U baseball boasts pair of class clowns

Sarah Mitchell

Shortly before baseball practice Tuesday, Gophers Bob DeWitt and Brandon Kitzerow sat across from each other working on a crossword puzzle.
“A frog’s cousin?” DeWitt asked.
“Toad,” said Kitzerow without hesitation.
Unsure at first, Dewitt looked down to see if the four-letter word fit. Then he looked up with a smile.
“You’re right,” DeWitt said.
Crossword puzzles, Nintendo and movies have bonded DeWitt and Kitzerow outside of baseball. The junior pitchers have a unique relationship both on and off the field, leaving their teammates in awe.
“They share the same brain,” Gophers senior infielder Matt Brosseau said. “They’re hilarious. When I’m not starting, I like to hang out in the bullpen with them.”
During their first season with the team, DeWitt and Kitzerow didn’t mesh. First impressions in fall 1996 made the two seem like an unlikely duo.
“I thought he was a loser,” DeWitt said.
“I thought he was crazy,” Kitzerow said. “Psycho.”
The summer before their second season with the Gophers, DeWitt and Kitzerow ran into each other at Valleyfair. Being teammates, the two said they felt obligated to talk to each other.
From that point on, the Wisconsin-product DeWitt, and Kitzerow, who hails from Minnesota, started hanging out.
“The first time he came over was when I got my Nintendo,” Kitzerow said. “We played ‘Mario Kart.'”
DeWitt was quick to say, however, that the two are “not the typical Nintendo nerds.” The little black box was responsible for bringing the two together, but it was also the cause for some mischief.
The day before the team’s first-round regional game last season, the Gophers sat in their hotel parking lot waiting for a bus to take them to Stanford’s Sunken Field for practice. The wait grew longer.
A rumor spread through the group that the bus was at least 10 minutes late, so a restless Kitzerow and pitcher Brad Pautz — who the pair dubbed as the “Third Amigo” — went back inside to play Nintendo.
“Thinking we had 10 minutes, I went back inside to watch,” DeWitt said. “I sat down for like two minutes.”
The southpaw reliever wandered down the hallway and looked out the second floor window, only to see a packed bus pulling out of the parking lot.
“We went back outside, sat down on the steps and watched the bus drive past us on the freeway,” Kitzerow said. “We played catch in the parking lot. Then we changed and went to McDonald’s for lunch.”
The two aren’t always together on road trips, causing obvious pain for both sides. Last Wednesday, Minnesota left for Ohio State, hoping to defend its 1998 title. Kitzerow did not make the trip so he gave DeWitt something to remember him by.
On the team’s bulletin board, Kitzerow wrote a note for his teammates asking them to get him another Big Ten tournament ring. Then Kitzerow got more personal.
“Underneath that he wrote, ‘P.S. I’ll miss you Bob,'” Brosseau said. “There was a face with a frown.”
In his first year as the Gophers pitching coach, Todd Oakes has grown accustomed to the pair’s antics. In fact, he’s grown fond of them.
“This is the pair that beats three-of-a-kind,” Oakes said.
There is a less prominent member that almost makes DeWitt and Kitzerow three-of-a-kind. DeWitt said he had “to give props to Pautz” for joining him and his sidekick Kitzerow.
Next season, however, DeWitt and Kitzerow will have to complete crossword puzzles by themselves, as Pautz is in his final season with the team.
Or perhaps the witty duo could find a replacement.
“We’re recruiting for that position,” DeWitt said. “Right now (pitcher Vince Gangl) has the edge.”
“We take bribes, though,” Kitzerow said. “But its an elite group.”