Gophers win Alumni game amid worry for program’s future

Ben Goessling

Hanging in the air at the Metrodome on Monday night was the jovial mood that has become typical of the Minnesota alumni baseball game. Accompanying the normally carefree atmosphere, however, was the looming threat of budget cuts that threaten to eliminate the program.

The current Minnesota baseball team defeated the alumni team, 11-3, for its fourth win in the 11-year history of the series. But the focus after the game was on the possibility of the end of a tradition, not the night’s events.

“Coming back every year is a little bit like getting a Christmas card, because you get to see how everyone is doing and what has changed,” said Seattle Mariners catcher Dan Wilson, who went 3-for-3 with a home run for the alumni team. “It would be a shame to see the sport go, because this is a tradition-rich program and one we would like to see stick around for a long time.”

This year’s game, which featured the likes of Wilson, future Hall-of-Famer Paul Molitor, former Twin Terry Steinbach, and a host of current and former major league players, saw a crowd of 1,436, one of the best draws in the event’s history.

Senior outfielder Jason Kennedy went 2-for-4 with two RBI, and junior C.J. Woodrow struck out four in four shutout innings. Overall, head coach John Anderson said he was pleased with the way his young pitchers handled themselves.

“Sometimes it’s harder for the guys who pitch against the pro alumni, because they’re a little intimidated,” Anderson said. “But having an opportunity to pitch to a Terry Steinbach, is a great experience, because Terry wants to help.”

Before the game, the Gophers were presented with the 2001 Big Ten Tournament championship trophy, and Steinbach won a home run contest between alumni and current players.

Anderson told his players the main reason the alumni come back is because they care about the baseball program and want to help. Molitor, who managed the alumni team, echoed Anderson’s sentiments.

“We all are behind John Anderson and what he’s done with the program,” Molitor said. “(I know) the program is in jeopardy somewhat because of the budget issues and the gender equity issues that have changed the face of college athletics so much.

“But I believe in the University baseball program, and we (the alumni) will do whatever we can to help stabilize it for the future.”