Shortstop Gates added to University’s hall of fame

Emily Polglaze

The timing seems almost too perfect for former Minnesota shortstop Brent Gates Sr. to enter his alma mater’s Hall of Fame this summer. 
 
Gates Sr., who primarily played shortstop for the Gophers from 1988 to 1991, was one of 14 announced inductees to the University of Minnesota’s “M” Club Hall of Fame last week — just a few months before his son Brent Jr. is set to join Minnesota’s men’s hockey program this fall.
 
“[Brent Gates Sr.] fits the criteria in every way you want to measure it,” said head baseball coach John Anderson, who has held his position for more than 30 years.
 
“He’ll go down as one of the great players in the history of Minnesota baseball, which is pretty significant.”
 
Gates Sr. wasn’t initially recruited by Minnesota, but once the team’s resident shortstop hurt his knee, Anderson had a spot to fill. 
 
“The rest is history,” Anderson said.
 
In his final season with the team, Gates Sr. had a .412 batting average and earned First Team All-Big Ten and First Team All-American honors, as well as the Big Ten Player of the Year award. 
 
Gates Sr., a switch-hitter, has the second-best batting average in program history at .387, one of the many reasons he’ll be joining the “M” Club.
 
“I got the phone call and never really expected it,” Gates Sr. said. “But when it sank in, and I realized the athletes I’m joining — it’s quite the honor.” 
 
After an impressive senior season with the Gophers, Gates Sr. was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the first round of the 1991 MLB Draft — 26th overall.
 
He played 403 games with the Athletics from 1993 to 1996, finishing sixth in the 1993 American League Rookie of the Year voting. 
 
Gates Sr. said he owes much of his professional success to his mentors at Minnesota. 
 
“My career wouldn’t have happened without those guys,” he said.
 
Returning to Minnesota for his final two years of professional baseball, Gates Sr. played 217 games for the Twins in 1998 and 1999. He ended his pro career with a cumulative batting average of .264, 616 hits and 25 home runs. 
 
Although Gates Sr. now works as a scout in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization, his Minnesota experience is far from over. 
 
His son, Gates Jr., will be a freshman on the hockey team this season. 
 
The family is native to Grand Rapids, Mich., making Gates Jr. the first Michigan native to skate for the Gophers.
 
“I’ve obviously got some big shoes to fill,” Gates Jr. said. “He was pretty successful here and went on to have a good pro career, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself to live up to what he did. … We’re playing different sports, but it’s pretty cool to come after someone like him and follow in his footsteps.” 
 
Though the surfaces father and son play on may be polar opposites, Gates Sr. said he learned a lot about the game of hockey during his time with the Gophers. 
 
“It’s such a great hockey school, and we loved going to the games,” Gates Sr. said. “I had a lot of respect for hockey players in general for how physically demanding and mentally tough they are.”
 
Gates Sr. said he was glad to come back to campus last weekend to be with his son during the 2015 NHL Draft process. Gates Jr., whom the Anaheim Ducks selected at 80th overall, will likely also be a professional athlete.
 
Though he won’t be around to keep a close eye on his son, Gates Sr. knows from experience that the younger Gates will learn a great deal during his time at 
Minnesota. 
 
“Nothing is given to you. Being a dad, I’ve harped on that,” Gates Sr. said. “He works very hard, and hopefully he’ll be a great teammate.”