MLB draft turns best friends into rivals

Former Gophers pitchers Tom Windle and DJ Snelten were drafted by rival MLB organizations.

Pitcher Tom Windle throws a strike on Friday, April 5, 2013, against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Siebert Field.

Amanda Snyder, Daily File Photo

Pitcher Tom Windle throws a strike on Friday, April 5, 2013, against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Siebert Field.

by Dane Mizutani

Tom Windle and DJ Snelten’s friendship is about to tread into unmarked waters.

The two former Gophers pitchers have become best friends in their last three years in college. Now — after the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft last week — the two will have to learn how to compete as bitter rivals.

Windle, a second-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Snelten, a ninth-round pick of the San Francisco Giants, are now on opposite ends of one of the biggest rivalries in baseball.

“It was the first thing I thought of when I learned I got drafted by the Giants,” Snelten said. “I started laughing and I looked at my parents, and they were on the same page.”

Windle said the two met each other on their official visits to the University of Minnesota and decided to room together shortly after that first encounter.

They’ve been best friends ever since.

“We were close right away as freshmen, and then we just stuck close and we pushed each other out at the baseball field,” Windle said. “We also lived together our sophomore and junior years, so we’ve been pretty close.”

Snelten said amid the close friendship rests a friendly rivalry between the two men.

Windle agreed and said competition helped them develop into a duo with prospective futures at the next level.

“We pushed each other a lot,” Windle said. “It was always a sort of competition, whether that was lifting weights, velocity — anything just trying to compete to stay at the same level.”

That three-year contest boded well for the Gophers this season.

Windle and Snelten were Minnesota’s No. 1 and No. 2 starters, respectively, and were two of the most dominant pitchers in the Big Ten.

Windle finished this season 6-4 with a 2.14 ERA and 86 strikeouts. Snelten missed most of the first month of the season with an elbow strain and finished 5-2 with a 2.15 ERA and 42 strikeouts.

Snelten said he and Windle leaned on each other for support throughout the grind of the season. Windle said that won’t change in the pros.

“We’ll keep in touch and keep tabs on each other to make sure that both of us are staying on the right path and keep things going for our futures,” he said.

Many factors will need to fall in sync for Windle and Snelten to compete against each other in the majors, but both Windle and Snelten seemed excited at the potential of the matchup.

“That’d be unbelievable,” Windle said, “to grow so close to somebody and to have the same dreams and then eventually be accomplishing that at the same time.”