Old teammates set for matchup

John Anderson and Paul Molitor will face off as managers in Fort Myers, Fla.

Gophers baseball head coach John Anderson will face former college teammate Paul Molitor on Wednesday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Daily File Photo

Gophers baseball head coach John Anderson will face former college teammate Paul Molitor on Wednesday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Ben Gotz

Though former Minnesota shortstop Paul Molitor was named an All-American for the second time in his career in 1977, he wasn’t voted the most valuable player on the Gophers that year.

That honor went to John Anderson — Minnesota’s current head coach.

And now, Anderson and the Twins’ new manager will meet again on the field, coming together for an exhibition game between the Twins and Gophers on Wednesday.

“It’s interesting how the dots keep you connected in the game,” Anderson said. “Here we are, back again on the same field again, where we started 40 years ago. Different roles, but still connected.”

Molitor played in the major leagues after his collegiate career, leading him to a Hall of Fame career that included seven All-Star game selections and a World Series MVP trophy.

But Anderson never strayed far from campus, serving as a graduate assistant and assistant coach for four seasons before becoming Minnesota’s head coach in 1981.

Molitor played 21 seasons in the big leagues before retiring. After 16 more seasons passed, he became the manager of his hometown team — a position, Anderson said, Molitor fills well.

“He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever seen play the game in my era,” Anderson said. “He always wants to learn whenever he goes to the ballpark, whether [he’s watching] our games or a major league game or watching the minor leagues.”

But on Wednesday, it will be the Gophers trying to learn by watching Molitor and his team.

The Twins and Gophers haven’t played an exhibition game since April 1987. The game will be held in Fort Myers, Fla., the Twins’ spring training home.

The teams hope the exhibition becomes a biennial event.

“It’s really a once in a lifetime opportunity,” sophomore catcher Austin Athmann said. “Hopefully, we’re able to just kind of talk to them and figure out what they do every day, what the process is like for a professional athlete.”

Senior pitcher Ben Meyer said he grew up a Twins fan and is looking forward to seeing players he looked up to in the opposing dugout.

“It’ll be really cool just to be in that atmosphere and play against all those guys and compete against the highest competition,” Meyer said. “Whenever you get the chance to talk to any major league guy, there’s a lot you can learn from them. … I’m just looking forward to being around all those guys and seeing how they prepare for a game.”

Anderson said playing against big leaguers is a great opportunity for his program, and Molitor as the Twins’ manager is the “frosting on the cake.”

“It’ll be emotional for me, but I’m glad I get to share the honor of him [managing] his first game with the Minnesota Twins,” Anderson said. “It’s a great opportunity for our program.”