The Gophers baseball team played one final game at Siebert Field on Tuesday night, and the weather almost wiped out the chance to play the 41-year-old park’s final contest. Plans have been laid for a new on-campus field to replace the current facility.
Vicious winds and a thunderstorm warning threatened and affected play Tuesday.
An announced attendance of 1,421 that included fans, alumni and other University of Minnesota athletes packed into Siebert Field’s tiny grandstand to watch the Gophers pummel St. Thomas, 9-2.
The atmosphere Tuesday was fan-friendly and family-oriented, and former Minnesota players were honored in between innings and throughout the night.
Fans and players stayed after the game to take pictures on the field, and several people grabbed handfuls of dirt from the base paths as a keepsake.
“It was wonderful. We saw so many alumni from so many different eras,” head coach John Anderson said. “I thought we played very well in spite of all the emotion going on. We were very focused.”
Left fielder Andy Henkemeyer was 3-for-4 with a grand slam and five RBIs. Third baseman Kyle Geason drove in a pair of runs and went 2-for-5.
“It’s great to see old friends, under the sky. It’s better than the Dome,” said Brent Odegard, who pitched for the Gophers in 1986.
“It brings back a lot of fond memories,” Odegard said. “It takes me back in time and kind of makes me yearn to be in college again.”
The Gophers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning and extended it to 5-0 by the end of the second inning.
Fifth-year senior Dustin Klabunde, who hadn’t started a game in three years, took the mound for Minnesota and said it was an honor and a privilege to get the start.
“I knew it was going to be a great atmosphere with all the alumni coming back,” Klabunde said. “It was nice to get the nod. I appreciate that coming from my coach.”
Klabunde threw three scoreless innings, and freshman Ben Meyer took over in the fourth inning. Meyer’s father played for the Gophers and at Siebert Field in the early 1980s.
“There’s so much history here,” the younger Meyer said. “[My father] always pitched here, so it’s kind of cool to come out here and pitch as well.”
Anderson said he wanted to get as many players out on the field as possible; 20 saw game-action.
St. Thomas tried to make things interesting in the seventh inning and scored a pair of runs to make it a 5-2 game.
But Minnesota halted the Tommies’ comeback, and Henkemeyer punctuated the victory with his grand slam in the bottom half of the frame.
“It’s an honor [to hit a home run] with all the great players and great memories that have been here,” Henkemeyer said. “It’s very surreal.”
Gophers reliever Billy Soule put the game and the field to rest with a scoreless ninth inning.
“Billy texted me last night and said ‘I want to be out there for the last out,’” Anderson said. Soule was once a bat boy for the club. “He grew up at the ballpark. It worked out,” Anderson said.
Torrential downpour started just minutes after the game ended — a fitting end to a memorable night for the Gophers baseball program.
When asked what he’ll remember most about the night, an emotional Anderson replied with one word.