Look at Mee: Redshirt frosh carries a big stick

Aaron Blake

It’s almost as if Mike Mee was destined to play baseball at Minnesota.

His father, Tom Mee Jr., played alongside current coach John Anderson in the mid-70s for the Gophers and roomed with Hall of Famer-elect and Gophers legend Paul Molitor on road trips. There are pictures on the wall at his house, and he’s heard all the stories. Anderson also said he has had a longtime relationship with Mike Mee’s grandfather, Tom Mee Sr., who is a former Minnesota Twins media relations director and still the team’s official scorer.

“I’ve always wanted to come here,” Mike Mee said.

But don’t tell him his athletics scholarship was a charitable favor – he earned that with his bat.

“Obviously, there are genes in the family,” Anderson said. “But you have to find somebody you think has the ability to play at this level and help our team. We always liked Mike as a hitter.”

These days, the redshirt freshman, whose father is now the television director for the St. Louis Cardinals, is showing how good those baseball genes are in the batter’s box while working on carving out a niche in the field at first base.

But even Mike Mee admitted he’s a hitter first and fielder second.

Twenty-two games into the season, he has emerged as the first freshman since Luke Appert to bat third in the lineup.

In that role, he is leading the team in numerous offensive categories – batting average (.384), RBI (23), home runs (two), total bases (50), walks (12), slugging percentage (.581) and on-base percentage (.460).

“He’s just a real tough-nosed baseball player,” second baseman Luke MacLean said. “He doesn’t think too much. He just sees the ball and hits it.”

Mike Mee said he prides himself on being aggressive at the plate, yet he has the fewest strikeouts among regular starters with six.

Needless to say, Anderson’s earlier evaluations of Mike Mee’s hitting prowess are being reinforced.

“He’s already got some big hits for us with two strikes and two outs,” Anderson said. “He has a chance to be a very special hitter in this program.

“I think he’s going to be noted in the record books some day, if you want my honest opinion.”

Despite Mike Mee’s undeniable offensive ability, Anderson admitted that he wondered where the kid from Richfield High School would fit in defensively.

Mike Mee played third base at Richfield, but he hurt his throwing-arm elbow playing hockey during his senior year. Anderson said he tried Mike Mee at that position when he first came to Minnesota but soon decided he didn’t have the arm or the feel for it.

This, combined with regular third baseman David Hrncirik returning for his junior season, made a move necessary. The imminent departure of 2003 second-team All-Big Ten selection David Roach freed up a spot at first base, and Mike Mee has been there ever since.

This season, Mike Mee has been splitting time at first with sophomore Andy Hunter – who also has limited experience there – and designated hitting when he’s not in the field.

“Andy and I are working over there, and we help each other out,” Mike Mee said. “He’s a great guy to play with over there. He feeds off me, and I feed off him. We’re both working at it.”

Mike Mee has started six of the last seven games at first base and, like almost every baseball player, prefers playing in the field to just hitting every couple innings and sitting in the dugout the rest of the game.

At this point, experience is the key, and Mike Mee is doing all he can to soak it up.

Last summer, he played alongside MacLean for the Duluth Huskies of the Northwoods League. He said the level of play there is comparable to college ball, and the summer trip north is one he will make again this summer.

“They were just tremendous to us,” Mike Mee said. “Nice hospitality, we had great facilities. They’re just the nicest people.”

Kind of like family, huh?