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July 9, 2020

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How effectively will 23-year-old Twins second baseman Luis Arraez hit in his second MLB season?  That will be among the most intriguing storylines during the 60-game schedule the club starts soon, with its first game July 24.

No Twins rookie ever had a better batting average than Arraez’s .334 in 2019.  That’s better than Tony Oliva’s .323 in 1964 and way beyond Rod Carew’s .292 in 1967. The .334 was the fifth highest average for a MLB rookie in the last 100 years, with Arraez challenging storied hitters like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio.

For career batting average no Twin was ever the equal of Carew who flirted with a .400 season in 1977 and made the cover of Time magazine.  Carew, a left-handed hitter like Arraez, also played second base.  Both are Latin American born and arrived in Minneapolis in their early 20’s with reputations as contact hitters.  Differences between them are Carew had more foot speed and he thrived on chasing pitches other hitters wouldn’t, while Arraez is known for his strike zone discipline.

In 19 seasons Carew had a lifetime batting average of .328, won seven American League batting titles and earned a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  No one is predicting yet that Arraez will have a future like Carew but what fate awaits him in the shortened season ahead? Was his first season an aberration?

For what it is worth, Arraez hit only .103 in 29 at bats in spring training.  But over longer stretches he has never faltered at the plate including a minor league career batting average of .331.  If pitchers thought they were figuring him out toward the end of last season it didn’t show because his September batting average was .324.

“He is a very tough out,” Oliva told Sports Headliners last year. “He hits to the whole field. He doesn’t strike out too often. Ninety-nine percent of the time he swings (at) a strike.”

Arraez’s 29 strike outs were the fewest in the majors among players with at least 350 plate appearances last season.  That’s part of what gave him the confidence to say last week his goals for the shortened season include hitting .400.

Carew, who like Arraez sprayed the ball all over the field, hit over .400 in 60-game stretches, according to MLB.com and the Elias Sports Bureau (July 6 story).  In his new book, One Tough Out, Carew talks about being in a zone in 1977, including having 40 hits in 87 at bats.  On July 1, 1977 his average was .415.  He finished the season at .388 after trying to become the first major leaguer to hit over .400 since Williams batted .406 in 1941.

“To understand the difficulty of keeping an average above .400, consider what happened the day I reached .415,” Carew writes.  “I went 2-for-5…and my average dropped.”

In Carew’s second season he hit .272 and wasn’t happy with his swing.  In his book he credits manager Billy Martin with helping him make changes.  Things clicked with Carew batting .332 in 1969 and setting off a streak of 15 seasons above .300.

Think Arraez will sign up for that?

Cosgriff Retiring & Other Notes

Brian Cosgriff

Hopkins girls’ basketball coach Brian Cosgriff is retiring and told players of his decision this morning. He has been the Royals’ head coach for 21 seasons, with seven state titles, 19 Lake Conference championships and 14 section titles. Wishing all the best to Brian who is one of the state’s great coaches ever, and a classy gentleman.

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, writing a July 6 story for Si.com about how savvy the Tampa Bay Rays are, points out the organization found D.J. Snelten on the internet this past offseason.  The former Gopher pitched for the independent ball Chicago Dogs last year but this winter rebuilt his delivery and posted a video impressing the low budget Rays.

Verducci reports Snelten is throwing the ball 96 miles per hour after previously not even being in the 90s.  He also has an effective change up. During the offseason he lost 70 pounds.

Snelten, with a minor league contract, is trying to make the Rays roster after being drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 2013 and having many baseball stops since then.

In these trying economic times, colleges are cutting sports programs with tennis sometimes a popular target.  Among justifications are the United States Tennis Association provides an alternative for players in developing their games, and scholarships at many colleges go to foreign players in large numbers.

Nobody is indicating the 25-sport Gophers program, including tennis, will see any cuts soon.  Of note, though, is five of the eight players on the men’s tennis roster are from other countries, along with two Minnesotans and one South Dakotan.  Six of the nine players on the Gopher women’s roster are foreigners, with one Minnesota native.

As of now, the Bloomington-based men’s WCHA has commitments from only three schools for the 2021-2022 season—Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Fairbanks and Alabama Huntsville. Seven schools are leaving the WCHA to form their own league after next season.

Billy Robertson

Men’s WCHA Commissioner Billy Robertson is working hard to bring three or more new members into his league for 2021-2022. The candidates include schools located in or near major metropolitan areas: St. Thomas (Twin Cities), Simon Fraser (Vancouver), Lindenwood (St. Louis), Arizona State (Phoenix) and Long Island (New York City).

“All are in major markets that would help bring a higher profile to the league…and increase revenue streams and sponsorship opportunities,” Robertson wrote in an email.

Jay Weiner, the former Star Tribune sportswriter and Olympic specialist who more recently held positions at the University of Minnesota and at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, announced his retirement on Facebook Tuesday.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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