June 10, 2012
University of Minnesota junior TJ Oakes (Jordan, Minn.) has signed a contract and will officially join the Colorado Rockies organization Monday. Oakes was drafted earlier this week in the 11th round (348 pick overall).
"The Rockies were one of the teams that talked to me throughout this process so it wasn't a complete surprise, but it was exciting when they called my name," Oakes said. "Everyone has told me that their organization is a good fit for me and I'm happy to be included with the club. They took a chance on me, gave me this shot and I couldn't be more excited."
Oakes, a 6-foot, 5-inch right-handed pitcher, travels to Pasco, Wash., this week and will play with the Tri-City Dust Devils. A member of the Northwest League, Tri-City is the Rockies' Short-Season Class A affiliate, which starts its season on Friday and runs to September.
"Playing in the minors is going to be a different experience, but I'm probably a little more prepared for it than most people since my dad (Todd Oakes) was a minor league pitching coach when I was growing up (San Francisco Giants affiliates). I grew up around the ballpark and I have a little understanding of it. It's definitely going to be difficult to adjust right away but once you get into the rhythm and routine, make some friends, it's going to be a fun summer."
With his dad as the Gopher pitching coach, TJ will have another familiar connection with the Dust Devils. Tri-City's pitching coach, Dave Burba, was a former professional pitcher and was coached by Todd Oakes. Burba played professionally with five different teams, ending his career with the Giants in 2004. With the Oakes signing, it ends a 10-year run of a father-son connection on the Gopher baseball team. Rob Fornasiere's son, Matt, played from 2003-05, and followed by Tyler Oakes (2006-09) and TJ Oakes (2010-12).
Oakes completed his junior year in 2012 and was awarded First Team All-Big Ten honors. A Third Team All-Big Ten his sophomore and freshman seasons, Oakes finished his career as a three-time All-Big Ten honoree. In 14 starts for the Golden Gophers this year, Oakes held a 7-3 record and a 2.31 earned run average. Holding a sub 2.00 ERA a majority of the season, Oakes lowered his ERA every year he was with the Gophers (3.62 as a freshman, 3.26 his sophomore year). Named the team's pitcher of the year, he led the Big Ten Conference in strikeouts looking (27), third in overall strikeouts (78), fourth in ERA and innings pitched (97.1). Named to the College Baseball Hall of Fame Watch List, Oakes received Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors in a 1-0 win over UW-Milwaukee in just his second start of the season. Pitching two of the Gophers' three complete games this year, Minnesota was 9-5 when he was on the mound.
"It was an honor and privilege to put on a Gopher baseball uniform the last three years and be a part of the history and tradition," Oakes said. "I have memories that I will cherish for a lifetime and got to know some great teammates and coaches. It was a difficult decision to surpass my senior year. I've been a part of the Gopher family for 13 years, growing up with the team and then being fortunate enough to play at Minnesota. It was difficult to not pitch as a senior, but this opportunity with the Rockies is one that I couldn't pass up. I'm definitely going to miss the program and wish them the best of luck in the future."
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