Oakes’ leukemia in remission

Scott Matyas has been named Minnesota’s interim pitching coach.

Interim pitching coach Scott Matyas speaks to players during practice at Bierman Field Athletic Building on Tuesday afternoon. Matyas pitched for the Gophers from 2008-2011 and is currently filling in for Todd Oakes.

James Healy

Interim pitching coach Scott Matyas speaks to players during practice at Bierman Field Athletic Building on Tuesday afternoon. Matyas pitched for the Gophers from 2008-2011 and is currently filling in for Todd Oakes.

Sam Kraemer

A 21-day hospital visit for the return of acute myeloid leukemia in December had pitching coach Todd Oakes concerned about more than just baseball at practice last Tuesday.

He addressed the team for the first time since his hospital visit, thanking the staff and players for their endless support throughout his battle with AML.

“The doctors and my family were worried whether I’d ever walk out of the hospital room,” Oakes said.

With a donor lymphocyte infusion from his brother, Oakes’ leukemia is now in remission for the second time.

He’s recovering at home and doesn’t know when he’ll return to the Gophers — he hopes it’s in the next couple of months.

Oakes, who’s been with the Gophers since the ’90s, said he rushed his comeback after his first recovery from AML.

“Something as simple as a two- to three-hour baseball practice would literally just wipe me out,” he said.

Head coach John Anderson said he has no problem giving Oakes all the time he needs before returning to his staff this time around.

“My first concern is always about him, his family and his health,” Anderson said. “The baseball part is really just a small piece of it.”

Oakes is slowly transitioning into the swing of things with 20-minute walks, rides on the stationary bike in his basement and quality time on his recliner.

He doesn’t leave the house without a mask. He said he’s very cautious with his weakened immune system from chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

He said his journey has not only granted him a new perspective on baseball, but more importantly, life.

“Our whole foundation through this has been faith, family and friends,” Oakes said. “That’s a common theme to a lot of people, but this has really allowed me to put that to practice.”

As he moves closer to full health and his return to work, Oakes said he is grateful for the care he’s received at University of Minnesota medical facilities.

He said the journey has opened his eyes to the importance of his faith, too.

“The biggest thing I can say is I’m a man of faith. It’s all by the grace of God that I’m sitting here today,” Oakes said.

Scott Matyas named interim coach

Former Detroit Tigers draft pick, Scott Matyas, is filling in while Oakes recovers, and in doing so, doesn’t intend on revamping the pitching schemes for Minnesota.

With Matyas as an interim pitching coach, Oakes said he hasn’t worried once about the pitchers during his absence.

Matyas, who pitched for the Gophers from 2008-11, holds the team record for appearances with 94.

“He’s not going to try and change anyone’s mechanics, but his focus for us is to work on our mental side of the game,” Gophers ace Ben Meyer said.

 And with Matyas just a few years removed from his collegiate playing days, his familiarity with the program has simplified things for the pitchers.

“I lived through it and experienced it pretty recently here,” Matyas said. “So I think the guys take that to heart and understand I was where they were not too long ago.”