While the 10-3 NCAA Regional loss to eventual champion LSU on May 31 was the official end of the Gophers baseball season, many players’ breaks were short-lived.
Summer baseball leagues are keeping the Gopher players just as busy as the regular season. With a schedule of 45 to 50 games, these leagues provide a chance for players to refine their game, face top level college competition and get scouted by Major League Baseball representatives.
Gophers head coach John Anderson first meets with the players regarding summer leagues in the fall, months before the season begins. If a player expresses interest and Anderson believes they are ready, he goes out and looks for the best league to match up with that individual player.
“We have a lot of summer league people getting in touch with us in the fall, trying to start to recruit some players,” Anderson said. “It’s a consultation process where we talk with them and visit with the team looking for players.”
For sophomore first baseman Nick O’Shea , getting to spend time working on hitting led him to participate in the summer league.
“Getting a few hundred more at-bats keeps you sharp,” O’Shea said. “It always helps instead of taking a break; you keep getting reps in.”
O’Shea plays in the Northwoods League for the Green Bay Bullfrogs . While this is O’Shea’s second year in the league, it is his first with a Minnesota teammate. Junior pitcher Scott Fern is in his first year playing on the Bullfrogs and O’Shea appreciates having another Gopher on the team.
“I was the only one on the Bullfrogs from Minnesota [last year], so it’s nice to have Scott on the team this year,” O’Shea said. “I’ve been rooming with him on the road, so it’s been nice to have somebody that I know hanging around with me.”
The Northwoods League is made up of players from various Division I schools. Facing similar competition to what they see during the regular season helps O’Shea and Fern stay in shape for next season.
O’Shea said he sees a lot of Big Ten players in the league and thinks the level of play is comparable to conference play.
The experience of playing a full summer of baseball games against top collegiate competition is something Anderson said he sees as an advantage, particularly for young position players such as A.J. Pettersen and O’Shea, who were red-shirted lasted year and participated in the Northwoods League.
“By the time they came back last fall we spent another six months training and getting ready,” Anderson said. “They already had a year and a half playing and practicing and hadn’t played their first game in college, and they’re still freshman.”
While O’Shea and Pettersen stay within the region in the Northwoods League, junior pitcher Seth Rosin is playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League in Massachusetts.
Considered by Anderson to be “the elite college baseball league in the country,” alumni of the Cape Cod league include professionals Mark Teixeira, Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Helton .
Rosin is playing for the Hyannis Mets , and in 19 2/3 innings has an ERA of 1.83 with 26 strikeouts and 17 hits allowed.
Playing in the summer league allows pitchers to experiment with different pitches to use during the regular season. For Rosin, that means working on his slider.
“It’s getting better. It’s a different ball, the seams are a little smaller,” he said. “It’s a little tougher to get it to break as much, but I think it’s coming along all right.”
The major difference between summer leagues and the regular season is bats. While the regular season allows aluminum bats, the summer leagues are strictly wood bats. This can somewhat skew the statistics and leads to hesitation when evaluating a players summer numbers, Anderson said.
“It still comes down to when you come back here, how they perform next year at this level, but it does provide you more insight into basically how they’re doing,” Anderson said.
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