Pro-Alumni game first of many to come at the Metrodome

Saturday will kick off the Gophers’ season, and they won’t stray often from the Dome.

In what’s become a tradition, Minnesota’s baseball team will take to the field this Saturday in the 14th annual Pro-Alumni game at the Metrodome.

And the experience of the game is essential to the history of Minnesota baseball.

The current Gophers will play the former Gophers at 3 p.m. Saturday.

“I think it’s important that we connect the past with the present of Gopher baseball,” Minnesota coach John Anderson said. “It’s like having a reunion of sort.”

Invitations for such an event bring back some special faces to Minnesota baseball. One of those faces, Paul Molitor, will be playing his first Pro-Alumni game as a Hall-of-Famer.

Molitor was inducted in August 2004 after an illustrious career that saw him get his 3,000th hit and retire as a member of the Minnesota Twins.

The score of the Pro-Alumni game never makes a winner or a loser of either team; the coaches and the players said they come to play as fans and will be playing with their opposition as much as against them.

“You get a chance to go out and meet these people,” Gophers third baseman David Hrncirik said. “I mean, most fans have to pay to go out and do this kind of stuff.”

The Gophers start out their season as fans unlike most other collegiate teams.

Every season since 1991, Minnesota has started their season by playing host to Minnesota alumni, all of whom have professional experience.

It’s an invaluable feature of the program that eases in young athletes to the rigors of Big Ten baseball by allowing them to talk to and learn from professionals who have already been there.

“You get to meet and converse with them,” Gophers shortstop Matt Fornasiere said. “Whether you get to play or not, it’s going to be a good experience just to watch.”

This year’s Pro-Alumni game also holds a special significance – it’s the first of many games the Gophers will play at the Dome.

Instead of traveling for the first month and a half of the season like usual, Minnesota will have home-field advantage at the Dome in 24 of their first 27 games.

Home field early in the season might mean more than just a crowd to cheer, Anderson said.

“If you study history, you’ll see that you tend to win more at home than on the road,” he said.

The Gophers coach also said he knows the importance of being able to bring a full roster into home games as opposed to being limited to 25 players on the road.

“It gives more kids the opportunity to see how they could help our program,” Anderson said.

And give some alumni the chance to help some of those kids.