MINNEAPOLIS -- Even if it lasted just 13 games, this spring was something special for Otto Grimm.
“It was a dream come true, for sure,” he said. “It was relieving and reassuring to see all my hard work pay off through all the ups and downs of my career.”
Grimm, a 2018 Bemidji High School graduate, donned the maroon and gold for the Minnesota baseball team and debuted at the Division I level this season. Though the year was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, Grimm’s redshirt freshman season was still one for the books.
“It’s just fun to be out there competing with the guys,” Grimm said. “It’s challenging because things don’t always go the way you want, and you’ve got to find a way to bounce back and fight through the adversity.”
Grimm hit .400 over 13 appearances, the second-best batting average on the team, while journeying up and down the lineup. He hit leadoff in four of his eight starts, picked up his first hit against Oregon in the season opener and clubbed his first home run against Utah on March 8.
“It was just more of getting comfortable at that level, not pressing too much and trying to do too much,” Grimm said of his success at the plate. “When I figured out the mental side of it, the physical side took care of itself. I kind of got in a groove, and I feel confident going into next season.”
Grimm first came into the U of M with an ACL tear, and after receiving clearance from the injury, he hurt his back during practice shortly before the start of the regular season. He redshirted during the Gophers’ 29-27 campaign in 2019, and he finally played again during the summer ball season with the Wellington Heat of the Jayhawk League in Kansas.
“I hadn’t played competitively in over a year,” Grimm said. “It was kind of weird, like I forgot how to play. Once I got going, it was like riding a bike.”
Minnesota finished 8-10 this season. Though Grimm enjoyed individual success, it wasn’t what the former Mr. Baseball finalist had hoped for.
“We had high expectations for ourselves,” Grimm said. “It seems like, in the team’s history, it takes a while for us to get rolling. I felt like we were just getting to that point. We were going on a little streak there, and things came to an end. The team (result) was a little disappointing, but it’s hard to really have a full read on that when you only play 20 games or whatever it was.”
The team was just days away from a three-game series against Texas Tech, a program that reached the College World Series in 2018 and 2019. On Feb. 22-24, Minnesota took one of three games from Texas Christian University, a program with CWS appearances in four straight years from 2014-17.
That’s the kind of competition Grimm expects at the Division I level.
“Seeing the best pitching in the country every time you go out there is tough as a hitter, but our coaching staff does a great job getting us prepared,” he said. “All the preparation we do in the cages makes pitchers we see on the weekends not as good as what we’re dealing with in practice.”
Grimm is back in Bemidji for now, staying on top of his online classes while keeping in shape for the possibility of summer ball.
And there’s a whole lot left to do at Minnesota, too.
“I think every year our goals are similar,” Grimm said. “We obviously want to get to Omaha and win a national championship. There are steps along the way, like winning the Big Ten, winning the Big Ten Tournament. Things you would expect a college team to want to accomplish.”