It’s been more than 30 years since a Minneapolis City Conference athlete has been recruited to play baseball for the University of Minnesota.
Until Jordan Kozicky, a fleet, strong-armed shortstop, caught the Gophers’ attention.
Kozicky will end that drought next year, having signed a national letter of intent last November to play for Minnesota.
“They don’t even know who the last [player from Minneapolis] was,” Kozicky said with a laugh. “It made be even longer than 30 years.”
Staff writer Jim Paulsen caught up with Kozicky on Sunday to talk about life as an athlete in the city and getting the chance to live a dream.
Q: Why do you think it’s been so long since a Minneapolis Conference kid has donned the maroon and gold?
A: I always think it’s amazing that Minneapolis kids don’t get the kind of recognition they get in the suburbs. We have some great athletes in boys and girls’ sports, but as a whole, we don’t get the kind of attention.
Q: How does it feel to be the one who finally ends that streak?
A: It’s amazing. I know there have been a lot of great players in Minneapolis over the last 30 years, and to think it comes down to me, I feel really special. I feel like the city is behind me.
Q: What do the Gophers like about you as a player?
A: I know they like how aggressive I am at the plate. Shortstop requires a lot of athleticism and I can move around pretty well. And I’ve got a good arm at shortstop. I even project at third base or the outfield.
Q: Why Minnesota?
A: It’s my hometown, my city. I’ve always gone to Gophers games, like the old Dairy Queen Classic at the Metrodome, and thought I wanted to play there. As soon as I heard the Gophers were looking at me, I blocked every other team off.
Q: Southwest has had a pretty good season as one of the final three teams alive in a pretty good section. The team is finishing strong.
A: Yeah, it’s nice to finally have the kind of success we’ve had. Almost all of us have been playing together for a long time, going back to the Minneapolis Millers traveling team in fifth grade. Some of us go even farther back, to Park Board baseball at Kenwood Park. When you play together for that long, you develop a strong relationship.
Q: When do you look forward to baseball the most?
A: Those first captains’ practices in January. It’s the greatest feeling to get back to playing baseball and seeing how everyone has improved. It’s hard to get through February and March because you just want to get out and play ball again.
Q: What is your favorite part of the game?
A: I like fielding as much as I like hitting. I love making amazing plays in the field, but I think I like hitting just a little bit more. When you get that spotlight on you after hitting a home run, it’s the most amazing feeling.
Q: Most memorable home run?
A: It came just [last week] when we played Armstrong. We had a guy on second and I smacked a home run to left center. We ended up losing the game, but the way the fans reacted as I was rounding third base, I felt this incredible energy.
Q: Best defensive play?
A: I remember last year, there was a string of games where I seemed to be make a diving or behind-the-back catch every game. One play against Holy Angels, I ran all the way to left field on a foul and caught it diving. The guy on third tagged up and I got up and threw him out.
Q: I hope someone got that on film.
A: Yeah, you think that sometimes after a great play or a home run: “I hope someone had their camera on.”