Wednesday, September 17, 2008
RT Staff Note: We have been talking about cold weather and baseball all week, but we found an article that shows how being a player in Minnesota affected Dan Wilson, who will be inducted into the “M” Club Hall of Fame. Wilson was a First-Team All-American (1990), a two-time All-Big Ten honoree (1989-90), had .336 career average at Minnesota and had a 14-year career with the Cincinnati Reds (1992-93) and Seattle Mariners (1994-2005). Gophersports.com recently talked to Wilson about his playing career at Minnesota, the coaching staff, his memories of his career as a Golden Gopher and what this honor means to him. The weather sure didn't affect him because he had a plan and stuck to it. Don't ever let the weather affect your love for the game. Take a cue fom Dan Wilson...Enjoy the article from Gopher Sports!
Courtesy: University of Minnesota
Gophersports.com: What does it mean to receive an honor like this from your alma mater?
Dan Wilson: “I am very honored to be recognized in this way from the University of Minnesota. I look back on my days so fondly there. I only spent three years at the University, but I had an amazing experience there with some of the relationships I made. The games that we played there are images I will keep with me forever. The people that I met there are people that I still have strong relationships with today. I have so much to be thankful for from the University Of Minnesota, and to be honored this way is yet another thing that makes me very grateful for my experience.”
GS: What are some of the things you learned most from the baseball program that you were able to take forth and used to be successful at the level that you were?
DW: “John (Anderson) and Rob (Fornasiere) did such a great job preparing student athletes not just in the area of baseball. Their track record in that area has proven that they have had success, and they do such a great job of teaching baseball and how to play. What is great about the both of them is that they go beyond that and they taught us to be good people. They taught us to be good people no matter what we do. I was lucky to have the opportunity to play professional baseball. Whatever line of work you go into, they teach you life lessons. Some things that I tease John about till this day, is that he used to say “You have to bring your lunch pale and hard hat and you have to go out there and do it.” I remember hearing that from him and laughing at the time, but as I have gone through life, I have learned to follow that advice. What it said to me was that there is no free lunch, you have to go out there and you have to work hard to make things happen, you have to put forth some hard work, and John and Rob were great at instilling that work ethic and that took me a long way in baseball.”
GS: What are some of the moments on and off the field you remember most fondly from your time here at Minnesota?
DW: “When we won the Big Ten Championship my freshman year, I remember we had to beat a pretty good Michigan team. I remember playing them and winning the Big Ten in Ann Arbor. It was just a great team moment for all of us. With that being my first year at Minnesota, we were so excited at what we had accomplished and what we had gone through there. I think we ended up in the loser’s bracket and we had to fight our way back. Again, there is the lunch pale and hardhat, we had to crawl our way back and had to beat Michigan State twice to win it. It was just some great baseball, and a great memory for me. Going out to Fresno California to play in an NCAA Regional and to be was also a great experience. A couple of spring trips during my sophomore and junior year produced great memories. We went to California and had a great spring trip, which was a great memory for me. We also went to the University of Texas and played them which was a great memory. As I look back, there are some great times on the field and I have met a lot of great people along the way.”
GS: You did a lot of pitching your freshman year. Talk about the memories you have of that and when it became clear that catching was going to be your path to success?
DW: “I do remember that, because it was a very pivotal time for me. I realized that it was getting close to the time when I had to make a decision to pick one position over the other. I liked pitching, but I enjoyed catching a little bit more. I enjoyed playing everyday and getting a chance to hit. I really wanted to pursue catching. I remember pitching some that year for the Gophers, and then going in the summer time to play at Cape Cod. They had a catcher on the team I was with already so I ended up pitching a lot in Cape Cod as well. I remember talking to John about it during the summer months when I was in Cape Cod League and asking him what do I want to do. I really wanted to catch. John was very instrumental in helping me come to a conclusion and I really appreciated that about him. We landed on catching, and it was something I wanted to do and he was a 100 percent supportive of that. I was very thankful to have another ear and listener to bounce those ideas off.”
GS: Talk about your journey here to the University of Minnesota being from growing up in Illinois and your professional career playing for Seattle. Did you ever expect for things to turn out as well as they did for you?
DW: “It is hard to expect things in baseball because it is unpredictable. In sports, injuries and other events can so often play a role in your chances to success. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with my career, but I cannot be more thankful for what we were able to experience. Not so much the personal accolades. Those things are great, but what made more impact on me was being part of some great teams and playing with some great players. That to me was probably an even greater highlight. Playing in Seattle during the time I was there, we were fortunate enough to make the playoffs four times. Being part of that and playing with some great players like Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, and some of those all-time greats were thrills for me that I will always remember. The University Of Minnesota was where I was prepared for all of that, and I am thankful to John and Rob for a great education in baseball and in life. It was both of those things that I took with me down the road to Seattle, and I have always been thankful for that. As for the recruiting process, I was recruited by other schools, lone in the Big Ten and a couple of Southern schools and I really felt most comfortable in Minnesota. I think the environment and the student-athlete environment at Minnesota was something I was really drawn to. I am so thankful for that decision because I think it prepared me for what was ahead.”
GS: How good does it make you feel to still see John Anderson and Rob Fornasiere running the program and instilling the same values and the same things that have been successful all these years and continuing with that?
DW: “It is great. It is nice to see that they will continue to do it. I think it is a testament to how much they love the game, and they love baseball. They also love teaching kids and I think they do such a great job. They teach them and prepare them for life, and I think that is tremendous. You really cant put a price on that. I think as a parent now, I hope that there are coaches who prepare my kids the way the John and Rob prepared me for baseball and for life. I think, they are excellent at what they do and that is a big motivator to continue to do it and I think it is great.”
GS: Is there a particular moment or game that stands out in your memory?
DW: “I have some memories that are clear in my mind. Playing against Jim Abbot in Michigan, getting a chance to hit with him and getting to face him in the American league once I got to Seattle. I remember playing some really cool games. I remember some doubleheaders in Iowa when I was catching with my hand in my back pocket when it was so cold. I remember playing in the Metrodome and some of the great players that we played against who I would see later when I played for the Seattle Mariners. There are just some great memories that are fun to look back on. Not only to see the players that you played against in college, but then playing with them in the major leagues was really cool. I also really enjoyed the teammates that I played with, and was able to share a lot of great memories with during my career at Minnesota”
GS: Did your experiences in college baseball help you in a different way then someone who maybe did not get a chance to play college baseball and went right to the minors?
DW: “What I think is great about college baseball is the level of enthusiasm that goes along with it. It really is a trademark of all collegiate sports. It is just the underlying enthusiasm. Not that individuals or Minor League organizations don’t have it, it is just a different feeling and a different kind of enthusiasm at the college level. Being a part of that was great, I loved it. I loved the innocence of that, and I think it taught me a lot of great values. It taught me the hard work ethic, respecting your teammates and all of those things that go along with being a successful athlete. You can learn that in a collagen experience and I am thankful for mine at the University Of Minnesota.”
GS: How amazing of an experience is it to get the opportunity to be at an event like this with all the greats from different sports all gathering to celebrate the University of Minnesota?
DW: “When you begin to step back and look over the names that I will be joining, the feeling that comes to my mind is that I am humbled. I am humbled that my life experiences have brought me to a place where I am included in that kind of a group. The “M” Club is such a big family with the different sports at the University. I am just really grateful that I am even considered to be part of that group. To be inducted into this Hall of Fame is something very special to me and I am very grateful for this opportunity.”