Minnesota plays the Bruins Friday-Sunday, Feb. 15-17
Todd Oakes enters his 18th year as the pitching coach for the Golden Gophers. Oakes has played a big role in the development some of the top pitchers in recent memory the Golden Gophers, and has consistently helped his pitching staff establish a mental approach that has proved successful throughout his time with the program.
Oakes' primary responsibility revolves around a Minnesota pitching staff that has finished second in the Big Ten in ERA in three of the last five seasons. Ten Gopher pitchers have been drafted in the past five MLB Drafts. Most recently, Lance Thonvold, Dalton Sawyer and Ben Meyer were all selected in the 2015 draft.
Led by the guidance of Oakes, Tom Windle and DJ Snelten earned All-Big Ten First Team honors and helped Minnesota compile a 2.89 team ERA in 2013. Windle was selected in the second round of the MLB Draft, and Snelten in the fourth, in 2013. In 2012, Minnesota boasted a 3.16 ERA, led primarily by then Gopher ace and son, TJ Oakes, who was name First Team All-Big Ten. In 2011, Gopher closer Scott Matyas was named a First Team All-Big Ten, the first Gopher pitcher to receive the award since Glen Perkins in 2004 as Minnesota held a collective 3.80 ERA. Along with Maytas, TJ Oakes was named a Third Team All-Big Ten, while Windle earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Tournament Team.
In 2009, Oakes helped guide the pitching staff to the second-best ERA, second-best opponent batting average, second-best save total and the second-lowest walk total in the Big Ten.
Oakes guided the pitching staff to a school record in saves with 23 in 2007. That season, the Golden Gopher bullpen had a 16-6 record with a 3.52 ERA and 23 saves. Minnesota led the Big Ten in saves and was second in opponent batting average in 2007. The Golden Gophers also had a pair of relievers named All-Big Ten in 2007.
Those results came one year after his staff set a school record in strikeouts in 2006 at 421. The Golden Gophers also led the Big Ten for a second straight season in strikeouts and led the way in opposing batting average at .256 during the 2006 season. Minnesota's opposing batting average was a staggering .14 lower than any other team in the conference. It was also the lowest batting average by Gopher opponents in a season since 1984. Minnesota's pitching staff also posted its lowest ERA since 1984 at 4.04.
In 2006, Oakes helped mold a very impressive top three in the starting rotation in Brian Bull, Cole DeVries and Dustin Brabender. Between the three pitchers, they posted a 20-12 record, a 3.43 ERA, .234 opposing batting average, and had 181 strikeouts to just 78 walks in 257.0 innings. Over the final four weeks of the season, that group combined to go 10-2 with a 2.09 ERA. DeVries also posted the best ERA of any starting pitcher since 1978 at 2.42.
Minnesota led the Big Ten in strikeouts (393), tied for the lead in shutouts (5) and was second in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.10-to-1) in 2005. The Golden Gophers also posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in school history in 2003.
The Minnesota pitching staff led the Big Ten in strikeout-to-walk ratio at 2.10-to-1 (178 walks, 373 strikeouts) and was second in ERA at 4.38 in 2004. In four of the past six seasons, the Golden Gophers have been in the top two in strikeout-to-walk ratio in the Big Ten.
Minnesota also had 404 strikeouts in 2003, the third-most in school history. The Golden Gophers also only allowed 153 walks, the lowest total since 1979. Minnesota finished the 2003 season second in the Big Ten in strikeouts, tied for second in complete games and fourth in ERA. Since Oakes began as the pitching coach in 1999, Minnesota has posted a 4.69 ERA, had a 1.91-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (3,646-to-1,906) and has averaged giving up a walk just under every three innings of work.
Oakes helped guide current Minnesota Twin Glen Perkins to back-to-back All-American seasons, as he finished his career with a 17-0 record against Big Ten opponents, and 230 strikeouts in two seasons. In 2004, Perkins became the second Golden Gopher to win Big Ten Pitcher of the Year honors in three seasons at the time.
Before Oakes' arrival, Minnesota had never claimed those honors. In June of 2004, Perkins became the highest Minnesota draft pick since Dan Wilson in 1990, as he was picked by the hometown Minnesota Twins with 22nd overall pick in the first round. Craig Molldrem was also drafted by the Florida Marlins in the eighth round of that draft.
In 2002, Oakes helped C.J. Woodrow go 7-1 in the Big Ten and become the first Minnesota pitcher to receive Big Ten Pitcher of the Year honors. Oakes played a big role in Josh Oslin receiving Second-Team All-Big Ten honors in 2007, and also helped guide Cole DeVries to Second-Team honors in 2006. Matt Loberg received Second-Team All-Big Ten honors in 2005, while John Gaub to third-team honors.
Minnesota has had a pitcher named Second-Team All-Big Ten or better in all but three years that Oakes has been the pitching coach with the program.
Oakes has had 26 pitchers drafted in his time at Minnesota. A year after Windle, Snelten and Drew Ghelfi were chosen, Alec Crawford was drafted by the Rockies in 2014. Before that, TJ Oakes was selected by the Colorado Rockies in 2012. Following the 2011 stint, Scott Matyas was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, TJ Oakes was drafted by the Minnesota Twins and Austin Lubinsky was drafted by the San Francisco Giants. In 2010, Seth Rosin was selected in the fourth round of the draft by the San Francisco Giants.
Currently, six former Gopher pitchers who were drafted are playing Major League or Minor League Baseball. Twins closer Glen Perkins was selected as an All-Star in both 2013 and 2014. Seth Rosin made his Major League debut for the Texas Rangers in 2014.
Originally from Spring Grove, Minn., he was a three-sport athlete and earned 13 varsity letters in baseball, basketball and football. Oakes earned his first baseball letter as a seventh grader. After graduating from Spring Grove High School, Oakes moved on to Waldorf College (Iowa) where he earned second-team All-American honors as a sophomore. After graduating magna cum laude with his A.A. degree, Oakes enrolled at the University of Nebraska. In his two seasons with the Cornhuskers, Oakes compiled a 16-4 career record and earned second-team All-Big Eight honors in 1983. He excelled in the classroom as well as being named a third-team Academic All-American as he earned his B.S. Degree in Education.
Oakes was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and played four years in the organization. In 1987 he moved into the coaching ranks and spent the next 12 years as pitching coach at various levels of the organization. He coached and worked with the likes of Rod Beck, Steve Reed, Pat Rapp, Keith Foulke, Joe Nathan, Jason Grilli, Scott Linebrink and former Golden Gopher Bryan Hickerson. He also coached on the back-to-back Texas League Champions Shreveport Captains in 1990 and 1991.
In 1997 Oakes was named the Giants' minor league pitching coordinator and oversaw the minor league pitching staffs at every level of the organization.
Oakes was named assistant coach at the University of Minnesota on November 2, 1998. Since joining the Golden Gophers, Oakes' pitching staff has steadily improved. In 1999, the Maroon and Gold hurlers posted a 5.73 team ERA, allowing 339 earned runs and 51 home runs. Those numbers dropped dramatically in 2000 to a team ERA of 4.20, 240 earned runs and a conference minimum 28 home runs surrendered.
In 2001, Minnesota allowed the second-fewest runs per game in the Big Ten and had the second-best strikeout to walk ratio in the conference. Opponents hit a mere .284 off the Golden Gopher aces - second lowest in the league.
A two-time cancer survivor, Oakes is involved in fundraising with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Minnesota Chapter. He started a "Strike Out Cancer" campaign, and the Gophers have dedicated games to fundraising and awareness in 2014 and 2015.
Oakes and his wife Terri are the parents of sons Tyler, who is the pitching coach at North Dakota State, TJ, who was an All-Big Ten pitcher for the Gophers and is now the pitching coach at St. Mary's (Minn.), and Tanner, who pitched for Augsburg.