Matt Fiedler played baseball for St. Paul Academy-Summit and was Minnesota’s Class 2A Player of the Year in 2013. He was planning to attend Notre Dame and then Irish coaches informed him that he was in their plans only as a pitcher.
Fiedler wanted also to hit, and Gophers assistant Rob Fornasiere said: “Stay home. We’ll give you a shot to both hit and pitch.”
He didn’t play or pitch much as a freshman in 2014, and then played regularly and pitched occasionally in 2015. The Gophers were subpar in both seasons, so much so in 2015 that they missed the top eight and thus the Big Ten tournament when it was played at Target Field.
“Not being there was embarrassing to us as players,” Fielder said in April 2016.
At that point, Fiedler was the Friday night starter, the regular No. 3 hitter, and performing the dual role in a fashion not seen for the Gophers in the 40 years since Dave Winfield was a superstar.
The Gophers and Fiedler ended the downturn by winning the Big Ten regular-season title in 2016. Fielder was conference Player of the Year and was drafted in the ninth round by St. Louis. The Cardinals gave him $100,000 to sign and put him in a rookie league that summer as an outfielder.
Earlier this month, Fiedler was batting .260 with four home runs and 20 RBI in 131 at-bats at low Class A Peoria. He told the Cardinals that he was finished and was placed on the voluntarily retired list.
“It wasn’t something I was enjoying,” he said. “It wasn’t any special thing; obviously, there was a lack of ability in comparison to other players going through the Cardinals organization. It’s not a great lifestyle when you’re 23 and still in low-A.”
Fiedler will be back at the University of Minnesota to get a degree in kinesiology. He will be watching his sisters play college soccer: Molly as a senior for the Gophers, and Kelly as a freshman at Luther in Decorah, Iowa.
“The best time I had in baseball was playing for the Gophers,” Fiedler said. “I still love playing the game. I’ll probably show up on a town team in a few years, playing for fun.”
Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes on the Grand Old Game:
• Fiedler will be there as the Twins and Gophers celebrate Fornasiere’s coaching career next Sunday at Target Field. Rob retired this month, after 31 years as a Gophers assistant.
• Ryan Pressly’s occasional meltdowns had more to do with pitch selection than anything. He will be important and effective for Houston in its push to repeat as World Series winner.
• Never forget this about Eduardo Escobar: He assisted his learning of English by repeatedly watching “Top Gun” and singing along with “Take My Breath Away.”