New fall caps motivate Gophers

Head coach John Anderson did not give the team “M” hats in fall practice.

Senior outfielder Dan Motl sprints to first base at Siebert Field where the Gophers men's baseball team took on Penn State on April 18, 2015.

Liam James Doyle, Daily File Photo

Senior outfielder Dan Motl sprints to first base at Siebert Field where the Gophers men’s baseball team took on Penn State on April 18, 2015.

Kaitlin Merkel

Minnesota head coach John Anderson did something differently during fall practice this season.
 
 
Instead of giving out the team’s traditional baseball caps with an “M” logo, he gave each of his players a hat reading “Me/We.” 
 
 
Anderson said he wanted the players to focus on team chemistry instead of individual performances and to teach the team that their caps needed to be earned.
 
 
“They come up through a culture where it’s just about themselves, showcasing their talents and skills and trying to get recruited. There isn’t as much emphasis today on being on a team,” Anderson said. “I wanted the kids to understand that to wear the ‘M,’ it’s not a right, it’s not a privilege, it’s something you have to earn. … I think it pushed them back a little bit.”
 
 
Junior pitcher and outfielder Matt Fiedler, who will start the first game of the season Friday, said the new hats helped focus the team.
 
 
“Coming into this year as a team, we wanted to kind of be a little more united and not really have anything given to us,” Fiedler said. “Coach [Anderson] explained it to us as, ‘Are you out here for yourself, or are you out here for the team?’ … That was a really creative idea by him, and guys bought it.”
 
 
Anderson decided to give out the hats as a way of re-centering the Gophers baseball culture after a down 2015. The Gophers finished 21-30 last year, their first losing season since 2008.
 
 
Anderson, who is beginning his 35th year as Minnesota’s head coach, said he wanted the team to understand the program’s history and tradition of success.
 
 
The Gophers have won three national championships, and under Anderson the team has won nine Big Ten regular season titles and nine Big Ten tournament championships.
 
 
“This is the 128th season of Gophers baseball, and there’s been a tremendous group of young men that have come through this program. And they’re the ones that have established the standard,” Anderson said. “I just wanted them to have a visual so that everybody would be reminded every day of why we’re here and what the expectations are … and I think [the hats have] done that.”
 
 
Last year, the team lost its first seven games and played 21 consecutive road games, which challenged players.
 
 
This year, Minnesota starts with 20 road games in a row, and Anderson said he hopes his team is refocused and ready for all the traveling.
 
 
“[There’s] travel, hotels, sleeping in different beds and changing time zones,” Anderson said. “You get three days back here, basically, where you have to rest and recover and prepare for the next weekend, get your schoolwork done and get re-centered.”