May 26, 2006
by Kyle McRae
It's easy to look at the numbers and see that this has been the best season of Chris Minaker's career. The senior shortstop and All-American candidate has had a year to remember. He has led the team, posted career-best numbers and is among the Pac-10 leaders in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.355), home runs (11) and RBI (64).
He's also been pretty good on defense, making just one error in the club's last 26 contests and leading the Pac-10 with 183 assists.
He's had plenty of big games with three or more hits 11 times and three or more RBI on 10 occasions. He hit a pair of two-out solo homers and then singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth and scored the game-winning run against California in a 3-2 win over the Golden Bears on May 5.
He's had big moments, too. He hit his second career grandslam to lead the Cardinal to a 13-9 win over Texas on February 20, had game-winning singles at California on March 4 and against Pacific on April 10, and hit key homers in recent wins at UCLA and versus Santa Clara.
He's had hit streaks with three strings of 10 or more games in which he has hit safely, including his current 10-game run.
He's been durable by playing every inning of every game at shortstop and extending his consecutive games started streak to 150.
"I always thought I had the capability to be a great college baseball player, but I really hadn't proven that to anyone," said Minaker when asked about his senior season. "I was really unsatisfied with that. I wanted the chance to come back and show the type of player that I could be and should have been all along."
Minaker, who is working on a Master's degree in Sociology, has had a satisfying season on the field. But this has not only been the best season of his life, it's also been the best year and there are a few reasons why.
"I've enjoyed school, wonderful relationships and a great season," said Minaker. "I'm so happy for the opportunity to be a senior. It's just been an incredible year, and I've enjoyed every bit of it."
A devout Christian, he claims that this year's group of guys is closer-knit than any he has played with during his Stanford career. He hopes that the leadership he and fellow seniors John Hester, Chris Lewis and Matt Manship have provided has played a part in creating that type of culture among this year's club.
"I've relished the opportunity to get to know my teammates on an individual level and really be a person they can turn to when they just need someone to talk to or a bit of advice," explains Minaker.
"The life things are really the most important," he continues. "We all enjoy baseball but each individual on this team has such a rich life outside of baseball. It's wonderful to get to know them as teammates and help them navigate through some of the tough times that can come up during college when you are learning a lot about yourself and others."
Minaker hopes that he can look back at the Stanford Baseball program in the future and know he had a part of creating what he sees.
"We've worked hard to make everyone feel a part of what's going on and to minimize conflict as much as possible, and it's made it an enjoyable year," explains Minaker. "We hope we have laid groundwork for this type of culture to continue for future teams. We have a lot of young kids on this club that have the notion that Stanford Baseball is a tight-knit group that's going to get along well, and that should serve them well in the future."
"I think I will feel a sense of pride in whatever happens with the Stanford Baseball program down the road," concludes Minaker. "I'm excited to see what's going to happen with this group of guys as they mature as baseball players and people."
If they turn out anything like him, he'll be very excited.