May 6, 2013
JT Canakes has seen action in 20 games this season, including 12 starts as one of the Golden Gophers' designated hitters. In that span, he's had 52 at bats, five runs batted in and scored six runs. During the annual Dairy Queen Classic, the fifth-year senior led the Gopher offense by tying a career-high three hits against Dartmouth. Here's a short question/answer session with the Eden Prairie, Minn., native.
Q: Describe your personal recruitment, especially with the strong Eden Prairie connection.
A: It started off with former player Kyle Geason who graduated last year. He played with me when I was a junior and he was a senior over at Eden Prairie High School. He had already decided that he was going to play for the University of Minnesota. I am guessing that Rob Fornasiere, our assistant coach, went out to our field to come check on him and I just happened to be playing at the same time. He must have just seen something in me during those games. Also the head coach of Eden Prairie, Mike Halloran, he played here and was a part of this program. Minnesota has always known what type of players they would be getting from Eden Prairie so the relationship has been going on like that for a while. I did not have anyone else from my year that came and played here for the Gophers, but during high school I had experience playing on the same team as Matt Halloran for one year. But Tony Skjefte, Jordan Smith, and Lance Thonvold I had never played with so it was kind of nice to get some new people that I had never met before into the program through Eden Prairie. I think it is really fun to continue tradition through the city.
Q: As a player perspective, what was your experience like during the Siebert Field opener?
The new stadium has been a recruitment tool the coaches had been using since before I had come here saying that it was perfect timing and Minnesota would have a brand new field. So to finally have it done and to be able to play a game was a big deal. I thought the snow was kind of cool, it made it more memorable- everyone will remember the opening game we played when it was snowing outside. It was unfortunate that we had to have delays and stops but all in all it was a good weekend and we played well.
Q: You are a kinesiology major. How has it been juggling a hard academic career with your baseball schedule?
A: Yeah it is a busy schedule. I actually graduated last semester, so I am now in graduate school here at the University of Minnesota. I am in my first semester so it's six credits for full time students, but I only have two classes and that's really nice. However, while I was in the undergraduate kinesiology department it was busy. I had to have good time management, I had to just make a schedule and pick a time when I would complete all of my work. I always knew coming in I wanted to do something medical or athletic related. I kind of went away from the athletic medicine and went more towards the strength training aspect of it. I have really enjoyed it so far and I am really enjoying my classes.
Q: What are your graduation or post season plans?
A: While I am in graduate school I plan to do miscellaneous jobs, maybe some athletic training here and there or doing diet and workout consulting. After that I would like to get into the business of high performance training, which is basically trying to get the best performance out of an athlete as you can get. With the graduate program a lot of students can get it down in a year or two by taking summer classes, but I may take a year and half because I have not decided if I want to take summer classes or not.
Q: The team is approaching the bottom half of the season. With playoffs coming up, being a senior what goals do you hope to accomplish for the rest of the year and the post-season?
A: Well goals for me specifically are to just do whatever I can do to help the team. But with senior year it has a little bit more weight to it so to go out with a Big Ten Championship would be unbelievable and just to see how far we can keep the run going would be a good memory to make.
Q: With Minnesota and Target Field being the host of the tournament this year, how important to you is getting to play in the Big Ten tournament?
A: Regardless of where the tournament is, although it is nice that it is home, we want to make the tournament. We were kind of disappointed in ourselves last year when we did not make the tournament. This year we have very high expectations. We want to not only make it to the tournament, but we also want to do very well in it and then even continue on from there. Because of how we played last year we have not really changed the mindset of how we are going to play, but just the feel in the locker room and on the field is more cohesive and we have more confidence. We feel like we are going to win every game and we show that we really want to be out there. At times last year, that was not always there, so it is definitely a really good mesh of people this year and we have been doing well.