Anderson shrugs off 600th win

by Sarah Mitchell

The Minnesota baseball team’s postgame activities following its 14-0 victory over Northwestern on Friday resembled those of a season finale.
Rather than frantically packing the bus with equipment bags and heading back to the hotel in search of dinner, the Gophers randomly spilled out of the dugout in the early evening, devouring cake without utensils — making time and real food the lowest priorities.
However, this low-budget team meal was for reasons other than the team returning to the Big Ten tournament for the first time since 1995. It was for an accomplishment more significant than a tournament berth.
In the midst of the celebration stood the reason behind the team’s success. But coach John Anderson, who had just won his 600th game, would rather credit his winning record to the ability of his team members than to his own knowledge of the game.
“He was just kind of quiet,” pitcher Dan McGrath said. “He sometimes kind of likes to sit back and let things go as they are.”
Anderson did describe what it meant to pick up the milestone victory, but in doing so he took all the focus off his individual accomplishments.
“You don’t win 600 games unless you have, number one, great players and a great coaching staff,” Anderson said. “People that go out and recruit players and the support of our organization and alumni — you need the whole package of those things. I think the head coach gets too much credit for success, and probably too much blame when we lose. It’s a combination of a whole lot of things coming together at the right time. I have been fortunate.”
If it hadn’t been for the postgame icebath Anderson received from right fielder Craig Selander and his teammates, the coach might have thought the win was like all the others. Anderson is not one to look at the record book, concentrating instead on the game at hand.
“You’re always trying to get ready for the next road trip or recruiting trip or whatever,” Anderson said. “I don’t pay attention to those things. They just kind of sneak up on me.”
Anderson, who was practically a kid when he took over the program in the fall of 1981, recorded his 600th career win with Minnesota’s 40th victory of the season. The Gophers won two more games in the weekend series, improving Anderson’s record to 602 wins and 382 losses.
From Anderson’s first season, Minnesota’s baseball program has become synonymous with success, as Anderson coached his first Gophers team to a Big Ten championship and an NCAA tournament berth. Since then, the former Gophers baseball player has led Minnesota to four more Big Ten titles and seven NCAA tournaments.
But things haven’t always been as relaxing as hanging around the park eating cake and taking icebaths.
“He likes to try and get some positives out of the game rather than sitting back and hitting the panic mode, and I don’t think we’ve hit the panic mode all year,” McGrath said. “I mean, there have been some times where we’ve had some games, and it’s been frustrating. But if we hit the panic mode, things change, and that’s never happened. I attribute that to John and the coaching staff.”
“14,” as his players refer to him by his uniform number, first became part of the program as a player in the late 1970s under Gophers coaching legend Dick Siebert. But an arm injury forced the right-handed pitcher to turn in his uniform and take a job as student coach. Maybe that’s why he can easily relate to his players.
“14 is definitely a player’s coach,” infielder Mark Devore said. “He doesn’t put himself on a higher level like some coaches and he’s not like, I am the coach. You are the player. I don’t want to talk to you unless it’s on the field.'”