Gophersports.com caught up with the junior outfielder
In 2008, Rob Fornasiere received an award naming him the ABCA Assistant Coach of the Year. This award was a well-deserved recognition for a coach who is entering his 31st season as an integral part of the Golden Gopher program. However, more than anything it confirmed what everyone in the community and around the program already knew in terms of Fornasiere's value to the continued success of the Minnesota baseball program.
Fornasiere has been an integral part of the Golden Gopher staff since coming on board in September 1985. In the fall of 1992, Fornasiere was named assistant head coach.
A native of Sun Prairie, Wis., he won four letters in baseball at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, graduating in 1978. He continued his education by earning a master's degree in education in 1980 at Bowling Green State University while serving as a baseball graduate assistant coach. The next five years saw him direct Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minn., to a 105-29 record and four consecutive Minnesota Community College Conference championships from 1982 through 1985. Fornasiere led his 1983 squad to the National Junior College Region 13 title and a berth in the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colo. His teams of 1982 and 1983 led the nation's junior colleges in winning percentage with a combined 51-5 mark (.911).
Entering the 2015-16 season, Fornasiere has more experience in the Big Ten then anyone except for current Minnesota head coach John Anderson. Fornasiere and Anderson have coached together as part of the Golden Gopher staff for the last 30 seasons, comprising one of the longest tenures for a coaching duo in the nation.
Fornasiere is entering his 31st year with the Minnesota baseball program, and his 21st as the assistant head coach. His duties include scouting, scheduling, recruiting and teaching team and individual defensive skills and schemes. From 2003-07, Minnesota fielded at a .967 clip, making just 364 errors 10,536 chances in that span. In 2010, the Gophers set a school-record with a .974 fielding percentage. Fornasiere helped the team reach that clip despite major injuries at the center field and catcher positions for significant portions of the season. That mark was broken two years later and Minnesota held a school-best .976 mark in 2012. Heading into the 2015-16 season, Fornasiere has helped develop 35 different infielders that have received All-Big Ten honors at Minnesota. Most recently, shortstop Michael Handel was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team in 2015.
AJ Pettersen (2011) was the first Gopher shortstop to earn First-Team All-Big Ten honors since Scott Welch received the honor in 2002. As a senior, Pettersen led the team with a .344 batting average in 49 games played. In 2010, Nick O'Shea became the first player to claim First-Team All-Big Ten honors at first base since Andy Hunter did so in 2004. O'Shea batted .333 with 13 home runs and 60 RBI.
Nate Hanson became the first Big Ten player to claim First-Team All-Big Ten as a third baseman in back-to-back seasons since 2002-03. Hanson was also the third player in school history to claim the honors in multiple seasons at third base.
In 2007, Minnesota's left-side of the infield received All-Big Ten honors as third baseman Nate Hanson received First-Team honors and shortstop Dan Lyons was named to the third team. Hanson became the third Gopher third baseman since 2001 to collect First-Team All-Big Ten honors, while Lyons was third Minnesota shortstop to take home All-Big Ten honors in that span.
The Golden Gophers tied a then school record in 2009 with a fielding percentage of .971, and have perennially finished in the top half of the Big Ten Conference in fielding percentage. Last year's .971 fielding clip was sixth in the Big Ten. Minnesota has had a .960 or better fielding percentage in 25 of the last 28 seasons. Fornasiere has played a big part in the success of Golden Gopher infielders. He is also familiar to Golden Gopher fans as the team's third base coach.
In 2004, Fornasiere took an infield with three new starters, and helped guide the five different starting infielders (Mike Mee & Andy Hunter - first base, Luke MacLean - second base, Matt Fornasiere - shortstop, David Hrncirik - third base) to a collective .972 fielding percentage. All four regular infielders received all-conference honors, as Hunter was named First-Team All-Big Ten, and Fornasiere, Hrncirik and MacLean were named Third-Team All-Big Ten.
In 2005, Fornasiere helped Hrncirik, who was a walk-on freshman in 2002, complete his development into a First-Team All-Big Ten third baseman. Minnesota also had its third infielder in as many years drafted at the time as Fornasiere's son Matt was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 12th round in the 2005 Major League Draft. In 2003, two of the infielders Fornasiere worked with were picked in the Major League draft, as Appert was drafted in the sixth round of the Major League Draft by the Oakland Athletics, while Welch went in the 33rd round to the Texas Rangers.
Fornasiere has also recruited 11 players that have ended up playing Major League Baseball. Along with recruiting a high-level of proven talent to the program, Fornasiere has also had the knack of finding gems in the recruited walk-ons he has brought to the program. Two good examples include two-time First-Team All-Big Ten outfielder Matt Nohelty and 2005 First-Team All-Big Ten third-baseman David Hrncirik.
In addition to the on the field accomplishments, the Gophers have achieved in the classrom as well. Prior to 2010, Minnesota was the only baseball program in the nation to have a player named Academic All-American from 2004-09. The Gophers had 18 Academic All-Big Ten selections in 2015.
"Coach Rob" is a well-known baseball clinician, speaking annually at numerous state and national baseball clinics. He is also the longest tenured assistant baseball coach in the Big Ten Conference. Eighteen of the 30 years Fornasiere has coached for Minnesota, the team has finished either first or second in the regular season conference standings. The Golden Gophers have finished in first place in the regular season seven times (including divisional titles) and claimed seven Big Ten Tournament titles during his tenure. Fornasiere has coached in more than 1,700 games with the Golden Gophers, with the team winning at a .594 clip over that period.
Since Fornasiere, has been with the Golden Gophers, Minnesota has had 45 players named First-Team All-Big Ten and 18 All-Americans.
Fornasiere and his wife of 37 years, Ruth, are the parents of sons Andrew and Matthew, and daughter Katherine Ann. Matt played in the Cleveland Indians farm system after completing a three-year career with the Golden Gophers (2003-05). Matt and his wife, Ashley, have two sons, Calan and Case. Both Katie and Matt graduated from the University of Minnesota. Fornasiere and his wife, Ruth, reside in Maple Grove, Minn.