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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

John Anderson leaves behind a legacy impact on Gophers baseball

Anderson not only added to Gopher baseball’s illustrious history but prepared athletes for the next 50 years of their lives.
Image by Jasmin Kemp
John Anderson spent 49 years on the Minnesota campus, spanning his playing days and coaching career.

John Anderson completed his 43rd season as head coach for Gophers baseball in May with 1,390 victories, the most of any coach in Big Ten history.

The University of Minnesota athletic department ensured there would never be anyone else to wear the number 14 for the maroon and gold. Anderson’s old number was retired before the Gophers defeated Michigan State on May 11. The historic skipper capped off his final coaching season with a 25-23 record, winning four of his last five series.

Over his 43-year career at the helm of the program, Anderson amassed 11 regular-season Big Ten titles and a conference-best in postseason tournament titles. He also produced an MLB Draft pick for 36 consecutive years dating back to 1988.

But for the Hibbing native, coaching meant more than teaching baseball. Before the 2024 season, Anderson said his goal as a coach was to create a culture that developed not only great players but also great men.

“I’ve been fortunate enough that we’ve been able to have some success on the diamond,” Anderson said. “But more importantly, we’ve been able to graduate our young men at a very high level and prepare them for the next 50 years of their life.”

Ty McDevitt will fill Anderson’s shoes as the next head coach after working as a pitching coach for the Gophers. He played for Anderson all five years of his college career before he started coaching with him in 2017. Like McDevitt, Anderson played under and ultimately coached with his mentor and former head coach Dick Siebert.

McDevitt said it is difficult to express Anderson’s impact on the program. He said Anderson meant everything to him.

“It feels unjust to be able to just throw some words at it with John, and I think anybody that’s played with him has a hard time finding words for what he’s done,” McDevitt said. “He’s such a unique individual.”

McDevitt described Anderson as a “special person.” He thanked 14, Anderson’s nickname, for his mentorship over the years, which McDevitt deemed “instrumental” in getting him to where he is today.

For some players, Anderson’s leadership was paramount in their decision to play college baseball for the Gophers.

Third baseman Jake Perry said Anderson is one of the main reasons he attends Minnesota. Perry added that Anderson focused on building connections with his players and saw them as people more than athletes.

“He’s just a great guy on and off the field,” Perry said.

Starting pitcher Will Semb grew up in Wisconsin. However, since the University of Wisconsin-Madison does not have a Division I baseball team, the Gophers were his “in-state” team.

The 2018 Gopher baseball team that went to the Super Regionals cemented Minnesota as the place Semb wanted to play. He said it was a goal to play for Anderson.

Semb medically redshirted in 2023 due to a torn labrum and rotator cuff and spent the remainder of the season in the dugout. 

“I would say my career with injuries and everything hasn’t gone ideal, and he’s been nothing but helpful throughout the whole thing,” Semb said. “Being there for support and giving me opportunities.”

Anderson left his mark on the Gopher baseball program not just with his winning track record but also for the person he is off the field.

Infielder Jake Larson said he improved on the field under Anderson’s coaching but also feels he is prepared for life after baseball.

“I can confidently say when I graduate, he’s done a great job preparing me for that,” Larson said. “So, not only off the field but on the field, he’s helped me be a better baseball player and forget about failure.”

Relief pitcher Justin Thorsteinson, who transferred to Minnesota from Oregon State last season, said Anderson taught him about being a man on and off the field, the importance of self-care and managing schoolwork while playing baseball.

The Canadian left-hander integrated himself into the rotation and was the second most utilized arm out of the bullpen last season.

Relief pitcher Seth Clausen said Anderson was always there for his players and gives great advice.

“He’s always striving to make guys better,” Clausen said. “He’s a guy that you can go and talk to, you can talk about anything with him.”

Anderson’s mentorship extends beyond his baseball knowledge. Second baseman Brady Counsell said Anderson is someone he has looked up to during his time at the University.

“He’s definitely one of the bigger role models I’ve had in my life,” Counsell said. “He’s been unbelievable in helping me figure out the big things off the field.”

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