Gopher Baseball enters the final Big Ten Baseball weekend in the driver's seat for their first Big Ten Regular Season Title since 2010, but they do it with heavy hearts. Pitching Coach, Todd Oakes ("T.O.") has been battling acute myeloid leukemia for four years and was very recently put into hospice.
Sad news for the Gopher Baseball family as they have to simultaneously deal with the pending loss of one of their own at the same time they are playing a crucial baseball series that could secure a Big Ten Championship. A very strange week of emotions for these young men, I am sure. A time for a valuable life-lesson according to Coach John Anderson.
"We’re at an institution of higher learning; this is another life lesson for [the players]," Anderson said. "This is life. This happens. People get sick, and people go through these horrific battles with cancer, leukemia and different diseases. And it’s in all our lives, and the timing’s never good for any of it.
"So they have to learn to manage their emotions and still get through their daily lives, and at the same time, keep Todd in their thoughts and their prayers."
Something like this, ESPECIALLY for fans, really puts things into perspective. I cannot imagine the range of emotions and how difficult this must be for some on the team. A Big Ten Title would be awesome, but you can't blame these kids for being distracted throughout the week.
However, Anderson knows the players have weightier thoughts on their minds.
“I think the news we got about Todd Oakes and his battle with leukemia touched us all,” he said. “I’m more worried about them emotionally.”
The longtime Gophers coach with 1,205 career victories said he had a good cry with Oakes’ wife, Terri, when she called Tuesday to say they were moving Oakes into hospice. The call came when the Gophers were on a four-hour bus ride to Brookings, S.D., for a game against South Dakota State.
After the game — a 7-6, 10-inning loss — the coach shared the news with the players.
“There were a lot of guys crying, a lot of hugs going around,” Toby Anderson said.
Best of luck to the team this weekend (Game 1 is tonight!) and more importantly my thoughts and prayers are out to Todd Oakes and his family.