Hanson changes positions, emerges as first baseman

Freshman Toby Hanson hits the ball on Tuesday afternoon at Siebert Field.

James Healy

Freshman Toby Hanson hits the ball on Tuesday afternoon at Siebert Field.

Ben Gotz

The Gophers began the year searching for a first baseman, and after trying a few different players at the position, the team appears to have found one.
 
Freshman Toby Hanson has been a frequent starter lately, and with the power he brings to the Gophers’ lineup, he might stay there for a while.
 
“We hope,” head coach John Anderson said. “He’s starting to swing the bat better, so that’s going to be his spot.”
 
Hanson said he played first base occasionally during high school and legion baseball, but leading up to college, the Delano, Minn., native was primarily a catcher.
 
He said he began hearing from Minnesota after his sophomore season, and even though he quarterbacked his high school football team to the Class 4A state semifinals and set a new school record in points for basketball, Hanson wanted to stay on the diamond.
 
“Baseball was always my favorite sport growing up,” Hanson said. “I always wanted to play college baseball.”
 
But redshirt senior Matt Halloran was the Gophers’ primary starter behind the plate the year before Hanson arrived, and several other players played the position because of injuries. 
 
First base, however, was still up for grabs.
 
“Yeah, I had an idea that I might be [at first],” Hanson said. “So, I guess that I was somewhat prepared for the transition.”
 
The position change allowed the Gophers to put the former Minnesota Mr. Baseball finalist in the lineup more often. Hanson led the state in home runs as a junior in high school, and now he’s showing that he has the potential to provide extra power for the Gophers.
 
“I think that’s a big part of my game is being able to hit for power,” Hanson said.
 
He started 22 of his first 28 games in college and has eight extra base hits, which ties him for fourth-most on the team. 
 
Hanson is also fourth in batting average and slugging percentage for the Gophers.
 
It took Hanson time to adjust offensively to the college game. He had to quicken up his swing and develop more patience at the plate. But now, the results are showing in the batter’s box.
 
“He’s doing a pretty good job,” second baseman Connor Schaefbauer said. “I remember being in those shoes where you’re doing whatever you can to get into the lineup, and when you’re there, you’re trying to grind out at-bats and work, and he’s done a great job of it.”
 
The biggest question for Hanson going forward is where he’ll end up defensively in the field. For now, he’s taken a hold of first base. But Anderson said the coaching staff still hasn’t decided whether they’ll keep Hanson there long-term or move him to the outfield.
 
Either way, the freshman is giving the coaching staff a reason to keep his bat in the lineup.
 
“I think he’s seeing the results as he gets more opportunities there,” Schaefbauer said. “And he’s going to be a nice player for us, so we’ll hope he keeps growing as the season goes along.”