This past June, University of Minnesota baseball pitching coach Todd Oakes was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. As Coach Oakes continues his fight against cancer, the Gopher baseball program has made temporary staff changes. Head coach John Anderson has announced that Director of Operations Lee Swenson will become an assistant coach with the team. Anderson has also announced that Todd's son and former Gopher, Tyler Oakes, will be the volunteer assistant and pitching coach. The program will assess the coaching responsibilities based on Todd's health in January, and will rejoin the Golden Gopher program at the appropriate time.
"Todd is fighting a big battle and needs to focus his time getting healthy," Anderson said. "When he's ready to return to the program, he will resume his role as our pitching coach and will continue to keep the Gopher pitchers as some of the best in the Big Ten. With Lee coming back as a coach and Tyler joining our staff, I cannot think of a smoother transition at this time. We will reevaluate Todd's health in January and will welcome him back when he feels the time is right."
Prior to his operations position, "Swede" was the Gophers' volunteer coach for 12 years and enters his 15th year with the program. Primarily working with the Gopher catchers, Swenson helped develop Gophers Kyle Knudson (drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 2010), Jake Elder (drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005) and Second-Team All-Big Ten catcher Jeff DeSchmidt. Prior to his Gopher ties, Swenson was a seventh-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1985, following a stellar career at Luther College. He was a two-time all-conference and all-region selection catcher. After a shoulder injury ended his professional playing career, he spent five years as an assistant coach at the University of North Dakota, his final season as the assistant head coach. Following his time with the Fighting Sioux, Swenson spent another five seasons as the pitching and catching coach at Luther College in Iowa.
A native of Jordan, Minn., Oakes pitched at the University of Minnesota from 2006-09. He was a member of the starting rotation during his sophomore season in 2007, compiling a 4-6 record in 14 starts. He worked mainly out of the bullpen his other three seasons with the Golden Gophers under the guidance of his father. Following the 2009 collegiate season, Oakes signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Rays organization. He made 14 appearances, including one start, for Princeton of the Appalachian League and compiled a 2-0 record with a 3.82 earned-run average. Oakes struck out 28 batters in 33 innings. Following his professional career, Oakes started his coaching career and was the pitching coach for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in 2010 and 2011 while pursuing a master's degree.
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