Brooke Vander Heide reflects on short yet meaningful senior season

Vander Heide transferred to Minnesota this year after three years at BYU.

Nolan O'Hara

Deciding to transfer to the University of Minnesota for her senior season, Brooke Vander Heide was looking forward to something new. 

Prior to attending Minnesota, the senior outfielder spent three seasons at BYU. With one year of eligibility remaining, Vander Heide wanted to “go big” and transfer to Minnesota for her final season, joining a team fresh off a run in the Women’s College World Series. Along with a move up north to a new city and school, that also meant learning a new system with a different group of teammates and coaches. 

“I, honestly, for the first couple weeks felt like a freshman,” Vander Heide said laughing. “Every team uses different terms and terminology. Just learning the new terminology and the new drills and figuring out the flow of a new team, I just felt like a freshman for a little while.” 

After adjusting to the new system, Vander Heide “again realized I was a senior,” and was able to apply her past experiences to the different system. Overall, she said this season was very informative, teaching her aspects about the game she hadn’t previously considered. That’s something she credits to the coaching staff, which Vander Heide said is very detail-oriented and adjusts to players’ different styles. 

She recognized head coach Jamie Trachsel’s eye for the details right away in practice when Trachsel was hitting pop-flies into the outfield. 

“She’d hit the ball from the batter’s box to the outfield to me,” Vander Heide said. “So we’re pretty far apart, and she’d be like, ‘Watch the ball.’ It’s like, how does she even see my eyes from there, right?”

Unfortunately, Vander Heide’s senior season was cut short, with the remainder of the season being one of the many cancellation casualties amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But shortly after the remainder of the season was canceled, the NCAA announced it was considering another year of eligibility for spring athletes, a proposal that passed soon after. 

Vander Heide is considering a return in 2021, but hasn’t yet made her decision. On April 1, pitcher Amber Fiser announced she would return to the circle for the Gophers in 2021, becoming the first Gophers’ senior to commit to returning for a fifth year. 

Despite a shortened season, Vander Heide enjoyed her time over the last year, meeting new teammates and coaches and learning a new system. While the future may be uncertain, the memories made over the past season are not.

“It was just awesome to meet all these new people and to be a part of such a great environment and a great culture,” she said. “I feel like I learned a lot about myself as a player but also as a person.”