The Gophers baseball team was sitting at 8-10 overall when their season was abruptly canceled in March. One of the most disappointing things for Gophers fans and coach John Anderson is that the club lost the final season of starting pitcher Max Meyer, who will be a top pick in the June MLB amateur draft.
Anderson is one of the greatest college baseball coaches in the game — his 1,325 wins ranks 23rd all-time — and he will be able to quickly rebuild the Gophers. But it still hurts to lose a season with Meyer, who was the most exciting Gophers star in decades and would have drawn big crowds to Siebert Field.
Meyer made four starts in 2020 and posted a 3-1 record with a 1.95 ERA. He had 46 strikeouts against only 15 hits and eight walks over 27⅔ innings.
It’s easy to see why most draft analysts see Meyer as a top-10 prospect.
In his final two starts for the Gophers, victories against North Carolina and Utah, he combined to strike out 29 batters over 17 innings while allowing one earned run.
Anderson has two prospects coming to help in George Klassen out of Wisconsin and Noah DeLuga out of Illinois.
Klassen is ranked as the No. 1 pitcher out of Wisconsin and the No. 23 righthanded pitcher in the country, according to Perfect Game USA, a prep baseball scouting service. He was also named a second-team All-America.
DeLuga was ranked the No. 104 lefthanded pitcher in the country by Perfect Game. He pitched for Lake Zurich High School and led the team with a 1.40 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 44 innings as a junior.
Another big prospect to watch is catcher Cody Kelly of St. Michael-Albertville, who will join the Gophers this fall. His brother, Jack, is a standout utility player for the Gophers.
Cody hit .466 over the past four seasons at St. Michael-Albertville.
Baseball America ranked Meyer as the No. 10 prospect in the country. If he becomes a first-round pick, he would join Glen Perkins, Brent Gates, Dan Wilson, Brian Denman, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, Noel Jenke, Bobby Fenwick and Frank Brosseau as the only Gophers selected in the first round of the MLB draft.
Klassen was ranked as the No. 259 prospect by Baseball America, but with the draft being limited to only five rounds this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unlikely he’ll be selected.
Hill here to win
Signs are coming from all around the country that professional sports are going to get underway soon.
States from New York to California have said they are ready to start hosting big league games next month, even without fans if necessary.
Major League Baseball hopes to be the first major pro sport to get back into action. The Twins could benefit from a later start to the season because injuries to players such as outfielders Byron Buxton and Max Kepler, shortstop Jorge Polanco and pitcher Rich Hill will have had more time to heal.
The Twins got the steal of free agency when they landed Hill on a one-year, $3 million deal.
Since 2015, Hill ranks seventh among all starters in ERA in baseball at 2.91 and seventh among all starters in strikeouts per nine innings at 10.67.
The Twins got him cheap because he’s 40 and was rehabbing after elbow surgery that was slated to keep him out until June.
Hill said the surgery is brand-new in baseball and was performed by doctor Jeff Dugas, who invented the surgery.
“It has had a huge amount of success of the people who have had it, and have come back,” Hill said earlier this year. “I believe it’s above a 90 percent success rate. So it’s something that I’m extremely excited about. I know I’m not getting any younger in this game but I know I have a lot of experience and knowledge to bring to this clubhouse.”
When it came to his decision to sign with the Twins, Hill said he heard nothing but good things about the organization, but he was also focused on going to a squad that could compete for a title.
“It really came down to winning a World Series, that is the biggest thing,” Hill said. “Being [with the Los Angeles Dodgers] the last four years we had incredible teams, great clubhouses, great coaching staffs and the guys there. The No. 1 goal was to win the World Series. But it wasn’t just set out to win the World Series, it was how we were going to go about it and how the process was. That was our main goal coming into it.
“But it was also coupled with the effort and the energy that guys brought every single day. I think that’s something that looking at this locker room and a team that won over 100 games last year, that was a huge factor in signing here.”
Hill had hoped to be back by June, so the Twins could have him ready right away if games start in the next month or two.
Dungy on Rooney
Former Gophers quarterback Tony Dungy became one of the greatest coaches in NFL history.
He is also a big advocate for hiring diversity in the league after he became the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl with the Colts in 2007.
The NFL announced this week that teams looking to hire head coaches will now have to interview at least two minority candidates for the position. It used to be only one candidate had to be interviewed.
If you want to know how poorly the league does at hiring black coaches, look no further than former Vikings running backs coach Eric Bieniemy, now the offensive coordinator of the Chiefs, the best offensive club in the NFL.
Even after winning the Super Bowl last season and being viewed as the top assistant coach in the league, Bieniemy didn’t get a head coaching job.
Dungy told the Associated Press he believes the reason a coach such as Bieniemy wasn’t hired is because every team is rushing to make a hire instead of really following the spirit of the rule, which is to hire the best candidate no matter how long it takes.
“What I think has happened is people have said, ‘Let me interview a minority candidate to satisfy the rule, and then I can get on with this hiring process or hire who I want to,’ ” he said. “The whole point of it was to slow down the process, take your time, get the best candidate and make a decision.
“There’s so much pressure now on all of them to do it quickly, get the No. 1 candidate, put together a staff. Nobody wants to take their time. That is the major problem. You get people interviewed who may not fit what the team may be looking for.”