Road will be home this season for Minnesota

The Metrodome’s collapsed roof has already forced the cancellation of a dozen games

Andrew Baker

ItâÄôs been nearly a month since the Gophers baseball team announced it would not be playing at the Metrodome in the foreseeable future. And with the teamâÄôs first game less than a month away, there is still no identifiable timeline for completion of repairs to the facilityâÄôs ruptured Teflon cover.

Head coach John Anderson confirmed Monday that two home games against North Dakota State, two against Cal State-Bakersfield, one against Washington State, one against Hamline and the six-game Metrodome Tournament have all been cancelled.

And thatâÄôs just the beginning.

âÄúJust go down the list,âÄù Anderson said of the obstacles currently facing him and his team. âÄúItâÄôs long.âÄù

With no definitive answers on the Metrodome or the UniversityâÄôs Siebert Field âÄî which is in disrepair and widely considered unusable, especially in cold weather âÄî Anderson said he and his staff must operate under the assumption that neither facility will host a Gophers home game this year.

This means every home game still on the schedule must be played somewhere else, presenting myriad challenges for the 29th-year coach.

To begin, thereâÄôs the issue of moving games, potentially both their location and place on the calendar, on perilously short notice.

Moving on, not only is the Metrodome the GophersâÄô de facto home field, itâÄôs also where they practice. Under normal circumstances, the team can use it for intra-squad scrimmages with live pitching and umpires. Instead, the teamâÄôs only indoor option is now the smaller Gibson-Nagurski football complex, where space and practice time are at a premium due to the needs of other Gophers sports teams.

As it stands, the team will be travelling at least weekends in a row to start the season, meaning players âÄî who based their class schedules on the teamâÄôs original schedule âÄî will have to study on the go.

That said, not every player will be able to travel with the team. The Gophers have a 35-man roster, but only 28 are allowed to travel to non-conference road games, and only 25 can travel to games against Big Ten opponents.

Typically, the younger, less experienced players are left behind. These, Anderson said, are the players heâÄôs most concerned about. If the GophersâÄô home games were actually at home, his staff would be able to work with the younger players between contests.

âÄúWeâÄôre losing all that development time, and IâÄôm really worried about how itâÄôs going to impact some of our development, especially in our younger players,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúItâÄôs going to retard it, thereâÄôs no question about it.âÄù

However slowly, at least some progress has been made on the schedule.

The Dairy Queen Classic tournament has been moved to Tucson, Ariz., A three-game series against Gonzaga will be added on the front end of the teamâÄôs March trip to California, which was originally only scheduled to last from March 15-20 and include games against Sacramento State and Santa Clara.

On March 25, it will be back to the West Coast for a three-game series against Cal-Poly originally slated for the Metrodome.

The teamâÄôs Big Ten home games must be played in Minnesota, per NCAA rules.

Anderson has been in talks with the Twins to determine whether Minnesota can play some of its home games at Target Field while the Twins are away, though nothing has been finalized.

Siebert Field is a possibility, Anderson said, âÄúbut thatâÄôs a stretch based on what we know there, because of the condition of the facility. We havenâÄôt done anything to the playing surface to speak of for the last couple years. Five of our 16 home games in April [and] May are the first week of April and we know historically we havenâÄôt been able to play outside that early, and especially with the winter weâÄôre having right now, I donâÄôt see why that would change.âÄù

Speaking over the phone, Anderson sounded haggard, but did not complain about the personal toll heâÄôs taking.

âÄúIâÄôm worried about the players,âÄù he said. âÄúI feel for the seniors. This is their last college baseball season. IâÄôm trying to provide them with [the] best experience we can in their last year so they have some resemblance of a college baseball experience.âÄù