U freshman already a veteran of the game

Sarah Mitchell

He might be a true freshman contributing to the success of the Minnesota baseball team, but Jack Hannahan is actually a veteran of the sport. The Gophers infielder’s baseball credentials date back to his pre-school days.
Hannahan’s mother, Anne, recalled the eye-opening experience.
“He never wanted to go to pre-school. I would have to put him under my arm kicking and screaming and drag him out the other mother’s car,” Anne said. “There was this rabbi that lived next door and one day he was out walking, and I came outside with Jack tucked under my arm and I put him in the car. Through the open window, Jack threw his little shoe at me. It went over my head and landed two feet behind me.”
A frustrated mother, Anne was ready to brush off the slung shoe.
“I said, ‘Rabbi Miller, I just want to kill that child,'” Anne said. “Rabbi Miller said, ‘Don’t kill the child. He has a gift.'”
Hannahan’s gift of an arm gained strength over the years, making the Cretin-Derham Hall High School product a highly sought-after athlete. Hannahan was recruited by several Division I programs, but chose to stay within the state.
“I only visited one place and that was Minnesota,” Hannahan said. “I signed before my senior year of baseball.”
In his first practice with the team last fall, Hannahan’s ability forced Minnesota’s coaching staff to spare the talented infielder a redshirt season. As a true freshman, Hannahan has appeared in 44 of the team’s 55 games, spending a majority of the time at third base.
“We made the decision not to redshirt him after fall practice. In the fall, he made every play,” Gophers coach John Anderson said. “It was the best freshman performance I’ve ever seen.”
Hannahan, who’s older brother Buzz is in his second year with Philadelphia’s organization, said he was happy to avoid the redshirt season. At the same time, however, Hannahan wasn’t so sure about his own skills.
“At first I didn’t really think I was ready. I had to hit against (Gophers pitching ace Ben Birk) all winter and it was not fun,” Hannahan said. “I was ready to hang it up. I thought if this is the pitching, there’s no way I’m ever going to get a hit.”
When Anderson decided to activate the first-year player it was not for his presence at the plate, but rather for Hannahan’s glove. And since the season’s start, Hannahan has proved himself more as a hitter.
After a 2-for-12 start to his collegiate career in a pinch-hitting role, Hannahan is fourth on the team with a .369 batting average.
Hannahan’s prowess has been less threatening on defense. The third baseman owns the Gophers’ worst fielding percentage at .880, but Anderson doesn’t doubt Hannahan’s fielding potential.
“Jack is an all-around athlete. He’s a good athlete,” Anderson said. “We’re just taking it slow with Jack because we don’t want to ruin his confidence.”
As the young player gains confidence in his ability, he has become less concerned about his place on the team. Birk’s pitching wasn’t the only thing intimidating the Gophers newcomer.
“Coming in I heard what they do to freshmen,” Hannahan said. “But all I’ve had to do is carry some of the guys’ bags.”
And it’s Hannahan’s teammates who have the greatest insight. Like the rabbi years ago, Gophers pitcher Dan McGrath made a prophecy.
“Jack has only shown some of his ability so far,” McGrath said. “It will be exciting to see him develop.”