Baseball: Sam Steidl, a smaller-town Minnesota kid who loves everything Minnesota

Steidl was a standout at Jefferson High School, who had a .363 batting average in his career at the University of Minnesota and moved back to Alexandria in 2008.

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Sam Stiedl swings during a game for the University of Minnesota. Steidl is a Jefferson alum who played at the University of Minnesota from 2000-2004.
Contributed photo by Patrick Mader

Only half-jokingly, Sam Steidl warns his four young children that if they want any financial aid for their college education, their chances to receive it are better if they attend the University of Minnesota (U of MN) and cheer for the Gopher athletic teams. Sam’s father, uncles, and cousins attended the U of MN and Sam and his wife, Megan, are also alums and Golden Gopher sports have been an integral part of their lives.

Mike Steidl, Sam’s father, played baseball, football, and wrestled at Jefferson (now Alexandria) High School in Alexandria, Minnesota, located off Interstate 94 nearly midway between Minneapolis and Fargo, North Dakota. He was the state heavyweight wrestling champion in the single-class 1970 state tournament. Following graduation, Mike played linebacker on the U of MN football team and captained the 1973 team which had a 6-2 Big Ten record with future NFL players Tony Dungy, Keith Fahnhorst (St. Cloud), Matt Herkenhoff (Melrose), Rick Upchurch, and Steve Neils (St. Peter) on the roster. After coaching at Olivia, Minnesota for seven years, Mike and his wife, Terri, moved to Alexandria with a toddler named Sam, born in 1981.

Living in a recreational paradise, Sam says, “I grew up on Lake Ida swimming, fishing, waterskiing, and hunting. Sports were every season. I gravitated toward baseball at an early age because we could play it in spring and summer. Our family followed the Twins religiously. My grandfather coached the Miltona baseball team that my dad later played on. Baseball was number one.” Terri was also involved in baseball, throwing batting practice and being the person in the hotbox while Sam and his younger brother Tom tried to tag her out. A sister, Katy, rounds out the family.

Playing safety, linebacker, and some at running back, Sam played football throughout high school. The team went to the Prep Bowl in 1996 and 1998, his sophomore and senior years. While the high school baseball team was competitive, it was the Alexandria American Legion which had greater success, qualifying for the state tournament in 1998 and 1999. Following the 1998 season, assistant U of MN baseball coach Rob Fornasiere struck up a conversation with the 5’ 10” left-handed hitting and throwing athlete. Prior to this, only MIAC schools and a few Division II schools had contacted Sam. When the Gophers later offered Sam a scholarship, he was happy to accept it. “I always wanted to go to the ‘U’. We watched Gopher football highlights as a family and my dad played for football coach Murray Warmath. I didn’t really want to go anywhere else,” Sam says of his decision to head to the Twin Cities. Sam’s senior baseball year showed lots of promise: a .453 batting average, 24 runs batted in, and 10 stolen bases for the outfielder who also pitched.

Head U of MN baseball coach John Anderson (known as “14” to the players), gave Sam the option of playing as a true freshman or taking a redshirt year for the 2000 season. “I was really raw, but I felt welcomed right away. Luke Appert (Cottage Grove), Gary Dick, and Dave Roach are close friends to this day. We had great leadership with Jack Hannahan (St. Paul), Jason Kennedy (Minnetonka), and Scott Welch,” says Sam. There were some upper classmen battling for the open centerfield spot, so Sam chose to take a redshirt year. It proved to be a wise decision. That summer he played in the Northwoods League. “It helped out a ton. It was a wood bat league and there were good college pitchers. I came back with a lot of confidence.” Indeed, Sam started with a three-run scoring double his second at bat his freshman year and his season statistics in 2001 reveal the following: .401 batting average, 50 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases as the Gophers won the Big Ten Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Super Regional Tournament in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where they lost to LSU 10-9.


Batting leadoff, the speedy center fielder was an ignitor for the Gopher baseball team which then won three consecutive Big Ten Championships from 2002-04. “All I was trying to do was get on base because we had a phenomenal lineup. I had the ability to put the barrel on the ball or bunt the ball and use my speed to get to first base,” says Sam. It worked. He completed his collegiate career with a .363 batting average, 309 hits (second on the all-time Gopher list behind Robb Quinlan, the Gopher who had an 8-year MLB career, is the leader in numerous categories), 7th in Gopher baseball history with 198 runs scored, 5th in the record books with 63 stolen bases, and 9th all-time with 49 doubles. Sam was named First-Team All-Big Ten in 2003 and 2004. A favorite memory for Sam is when the team won the 2004 Dairy Queen Classic over Nebraska and Florida State—two ranked teams—and West Virginia. It was his senior year and the season continued on a roll as the team won both the conference title and Big Ten Tournament.

Graduating in 2004 with a communications degree, Sam was pleasantly surprised to be drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 12th round as the 358th overall pick. “I didn’t really have any contact with scouts and none with the Dodgers. I knew I was going to give it [professional baseball] a shot. I had broken my hand in the Big Ten Tournament sliding into third base and probably should have had surgery,” says Sam about his start in the Gulf Coast League. In 2005, he came back healthy and had a strong spring training but voluntarily retired in July with a .244 professional baseball batting average after playing at Ogden and Columbus, Rookie, and Class A organizations.

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Sam, Megan, and the Steidl family on a lake.
Contributed photo by Patrick Mader

That fall, Sam and Megan married, and he began his career at Allianz Life before they moved to Alexandria in 2008 when he entered the financial planning profession. He and his brother Tom (who joined Sam on the Gopher baseball roster in 2005 and batted .292 in 43 games his senioryear) both work at Ameriprise Financial Services. Megan is an early childhood and special education teacher in the Alexandria Public Schools and the couple has four children: Nora, Liv, Claire, and Jack. As with most young families, they are zipping about either coaching or watching their children’s activities.

Summarizing his personal story and athletic career, Sam says, “I’m a smaller-town Minnesota kid who loves everything Minnesota has to offer.” Now as long as the kids become Gophers, it should remain that way.

Patrick Mader, is the author of two books on Minnesota Olympians and currently the writer for the website which features Minnesota athletes in a variety of sports from a wide range of eras.

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