elander breaks single-season home run mark for U baseball

by Sarah Mitchell

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Minnesota’s baseball team tested the athletic ability of its members this past weekend, but it was for a good cause.
Catcher Jeremy Beaulieu found himself climbing the left field wall of Oldsmobile Park in search of a memento for teammate Craig Selander.
“He scaffolded up the wall,” said Selander, describing Beaulieu’s method used to retrieve a baseball.
The baseball Beaulieu reappeared with represented Selander’s place in Gophers history. The right fielder became Minnesota’s single-season home run record-holder in game two of Minnesota’s four-game series against Michigan State.
After the 1956 baseball season, one that was 42 games long and saw players swinging wooden bats and not the aluminum ones of today, former Gopher John Kindall owned the single-season home run record with 18. Forty-two seasons later, Kindall no longer has bragging rights as the school’s top single-season power hitter.
Selander, a left-handed hitter who broke the record in 46 games, still has a four-game series at Northwestern and, barring a major blunder, the Big Ten tournament, to pad his record and prevent another Gopher from breaking it for another half-century.
“This is an accomplishment,” said Selander’s mother, Mary, who along with husband Dewey, were present to see their son create a small piece of history. “This has been his best year.”
The humble Selander, as his mom described him, has made vast offensive improvements since joining the team two years ago. The junior hit only one home run his freshman year but showed a spurt of power last year, taking 10 balls over the fence as a sophomore.
Selander, who played summer ball for Wausau, Wis., in the Northwoods League, credits his power surge to the time he spent in the weight room over the summer and some advice from Gophers coach John Anderson.
The coach said he believes Selander’s struggles at the plate were related to his position in the batter’s box. Anderson told Selander that he would make more solid contact with the ball if he stood closer to the plate.
When Selander took the advice, he found himself moving closer to the home run record with every game.
The player with the “If I don’t hit today I’d better field well” attitude didn’t have time to climb the fence to retrieve the ball, or even dwell on the milestone, as the Gophers were only up 1-0 at the time.
Selander continued to focus on the game as if it was just another day at the ballpark.
“I think he was complacent, in terms of he knew he had done it, but the game was still going on,” Gophers pitcher Dan McGrath said. “He went about his business as usual because it was still early in the game.”
Nearly as impressive as the record itself is the fact that Selander’s dinger came against one of the country’s top collegiate prospects. Spartans pitcher Mark Mulder, 6-5 after losing Saturday’s game, is projected to be a top-five pick in the upcoming free agent draft.
Selander said that hitting the record-setting home run off of the southpaw made the achievement even more memorable.
“It meant a lot more hitting it off Mulder. He’s probably the best pitcher in the country,” Selander said. “You can go up in every at bat and think you’re going to hit a home run, but he was probably the last guy I thought I would hit one off.”