After overcoming injuries, Gophers’ outfielder Grimm faced with another obstacle in COVID-19

The redshirt freshman battled back from injuries to earn playing time in 2020, only to see the season cut short

Outfielder Otto Grimm rounds third base during the Gophers' 7-6 win against Texas Christian University at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 23.

Jasmin Kemp

Outfielder Otto Grimm rounds third base during the Gophers’ 7-6 win against Texas Christian University at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 23.

Brendan O'Brien

Otto Grimm’s time with the Gophers baseball team has been an uphill battle.

Growing up in Bemidji, Minnesota, Grimm dreamed of taking the field for the Gophers. While he had a local option to play college baseball in Bemidji State, Grimm said his father, Jim, would always tell him about how playing for Minnesota should be his main goal.

“Ever since a young age, it’s been a dream to play for the Gophers and wear the maroon and gold,” Grimm said. “It’s definitely been a dream, and I was super excited [when] they offered me in high school, and I committed right away. I didn’t want to waste any time waiting for anyone else. As soon as they were interested I was ready to go.”

Grimm was excited about the opportunity but was uncertain how his first year at Minnesota would unfold. In June of 2018 he had surgery after tearing his ACL and both meniscuses in his knee. A six-month rehab process followed, resulting in a loss of reps in the fall.

Grimm worked diligently in the training room and with medical staff to ensure his knee healed properly. He was cleared in December to practice again. Head coach John Anderson and other coaches were still undecided on whether Grimm would redshirt his first year, but being cleared was a step in the right direction.

The Gophers started inner-squad practices shortly after Grimm was cleared, and he was excited to get back onto the field again. He saw the time as an opportunity to get more at bats and try to earn a playing spot. But in the first week of practice after winter break, Grimm was faced with another setback as he suffered three herniated discs in his back. After this injury, he said it was a pretty easy decision between Anderson, the rest of the coaching staff and himself to redshirt during the 2019 season.

Despite a second setback due to injury, Grimm remained motivated and again worked toward a full recovery. When he was able to begin practicing again, his hard work paid off in 2020 as he took the diamond for the Gophers in 13 of 18 games. With limited at-bats, Grimm had success at the plate, batting .400 and slugging his first career home run in early March.

However, his playing time — and everyone else’s — quickly evaporated due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has forced games to be canceled and players to return home if possible. After overcoming injuries and finally getting the chance to play for the Gophers, Grimm was disappointed for the whole team as the Gophers felt they were starting to find their stride.

“I was for sure upset and frustrated,” Grim said. “I worked super hard last year to get healthy, and then I get a chance. I earned a spot out there [but] the season gets cut short. But I didn’t feel bad for myself so much, I felt bad for the whole team. We all worked so hard together and got there together so I just feel bad for the whole team.”

At this time, Grimm and the Gophers would have been preparing for a long home stand at Siebert Field. Instead he is back home in Bemidji, focusing on schoolwork, hunting for deer antlers that have been shed and helping a local bar with takeout orders. Coaches have sent at-home workouts and pitch-recognition training to the players so they can continue to work on baseball. While this is another obstacle in Grimm’s way, it is safe to say he will overcome this one like all the others.