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Gophers Coach Enters Hospice While Team Contends For Big Ten Title

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The University of Minnesota baseball team has enjoyed a remarkable season that could culminate with a Big 10 championship this weekend.

At the same time, they have had to endure. As Mike Max explains, they got news this week that changes your perspective in a big way.

On a day made for baseball, the Gophers practice. They're preparing to close out a conference championship, and it all seems like the best of times.

But in the midst of a successful campaign on the baseball field, the players and coaches were reminded Wednesday that there are things bigger than baseball. And that came right from their own baseball family.

Pitching coach Todd Oakes, diagnosed with Leukemia four years ago, has entered home hospice. He met with head coach John Anderson on Tuesday.

"He wants it to be about them, not him. That was his bigger concern, 'Don't worry about me.' I'm worried about the guys and want to make sure they're in a good frame of mind," Anderson said.

Todd Oakes, the Spring Grove native, husband and father of baseball playing boys. We profiled his story when he was first diagnosed.

"The biggest thing you learn how to do is just appreciate the little things in life," Oakes said at the time. "Whether it's a Christmas gathering, whether it's going out for a walk with your wife."

The impression on his players were in part what he learned from his own fight.

"Keep respecting his wishes which is just to play hard, never give up, never give in. That's all he talks about. That's all he's ever talked about," pitcher Matt Fiedler said.

And that's added to what they want to do this season. Not just for themselves, but for their coach who can't be with them.

"Hopefully we can go see him Sunday with the trophy and have a good time with him. Give him a little satisfaction in knowing that we did our job and we did it for him," pitcher Toby Anderson said.

Oakes is 55 years old and has been with the Gophers as the pitching coach for 18 years.

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