Health key for Motl as a senior

The centerfielder has missed time with injuries his first three seasons.

Gophers outfielder Dan Motl swings at Siebert Field, March 31.

Alex Tuthill-Preus, Daily File Photo

Gophers outfielder Dan Motl swings at Siebert Field, March 31.

Kaitlin Merkel

Outfielder Dan Motl is hoping to accomplish something as senior he’s been unable to do his first three seasons.
 
 
He’s hoping to play a full season.
 
 
Motl has missed playing time battling injuries the last three years. He missed nine games last season after being hit in the face with a pitch, and now he’s wearing a protective face guard on his helmet to avoid it happening again.
 
 
“Every year leading up to this point, I’ve been injured at one point throughout the season. So being healthy so far in these first three series has been huge,” Motl said. “I’m just happy to be out on the field. That’s the way I see it.”
 
 
Motl bats leadoff for the Gophers in addition to roaming centerfield. He’s been at the top of the order since joining the team.
 
 
“I do like [hitting leadoff] just because I’ve been doing it for the past three years here,” Motl said. “Leadoff guys get on base. That’s ultimately what their goal is.”
 
 
He’s batting .310 through the Gophers’ first 10 games this season, and he’s recorded a hit in all nine games he’s played in so far.
 
 
“He’s aggressive. He likes to swing early in the count, and sometimes your leadoff guys get more fastballs … so I think it profiles well for him,” head coach John Anderson said. “He’s an outstanding base runner … [and] obviously, he’s an outstanding defender in centerfield.” 
 
 
As one of two seniors in the lineup regularly, Motl has been more involved with the team off the field this year. Anderson said he’s taken on more responsibility in organizing team events and community service projects.
 
 
“This year, Dan has really taken a stronger leadership role. I think he’s been much more involved and much more vocal,” Anderson said. “He has the credibility to be a strong leader because he’s been an outstanding student. He makes good choices on and off the field. He works extremely hard. He epitomizes all the things we look for in our student-athletes.”
 
 
Junior pitcher and outfielder Matt Fiedler added that Motl is a quiet but effective voice in the clubhouse.
 
 
“He’s not necessarily the loudest guy, but he speaks up when he thinks something is important, and he really has the respect of all of his teammates,” Fiedler said. “He just lets his play speak for itself. He’s probably the best defensive centerfielder in the country in my opinion.”
 
 
Motl said he hopes to lead a comeback season for Minnesota after the Gophers finished 21-30 last year. It was the team’s first losing season since 2008 and its second since Anderson took over the program in the fall of 1981.
 
 
The Gophers 7-3 start so far this season is the team’s best since 2009, and Motl said he has his sights set on making the NCAA tournament this year for the first time in his career. Minnesota hasn’t made an NCAA appearance since 2010.
 
 
“We haven’t lost a series, and that’s our goal, [to] take two out of three, three out of three each weekend. If you do that, you’ll get a spot in the NCAA tournament,” Motl said.