Gophers hope to play first home series

Minnesota canceled seven games last year because of weather conditions.

Minnesota shortstop Michael Handel swings at a pitch against Ohio State on Friday, April 5, 2013, at Siebert Field.

Image by Daily File Photo, Amanda Snyder

Minnesota shortstop Michael Handel swings at a pitch against Ohio State on Friday, April 5, 2013, at Siebert Field.

by Betsy Helfand

After 20 consecutive road games, the Gophers baseball team is finally home.

Minnesota is fresh off its longest road trip of the year and will welcome the chance to play at Siebert Field this weekend — if it gets the chance.

“We’ve been in every time zone, but we’re glad to be home, and we hope we can play here this weekend,” head coach John Anderson said.

Minnesota’s first scheduled home game — a midweek matinee against St. John’s — was postponed Wednesday.

As of now, the Gophers are scheduled to play Michigan State this weekend at Siebert Field.

“[Coach Rob Fornasiere] always says, ‘It’s on until it’s off,’ so that’s kind of the mentality you [have to] have going into it,” senior first baseman Dan Olinger said.

Still, the schedule could easily change.

“We have three days to play three games, so we’ll see what the weather does and how soon our field gets ready to play [on], because it’s frozen still,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a ways to go.”

Minnesota was forced to cancel seven games, including six home games, last season. That number included the team’s series against Michigan State, which was completely wiped out because of an April snowstorm.

Not playing that series had adverse effects on both teams, Anderson said.

“We had a chance to win the [Big Ten] the last weekend, and we lost two games,” he said. “[We] didn’t win the league, because we had three less games than everybody else.”

Anderson said he’s been a longtime proponent of changing the way the schedule is set up, but he said that he’s had no success with people around the league.

“I told them, ‘We’ve played six games in our history of 126 seasons before April 1 outside,” he said. “It doesn’t happen.”

If the weather renders Siebert Field unplayable this weekend, Anderson said the series will be canceled.

Minnesota’s series last weekend against Northwestern was relocated from Evanston, Ill., to St. Charles, Mo., because of weather.

Anderson said relocation wouldn’t be an option for this weekend series because of a combination of factors, including cost, missed class time and no place for relocation.

With the demolition of the Metrodome, the Gophers don’t have an alternative stadium nearby.

Now that the long road trip is over, though, the team will be able to get into a more consistent schedule with practice, weight lifting and schoolwork, among other things.

Olinger said it’s nice to play at the scheduled time, but one of the mantras of baseball players is “play whenever.”

“We’re just playing the game, and we’re going to do it whenever we get the opportunity,” he said. “Whether it’s delayed or cold or wet outside, we’re going to do it to the best of our ability.”

No matter what happens, the Gophers know the weather is out of their hands.

“Coaches always say, ‘Control what you can control,” junior pitcher Ben Meyer said. “So we’ve been doing that and staying focused in practice and getting done what we can get done with what we have to work with.”