Former Gophers pitcher Max Meyer already made history this year when he was selected No. 3 overall by the Miami Marlins, matching Paul Molitor as the highest draft pick in Gophers history.
But now the Woodbury native has a chance to do something that very few players in the history of baseball have accomplished: Skip the minor leagues and pitch in the majors in his first professional season.
There’s no doubt this will be a one-of-a-kind MLB season, but the fact is that when the Marlins put together their 60-man roster for this season, Meyer was on the list. He’s the only Miami rookie to make the 60-man roster.
There is a very good chance he will pitch this season as teams play a lot of games with few days off. No player has gone straight to the majors since pitcher Mike Leake, who was drafted in 2009.
Meyer told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel this past week that he is adjusting to the big change in his life.
“I haven’t been away from home much,” Meyer said. “It’s definitely a little weird, but I feel like I’m adjusting pretty good right now. But anything I ever need, my parents always have my back.”
This week, Meyer threw his first live pitches as a major leaguer. He said he tried to follow his routine, but it was exciting.
“The juices were flowing a little bit being the first time back on the mound and especially in the Marlins uniform,” he said. “It was pretty special. But yeah I just kind of did the same thing I have been doing my whole life — just get out there, stretch and throw as normal and get out there on the mound.”
Straight to the majors?
The fact that Meyer could go from striking out 15 for the Gophers against the Utah Utes on March 6 to playing for the Miami Marlins this summer is unbelievable, but there is a comparison with another former Gopher.
Dave Winfield was selected No. 4 overall by the Padres in 1973 after being named MVP of the College World Series for the Gophers.
In the College World Series, Winfield had thrown 17⅓ innings and struck out 29 hitters while posting a 1.56 ERA in two starts. He also went 7-for-15 with two RBI.
That was one of the most dominant performances in college baseball history, and still it was a surprise when Winfield skipped the minors and played 56 games with the Padres, hitting .277.
Gophers manager John Anderson told WCCO Radio that a lot of the credit for Meyer coming to the University of Minnesota belongs to assistant coach Ty McDevitt and assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Patrick Casey, who spotted Meyer on a traveling squad when the pitcher was in 10th grade.
Yes, Meyer wasn’t viewed as some can’t-miss prospect. He was ranked as the No. 8 prospect in Minnesota and No. 128 nationally in 2017 by Perfect Game, the top recruiting service in the country.
“This happens because a young man is extremely internally motivated, he each day is hungry for information to help him grow and learn and get better,” Anderson said. “He has always had a growth mind-set. He allowed our staff to coach him. Ty McDevitt, our pitching coach, has done a phenomenal job with Max. They have a very close relationship and Max trusts Ty a great deal and they worked very closely together to help Max get to this point.
“But like we say, it takes a village to develop people and have significant accomplishments, and I think our entire staff has contributed here, from our athletic trainer to the strength and conditioning coach and obviously to our staff and people within the department in different support roles. That’s what it takes. Everyone has chipped in here, and Max deserves most of the credit.”
Target Field advantage?
Twins President Dave St. Peter said the club is looking at every way possible to create a home-field advantage for the Twins while they don’t have fans in the stands.
“I think every ballpark, every market has certain traditions and things that are unique,” he said. “We’re going to try to carry over some of those traditions, even without fans. But some of this is still a work in progress.”
St. Peter said the team wants to create an environment for the players as much as the fans.
“Also what can we do inside the ballpark to frankly support our players?” he said. “To create some level of home-field advantage? Those are the considerations for us, and it requires a level of creativity and a level of flexibility.”
• The Gophers football program has never played a schedule that didn’t have a single nonconference opponent like the Big Ten is planning for this season. In 1957 under Murray Warmath, the Gophers played just one nonconference game, beating Washington 46-7 at Memorial Stadium in the season opener.
• The Gophers had been set to pay nearly $2 million to their nonconference football opponents — $1.2 million to Florida Atlantic, $450,000 to Tennessee Tech and $300,000 to Brigham Young.
• Pro Football Focus ranked the Vikings offensive line No. 23 in the NFL heading into the offseason: “The Vikings have a good zone-blocking line that gave their running backs the third-highest percentage of positively graded blocks per rush last season, but there are holes in pass protection that can be exploited, especially in must-pass situations against good defensive lines.”
• Jake Irvin, a 2015 Bloomington Jefferson graduate, made the 60-man roster for the defending champion Washington Nationals. The 6-6 righthander graduated from Oklahoma and spent last year at Class A Hagerstown. The Twins drafted him out of high school in the 37th round in 2015.
• The Twins have worked hard with MLB to get a more favorable home schedule, and the 2021 schedule is great for Target Field with just 11 home games in April, 18 in May, 12 in June, 14 in July, 13 in August and 13 in September.
• Jim Marshall, the greatest athletic trainer in the history of the state of Minnesota who spent 42 years with the Gophers, turned 90 years old on July 3. Marshall was named to the “M” Club Hall of Fame in 1998.
• Isaiah Weston, a graduate of St. Michael-Albertville, could be a big standout for Northern Iowa this season. Weston caught 43 passes for 1,053 yards as a sophomore last season.