aseball coach expresses need for new stadium

[bold on]John R. Carter[bold off][fm][bold on][bold off][bold on][bold off]Staff Reporter[fm]
For 19 years, baseball coach John Anderson has been calling the shots for the Gophers from the dugout at Siebert Field, making him the longest tenured coach at the University.
His five Big Ten titles and 11 NCAA appearances put him with the likes of Bernie Bierman, John Mariucci and Dick Siebert as one of the most successful coaches – in any sport – in Minnesota history.
But come June 30th, Andersons contract will be up. Though hes not planning on leaving the Gophers any time soon, Anderson does want to get one thing straight before signing a new contract.
And its not what you might think.
[bold on][bold off]The whole contract is not about the money, Anderson said. What (the University) has offered me wont make me the highest paid coach in the Big Ten. Im not demanding that.
What Anderson is demanding is the go-ahead from the University to build a new baseball stadium. The current one, which has been in place since 1971, has become obsolete.
The bathrooms are cramped. The concession stand is small. Temporary stands are used as permanent ones. And trying to find parking near the stadium is like trying to park in Manhattan.
But thats just the beginning. Thats what the casual fan can observe after attending a game at Siebert.
What they cant see are the many other effects the stadium has on the baseball program, such as recruiting.
When kids come to your school, they want to know where theyre going to play and where theyre going to practice, Anderson said. There are more and more quality college baseball facilities in the country than there has ever been.
Over the past year, the soccer and softball teams have both moved into new stadiums. In the coming years, the womens hockey and mens and womens tennis teams will also get new facilities.
Financially, the University funded significant amounts of these new facilities. But with Title IX and the gender equity conflicts, that may not be possible for a baseball stadium that Anderson said would cost somewhere between $5 to $7 million.
So Anderson said hes willing to begin an effort where the baseball program will raise all the money itself.
Although he said it wont be an easy task to raise the money, Anderson believes the history of Minnesota baseball will fuel the fund-raising efforts.
Its about the program, Anderson said. Its about all the great players and all the tradition and all the history here. I think the program deserves it.
It would appear that funding doesnt seem to be a barrier. The only barrier is the University, which must give approval for Anderson and the baseball program to begin organizing plans – including location, size, etc. – to build a stadium. So far, that hasnt happened.
The issue for me right now is trying to get a sense of where the University is at in terms of our baseball program and what commitment theyre willing to make, Anderson said.
If the University is willing to make a commitment, were going to continue to have a first-class baseball program. Then Im interested in making a commitment.
If Anderson doesnt get the go-ahead in the next month, it doesnt mean his tenure at Minnesota is over.
Because of his seniority, Anderson cannot be released without just cause. If, for some reason, the University decides not to renew his contract, they would have to give Anderson a years notice.
All Anderson wants is to see Minnesota baseball carry on the history built since the 1800s.
A history that has produced three national championships and major-league greats such as Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield.
He doesnt feel that can happen in the current stadium.
I dont think we can be successful here in this program in the next 30 years without addressing this issue, he said.
The issue isnt new either. Anderson said hes been trying for years to get a new stadium, but not until now – with his contract almost up – has the issue raised so many eyebrows.
Ive been trying for five years to get this thing to move forward, Anderson said. Were five years later and were no further along than we were five years ago. We already wasted five years in my opinion.
Time isnt on the Gophers side. Anderson feels if the stadium isnt built soon, the baseball program will develop the same problems that plagued the football team from the late 1980s until Glen Mason arrived in 1997.
Youre going to lose your tradition eventually, because the people around you are going to grow, Anderson said. And if you stay the same youre dying.
We cant continue to stay the same, because well fall behind. Then well wake up one day and realize, You know what? We cant compete in our own league anymore for a Big Ten championship. We cant compete nationally any longer to get into the NCAA tournament. And people are going to say What happened? So we have to shed some awareness on this issue.
[italic on]John R. Carter is the sports editor and [italic off][italic on]welcomes comments at [italic off][italic on][email protected][italic off]