Photo Gallery: Gopher Hockey at Target Field
Gopher hockey players Seth Ambroz, Nate Schmidt and Joey Miller took part in a Minnesota Twins tradition last Saturday when they competed in a home run contest against the baseball team's mascot T.C. Bear at Target Field.
Prior to the competition the Gophers watch the Texas Rangers take batting practice and talked with Texas slugger Josh Hamilton.
T.C., who is hulking 6 feet 4 inches, was the overwhelming favorite to win. The Babe Ruth of Bears, according to its bio, led the Carnivore League in home runs, RBI's and batting average before joining the Twins.
Undeterred the Gopher hockey players took their chances against the seldom-beaten mascot.
Seth Ambroz hit three home runs on seven pitches to win a home run contest at Target Field.
First up was freshman Seth Ambroz.
"I was nervous," admitted Ambroz. "They made me go first being the freshman. I was shaking when I went up there, but kind of calmed down after I hit the first one."
Standing near second base, each player faced seven pitches and they had to swing at all seven. Ambroz rifled two line drives before settling into a groove and launching the third and fourth pitches into Target Field's upper deck. He finished with three home runs, setting the bar for Schmidt, Miller and T.C.
Ambroz used his years of playing baseball to adjust to the home run contest.
"I have played baseball since I was seven and play softball and baseball in the summers," said Ambroz. "I did not prepare for this. I was able to get three real low pitches and was able to hit them out."
Many Gopher fans thought Schmidt, who decided to play hockey in college instead of baseball, would provide the stiffest competition to T.C. Schmidt tallied one home run in the competition.
"A lot of pitches were up around my eyes and I did not have that many wheelhouse shots," said Schmidt. "Joey Miller and I are both shorter guys. For Ambroz, it was right in his wheelhouse and he has a little bit of a loopy swing so he was able to get a hold of a couple. He hit that ball far."
Still Schmidt was happy he was able to hit at least one home run.
"I was glad I did not throw up a goose egg," he said. "That would have been tough to live with. Hopefully I get another shot at it someday."
Miller, who is generally regarded as the best athlete on the hockey team, also ended the competition with one home run.
"It was awesome to just get one," said Miller, who was not able to properly train with a batting cage session on Friday after teammate Zach Budish refused to join him in the excursion. "I know Schmidt was an All-State baseball player and he got one. So I figured if I got one it would at least be respectable."
After all three players took their chances, the stage was set for T.C. Bear to show why he hardly tastes defeat in this competition. With home-field advantage, T.C., failed to hit one home run and lost for the first time this season.
"I was shocked," said Miller about the mascot's performance. "Everyone kept hyping up T.C. and I figured that Ambroz's three would not stand a chance. I guess everyone has an off day."
"T.C. had a rough outing," said Schmidt. "But he has to hit it a lot further than we do because as a lefty he has to hit it over that wall."
Ambroz won the competition with three home runs and is rumored to be invited back later this season for a tournament of champions. Would he grant T.C. a rematch?
"I would do it again in a heartbeat," said Ambroz.