where they’re in there more, they’re spending time together. It’s not the Taj Mahal by any means, but it’s functional.”

And one gift begat another. As you might have read about a couple weeks back, freshman Ben Humbert asked former Gopher and current Twins pitcher Glen Perkins via Twitter for a PS4 to put in the new locker room. The wish was granted almost immediately.

“That was funny,” Anderson said. “The kid that did it mentioned it to me before we were getting ready for a meeting, and I thought he was kidding. All of the sudden this thing turns viral. He’s a freshman from International Falls. I’m sure the guys were probably sitting around the locker room. I haven’t asked a lot of questions about it. They were probably wondering how they were going to get a PS4. Someone probably put out a challenge to get ahold of Perk. They never came to me and never asked, but good for them. He tweeted out to Perk and 20 minutes later he had an answer. I told the kid, ‘good for you.’ I tell the kids to take risks, and he showed some leadership. It’s been fun for them.”

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