Patience paying off for Gophers’ Kvasnicka

The junior slugger has decreased his strikeout total significantly in his third season.

by Aleutian Calabay

The classic adage of working hard and learning from experience has driven MinnesotaâÄôs junior Michael Kvasnicka to improve dramatically thus far in his career. Kvasnicka came to the Gophers as a highly touted prospect from Lakeville North High School where Baseball America Magazine named him one of the top 300 high school players in the nation. Although productive, KvasnickaâÄôs first couple of seasons were overshadowed by strikeouts as he learned how to become a switch hitter. But with numerous hours of batting practice, he managed to refine his approach at the plate and has now emerged as the top offensive threat in the Minnesota lineup. âÄúLast summer in the Northwoods League I went back to square one and the fundamentals of hitting,âÄù Kvasnicka said. âÄúI wanted to erase the scouting report on me, so I tried to learn how to stay inside the ball and drive it the other way, and itâÄôs worked well so far.âÄù Now 32 games into the 2010 season, Kvasnicka leads the team in home runs (five), doubles (12), RBIs (26), slugging percentage (.573) and walks (21). While walks may not be a big attention-getter, Kvasnicka takes pride in learning to be more patient at the plate. He came into this season averaging more than four strikeouts per walk but has almost completely reversed that statistic this season, taking 2.6 walks per strikeout. Kvasnicka led the Gophers in strikeouts in both his freshman and sophomore seasons averaging one strikeout per every 4.25 at-bats. Again, that number has taken a dramatic turn this season as Kvasnicka has averaged one strikeout per every 15.5 at-bats. âÄúI donâÄôt think work ethic has ever been a problem for Michael,âÄù Minnesota head coach John Anderson said. âÄúIf anything we had to tone him down and to try to teach him that less is sometimes more.âÄù The Gophers lost several key leaders from last season including Derek McCallum , Matt Nohelty and Eric Decker . With their departure, Kvasnicka has tried to fill their role, both on and off the field. âÄúHeâÄôs a great teammate, he really knows his baseball,âÄù Minnesota sophomore AJ Pettersen said. âÄúHeâÄôs always there to help with your swing or anything youâÄôre working on. itâÄôs really nice having him around.âÄù Kvasnicka has gained a lot of credibility from his hard work and unselfish play. But he carries that same attitude into his schoolwork and into the community where he helps teach a weightlifting class to minority students. Kvasnicka comes from a baseball family and his father, Jay Kvasnicka, played for the Minnesota Twins AAA team after being drafted in the eighth round of the 1988 amateur draft. The son may soon be following in his fatherâÄôs footsteps, as this will be his first year of draft eligibility since joining the Gophers. Barring any major injury, the question of Kvasnicka getting drafted will not be if, but when. If Kvasnicka decides to leave for the pros, he expressed that he would do so begrudgingly because he enjoys his current status and teammates. âÄúIf it happens and I go play, then that will be another chapter in my life,âÄù Kvasnicka said. âÄúIt will be really exciting playing professional baseball and chasing my lifelong dream of playing in the major leagues. It doesnâÄôt even matter what round or team I get drafted by, itâÄôs all about the opportunity.âÄù