U transfer is artist on, off baseball field

by Sarah Mitchell

Aron Amundson can hit. He can play the field. He can pitch. Oh, and he can take wet clay, throw it on a spinning wheel and make a pot better than any other member of the Gophers baseball team.
As the team’s only art major, Amundson is enrolled in an introductory ceramics class this quarter. Clay and paint are his tools today, but Minnesota’s infielder/outfielder/pitcher began dabbling in the field with a less-appreciated form of art.
“I kind of had a doodling problem,” Amundson said. “I never got into trouble, though. I hid it well, I guess.”
Amundson’s interest in art began while he was in elementary school. With the help of his parents, splattering color onto canvas became more than a hobby.
“My parents encouraged me in everything from athletics to academics,” Amundson said. “My painting took off in college.”
The Mandan, N.D., native has been to quite a few colleges along the way. Amundson spent his first two years (1995-96) playing at Eastern Oklahoma State College. As a junior, the versatile player transferred to Oklahoma.
While he didn’t experience much success on the field at Oklahoma, Amundson did experience an artistic milestone as a Sooner. Amundson’s then-girlfriend Sarah, who he has since married, discovered through an internship with the school that someone was needed to create the cover of the program for the 1996 Cotton Bowl, a game pitting Oklahoma against Texas. Sarah, a former Sooners cross country and track team member, knew Amundson would be a perfect fit for the job.
“I ended up doing the cover of the program,” Amundson said. “I have it framed. They kept and framed the original, but they gave me copies.”
The Sooners athletics department might have liked having Amundson around for future postseason games, but the baseball program felt otherwise. Oklahoma was set on developing Amundson as a pitcher, and when that didn’t work out the artist saved his collegiate career and transferred to Minnesota.
Amundson sat out last season under NCAA regulations. Now, in his first and only season as an active Gopher, Amundson has created a masterpiece at the plate. Despite a one-year layoff, the transfer leads Minnesota with a .472 batting average and has amassed a .877 slugging percentage.
“I don’t think he’s doing anything above and beyond what he’s capable of doing,” infielder Mark Devore said. “You never know until they get into game situations, but he delivered.”
Amundson’s prowess at the plate has caught the attention of the rest of the league, even earning the senior Big Ten player of the week honors. But if his plans of playing professionally fall through, Amundson intends to come back to his first love.
“I’d like to go into advertising and graphic design,” Amundson said. “Or, I’d like to go back to school and get my master’s of education and possibly teach art.”
A decision on his future is still a baseball season away, as Minnesota continues its run at another NCAA berth. And while Amundson’s teammates pack pencils and calculators for road trips, the Norman Rockwell fan will bring along study tools of another kind.
As long as his bat is among the luggage, however, Amundson’s teammates won’t mind the paint brushes and easel.
“He’s picked up some of the power that we lost in (Mark Groebner and Craig Selander),” Devore said. “He’s been a key contributor in the middle of our lineup.”