Senior stud set for medical school

Troy Larson is one of Minnesota’s most successful athletes off the field.

Minnesota outfielder Troy Larson has a 3.95 GPA, one of the highest among the University's student-athletes, and is set to enroll in medical school after the 2013 season.

Amanda Snyder

Minnesota outfielder Troy Larson has a 3.95 GPA, one of the highest among the University's student-athletes, and is set to enroll in medical school after the 2013 season.

Samuel Gordon

When professional baseball came knocking, Gophers outfielder Troy Larson didn’t pay much attention.

A few years back, a professional scout sent Larson a questionnaire.

“He walked into my office and said, ‘Do I have to fill this out?’” Minnesota head coach John Anderson recalled. “‘I don’t want to be a pro player. I want to be a doctor.’”

Larson is well on his way to living out that dream.

The senior is set to enroll in medical school after the 2013 season, his last as a member of the Gophers baseball team.

He’s been accepted to Penn State’s College of Medicine, and he’s on the wait list at Minnesota’s and Vermont’s. Add those achievements to his lengthy list of academic accomplishments.

In his fifth year at the University, Larson is finishing up his second major — biochemistry — to accompany his degree in genetics, cell biology and development.

His 3.95 GPA is one of the best in Minnesota’s athletics department, and he was honored as an Academic All-American during the 2012 season.

Larson batted .304 last season and was the Gophers’ everyday center fielder. This year, he’s hitting .297 in the same role, and Anderson said he’s been a more consistent player.

For Larson, baseball and school go hand-in-hand.

“It’s kind of a nice distraction both ways,” he said. “In the middle of the season, it’s a lot of baseball. You can focus on schoolwork a little bit to get your mind off of baseball.”

This semester, Larson is taking one class while serving as a teacher’s assistant in the biochemistry lab. But throughout his career, his studies have demanded he miss more practice time than most players.

The baseball program at Minnesota places a heavy emphasis on academic success, and Anderson said he tells players they can pursue any major they want.

“[Larson] shows that if you want to pursue a major like that, it can be done and combined with athletics,” Anderson said.

Larson brings schoolwork on the road. He studies at the hotels, airports and on the bus rides.

“He takes in every bit of time you can squeeze in around his athletic career” to prepare for the MCATs and medical school, Anderson said.

Kurt Schlangen, Larson’s teammate, classmate and former roommate, said he “puts in 110 percent on everything he does.”

Larson’s relationship between academics and athletics dates back to his high school days at the prestigious Hill-Murray High School.

He said the transition from middle school to high school was key in preparing him for the rigorous academic demands of college.

“I kind of learned to either sink or swim at that point,” he said. “It became second nature to study a lot and get my work done.”

Larson’s high school days were filled with classes, baseball and homework, and by the time he got to college, he was ready.

“I actually did more homework in high school than I did in college,” he said.

Larson’s father, Dale, said his son was highly motivated as far back as elementary school and said that’s about the time Troy’s interest in medicine started to develop.

Dale said Larson took many trips to doctors and specialists as a child because of various sports-related injuries.

“He was watching that whole process as he was going through it,” Dale said. “That was something that really intrigued him.

“All of a sudden, he would talk about that’s what he wanted to do.”

Larson soaked in the teachings of his science classes and spent time shadowing doctors.

By the time he got to college, there was little doubt surrounding his career choice.

Alissa Allen, Larson’s academic counselor since 2009, said Larson’s willingness to sacrifice social and athletic opportunities are a prime reason for his success.

“Coming in, he knew he wanted to be a doctor, and that was always his focus,” Allen said. “He made sure that was always in the forefront.”

Larson frontloaded his coursework to make it more manageable, taking upward of 17 credits his first couple of semesters.

He redshirted his freshman season on the baseball team, which helped him prioritize school, he said.

Getting ahead in school has helped Larson both on and off the diamond.

His lighter class schedule as a senior has afforded him more practice time, which Anderson said has aided his performance.

Larson, who contemplated not returning for his final season, is enjoying a successful 2013 campaign as a player and a teacher’s assistant.

“Just to be able to use the education I’ve accumulated to help kids learn,” he said, “I hope that when I’m older and am a physician I can incorporate that into my job.”