Gophers set for final game at Metrodome

Paul Cordes

Just three days after its 24-run weekend against Hartford, the Minnesota baseball team will once again get a chance to swing its hot bats as Northern Iowa makes a midweek trip to the Metrodome.

The Gophers will host their final game at the dome this season at 6:35 p.m. tonight.

And there’s one name the Panthers (11-10, overall 1-2 MVC) and their pitching staff will have asterisked, bolded, italicized and circled as they prepare for a burly Minnesota lineup, and that name is senior left fielder Mike Mee.

Mee is off to the best start of any Gophers hitter since at least 1998 as his .479 batting average is first on the team and second in the Big Ten.

Coach John Anderson said Mee has taken the physical, mental and now the emotional parts of his game and put them all together to find a lot of success.

“He’s got work ethic, some quiet leadership, he’s internally motivated and we never have to push Mike to be better because he wants that for himself,” Anderson said.

“This year he’s taken an especially good look at himself, his emotions and how they affect his performance, and he’s just really looking at all parts of his game. I’m not at all surprised at the senior year he’s having.”

That quiet leadership speaks specifically to his words, however, because his actions have been anything but quiet.

The conference leader in hits has shown it doesn’t take a lot of yelling to get a point across.

On and off the field Mee said he strives to be a leader of action.

“I try to lead by example. I give 110 percent every time I go out there, and hopefully guys will follow me,” he said.

“I try to be a vocal leader sometimes, but I’m more of a leader that just goes out and plays hard and hopefully the guys will see that and want to play hard too.”

And that certainly seems to be the case in the first 19 games of the season for Minnesota (14-5, 0-0 Big Ten).

Three other Gophers hitters are hitting above the .300 mark including freshman second baseman Derek McCallum’s .391 average, and sophomore centerfielder Matt Nohelty, who is hitting .388 at the plate.

Nohelty said hitting is contagious.

“If people are hitting everybody else wants to hit, and right now it seems like everybody is hitting,” he said. “Having (Mee) hitting the way he is definitely does put a little spark in the rest of the team.”

Mee’s offensive contributions are just the tip of the iceberg for the left-handed batter out of Richfield.

Minnesota players and coaches have both talked about the amount of respect Mee has earned while in a Gophers uniform.

“Mike walks the talk and I don’t think you can argue with Mike Mee, because he’s going over and above what we ask everyone to do here,” Anderson said.

“He embodies everything we look for in a Gopher baseball player. People follow Mike and watch what he does and see how hard he’s had to work to become a very consistent high-level Division I baseball player.”

Mee was preceded in the Minnesota baseball program by his father, who was on the last Minnesota team to reach the College World Series in 1977. Now he wants to leave his own legacy.

“I’m pretty proud that I get to wear the ‘M’ everyday, not a lot of people can say that,” he said. “Growing up and listening to my dad who played here, I’ve always wanted to play here myself and hopefully I can just keep this up the rest of the year.”