Fornasiere, Mueller and Elder taken on first day of draft

Matt Loberg, David Hrncirik and Andy Hunter could all be picked today.

Matt Perkins

After the 2004 season, Minnesota’s baseball team lost two standout players to the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft – pitcher Glen Perkins and center fielder Sam Steidl.

One year later, the Gophers finished the season sixth in the Big Ten with a 33-29 overall mark, their worst winning percentage since 1995.

This time around, the Gophers must brace themselves again.

After one day and 18 rounds of the 2005 draft, three Gophers are gone, and three more could still be drafted. Matt Fornasiere, Jake Elder and Jon Mueller were taken on the first day Tuesday, and Matt Loberg, David Hrncirik and Andy Hunter could go today

Shortstop Fornasiere will have the option of returning for his senior year or starting a professional career with the Cleveland Indians organization, as it took him in the 12th round, 364th overall.

He said he is glad to have finally been drafted.

“It’s a good feeling. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while,” Fornasiere said. “It’s just good to get it out of the way.”

However, Fornasiere said he hasn’t decided whether he will accept the offer, only that they should be able to “work something out.”

If Fornasiere does decide to leave, he will end his three-year career with the Gophers with a .326 career batting average, 110 runs scored and 104 RBIs.

His father, assistant coach Rob Fornasiere, was an integral part of his baseball development. Matt Fornasiere said his dad taught him the intricacies of the game and was the reason he came to Minnesota.

Also being selected for the Gophers was junior pitcher Mueller, with the 490th overall pick in the 16th round by the Chicago Cubs.

Mueller said he is excited to have gone on the first day, despite the fact that he pitched just 28 1/3 innings with the Gophers this season and 9 1/3 with Butler in 2003-04.

“I was just eating dinner when a guy from my hometown called me and told me I was drafted in the 16th round,” Mueller said. “I didn’t get a chance to play much the past three years, but they saw me and liked what they saw.”

Mueller was an unexpected first-day pick, unlike fellow first-day selection and graduated catcher Elder, who was taken with the 631st overall pick in the 18th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Elder was expected to be drafted, although the round was up in the air.

“(The draftees) got talent, and it’s good to see them go as high as they did,” third baseman Hrncirik said. “Obviously you want to see your teammates do well, and they did. I only wish they would have gone higher.”

Hrncirik and pitcher Loberg are two other Gophers looking to be drafted on day two after ending their careers with Minnesota. Senior first baseman Hunter could also be drafted.

But no matter who goes when or who goes where, the Gophers know they lost a lot of leadership this season in Loberg, Elder and Hrncirik, and even more if Hunter and Matt Fornasiere decide to leave early.

Day two of the draft begins today at 11 a.m.