Ex-Gophers help Minnesota start baseball season

Over a major league career that spanned three decades, former Gophers baseball player Paul Molitor collected 3,319 hits, smacked 234 home runs and drove in 1,307 runs.
On Monday night at the Metrodome, the future Hall-of-Famer, was enjoying the night off of his retirement.
Molitor coached his fellow Minnesota alumni as they took on the current Gophers — a group of ball-players that can only dream of having a career like Molly’s.
The outcome of the game — a 7-6 current Gophers win — was a sidenote.
Molitor leads the pack of successful former Gophers players, including former all-star catcher Terry Steinbach, current Seattle Mariners catcher Dan Wilson and Kansas City Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre.
But on Monday, it was the current Gophers who came out on top, proving they can play with their mentors.
Minnesota’s David Roach scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning for the victory.
Pitcher Bob DeWitt came out with both the win and the loss. He pitched the final inning for both teams.
Offensively, the current Gophers were led by left fielder Scott Howard, who went 3-for-5 with three runs batted in. For the alumni, shortstop Steve Huls, who plays for the Twins’ Salt Lake City AAA team, went 3-for-4 and scored twice.
Molitor, on the other hand, had a relaxing night of coaching both first and third base.
Minnesota coach John Anderson said the game was a good chance for his team to get into regular season mode.
“The first is always the hardest,” Anderson said. “The first at-bat, the first time you get to field a ball, the first time you step onto the mound.”
Anderson said he felt the team was a little anxious early in the game, but added they settled down and should be ready when the first pitch of the regular season is tossed on Sunday against Illinois State at the Dome.
The expectations are high for this year’s Gophers — Anderson said the team should contend for a conference title. Ranked 27th in the nation, Minnesota is the highest Big Ten team in the polls.
But things won’t start out so easy for Minnesota. Staff ace Ben Birk, who missed all of last season with nerve damage in his left throwing arm, suffered a relapse in the arm three weeks ago.
Anderson said Birk is slowly improving, and is throwing on the side, but added Birk won’t be ready to pitch in a live game until at least the end of the month.
But to put the unfortunate situation of Birk behind them, Minnesota has bright spot to look forward to early in the season: the chance the Gophers can win their 2,000th game.
Minnesota is eight wins away from making history that only 14 college baseball teams have ever reached.
“Unless we go 0-56, I guess we’re going to make it,” he said. “It’s kind of ironic that we should win our 2,000th game in the year 2000. It’s a very special time for our program.”

John R. Carter covers baseball welcomes comments at [email protected]