An anonymous donation sparked a renovation of the Minnesota baseball locker room, one of several upgrades heading the team's way at the start of 2016.
The gift was established as an estate gift back in 2003, and the fresh look was announced by the team on Jan. 27. The Gophers installed new sets of lockers, with charging stations within them, and new furniture and carpet, to go along with several other new features. The locker room also has an entertainment wall with multiple high-definition televisions, one of which was given to the program by former player Jack Hannahan.
One of the televisions is hooked up to a brand new Playstation 4, given to the players by alumnus and current Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins. Freshman pitcher Ben Humbert tweeted at Perkins asking him to donate the video game system on Jan. 19, and within an hour Perkins replied back with a confirmation of the purchase.
Now the team games together from about 10 a.m. until the building closes, "in between doing homework of couse," junior Matt Fiedler said.
The new lockers also feature home plate models, which display the uniform number assigned to the locker and each player in program history who has worn it.
"Tradition’s definitely a big part of this program and it’s cool to see the guys that have come before and just kind of get some perspective too," redshirt junior pitcher Tim Shannon said. "You’re wearing the number now but you’re not the first and you won’t be the last."
The Gophers practiced for the first time on Friday but team bonding has already begun in the new digs.
"The new locker room’s been awesome," Shannon said. "It’s a big step for the whole program I think in terms of a good space for the guys to hang out."
Gophers get U.S. Bank Stadium tour
The upgrades for the baseball team aren't just coming in-house. The Gophers toured U.S. Bank Stadium last Friday, which will primarly be the new home of the Minnesota Vikings. The Minnesota baseball team will be the indoor arena's primary tenant for baseball games starting with the 2017 season.
The Gophers have not announced yet how many games they will play in the stadium. The team currently plays all its home games at Siebert Field, which opened in 2013 to serve as a replacement for the Metrodome. Minnesota weather does not allow the Gophers to play at the outdoor field until late in the college season, and the team's 2016 schedule opens with 20 straight games on the road.
Playing at U.S. Bank Stadium would allow the Gophers to create a more balanced schedule and could attract better competition and recruits to Minnesota.
"Teams are going to want to come from all over the country to come to Minnesota," Fiedler said. "Normally we’re trying to get out of here but everyone’s going to want to play in this billion-dollar stadium and see what it’s all about. It’s going to be a huge attractor for us and I think it’ll help for recruiting down the line too. Just being able to play in there, see your face on those giant scoreboards, it’s not going to be an experience that you can really duplicate anywhere else."
Pitching and hitting facility
The Gophers will also get a facilities upgrade when a new indoor hitting facility opens midway through the 2016 campaign. Head coach John Anderson said during a Chalk Talk event in May that getting new facilities would help make sure the program was keeping up in player development. Perkins donated money to the project to help get it started.
"He's given back in a significant way," Anderson said in May. "He kids me all the time he'll keep giving me money as long as my wife lets me."