Rookie coach lets players call shots

Sarah Mitchell

Todd Oakes has a lot in common with the freshman members of the Gophers baseball team. As former pitching coach Mike Dee’s replacement, this entire season has been a learning experience for Oakes.
“At the college level, baseball is still more of a game,” said Oakes, who left his position as minor league pitching coordinator with the San Francisco Giants on Nov. 2. “Where I came from, baseball was a business, a profession.”
Under Oakes’ direction, the Gophers pitching staff has fared well this season. The biggest indicator came over the weekend, as Minnesota (19-7 overall, 3-1 in the Big Ten) took three of four games at Purdue.
“I was very pleased,” Oakes said. “We only had one pitcher (Brad Pautz) throw over 80 pitches this season. I think it’s been real good that we haven’t been taxing anybody with pitch counts. That means we’ll be real strong in May.”
Oakes didn’t take all the credit for the bullpen’s success. The pitching coach said he has only altered the team’s philosophy, opting to allow catcher Jeremy Negen and the other half of the battery to call the game.
“I’m not a real believer in calling pitches,” Oakes said. “Negen has done quite the job of calling pitches. He’s done better than I would have done. He knows how to handle the pitchers and call the games.”

Boiling over
Oakes was not the only coach to make his Big Ten debut over the weekend. Boilermakers coach Doug Schreiber won his first conference game on Friday, 6-4, and on Sunday, the former Purdue second baseman was tossed from his first game.
Schreiber was ejected for heatedly arguing an interference call in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Boilermakers had runners at the corners and were trailing 3-1. Purdue’s Nick Treadway grounded out to third and after recording the force-out at second, Gophers second baseman Matt Brosseau attempted to turn the double play.
Brosseau’s throw never reached first base, bouncing off the raised hands of a sliding Brad Brown. Brown was called for runner interference and Minnesota was awarded the double play.
Schreiber argued the call, even smashing a chair against the dugout wall, but remained in the game.
“(The umpire) told me that the players can’t slide with their hands up,” Schrieber said. “No baseball coach in America teaches their players to slide with their hands down because that’s when injuries occur.”
Schreiber returned to the field for the final time in the sixth inning. The tossed Boilermakers coach stormed out of the third base fence with some final words.
“You don’t know the game, admit it,” shouted Schreiber at the umpire. “Page 80 in the rule book. Coaches make the rule book, not the umpires.”

Around the horn
ù Before continuing their Big Ten season at Iowa this weekend, the Gophers must face a midweek nonconference opponent. The team travels to Northern Iowa today.
ù Six Gophers hitters are batting over .300 and two of those post numbers over .400. Freshman Jack Hannahan leads the club with a .477 batting average.