Alumnus combines education and baseball in role for Minnesota Twins
Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, Oles have at least one reason to root for the Minnesota Twins this season.
Anders Dzurak ’13 recently began working for the Minnesota Twins and its minor league affiliates as a rehab pitching coach. He works primarily with pitchers but also sees other position players through their long-term rehabilitation schedules.
Dzurak was a pitcher on the St. Olaf Baseball team from 2010 to 2013, going 16-13 over 47 appearances for the Oles. Dzurak knew immediately that St. Olaf was where he wanted to be when he first came to campus and met with the coaching staff. As is the case with many student-athletes on campus, Dzurak found a family among his teammates, and many of them remain his closest friends today.
“My time at St. Olaf was really impactful and it’s hard to imagine I would be in the same position today without it,” says Dzurak.
After graduating in 2013 with a degree in social studies education from St. Olaf, Dzurak worked as a substitute teacher in the Twin Cities area during the day, which allowed him to coach during nights and weekends. From there, former St. Olaf assistant coach Matt Karnas reached out to Dzurak, encouraging him to apply for an open assistant coaching position at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. “That led to me volunteering there for a year and discovering how much I love coaching at the collegiate level,” says Dzurak.
Two years later, St. Olaf head baseball coach Matt McDonald reached out to Dzurak to offer him a position as the pitching coach for the team.
“I was extremely excited about the opportunity and am tremendously grateful that he trusted me to run the pitching staff at such a young age and with so little experience,” says Dzurak.
After coaching at St. Olaf for two seasons, Dzurak left to begin a graduate program in Sport Performance and Leadership at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he also served as NSU’s pitching coach for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Not long after receiving his graduate degree, the Minnesota Twins reached out to Dzurak about filling the open position of rehab pitching coach.
“I grew up in the Minneapolis area and have been a Twins fan my entire life, which is what makes working for them now so special,” says Dzurak.
The position has him based at the Twins complex in Fort Myers, Florida, where the Twins conduct their spring training. He also travels across the country to help fill in for pitching coaches that work for the Twins’ minor league affiliates, and hopes to attend the team’s baseball academy in the Dominican Republic sometime this fall or winter.
While working with players through their rehabilitation process, Dzurak schedules and facilitates their on-field work, such as throwing, hitting, and practicing field positions. He also monitors their lifting and training programs to keep track of their overall workloads.
“A typical day consists of playing catch with multiple pitchers, hitting ground balls to infielders, and assisting hitters in the batting cages,” says Dzurak.
Dzurak primarily works with pitchers because they are more prone to long-term injuries requiring extensive rehab. He also collaborates with physical therapists and athletic trainers to create training programs that will help players transition to a level of play that hopefully exceeds their previous performance capabilities.
In his position with the Twins, Dzurak enjoys forming connections with players that extend outside the world of baseball throughout their often lengthy recovery processes. His favorite part of the position, however, is seeing players return to doing what they love.
The best part is when players complete their rehab and rejoin the rest of their teammates with full, unrestricted abilities. As much as I enjoy their company, I ultimately want to send them back to their team as quickly as possible.Anders Dzurak ’13
“The best part is when players complete their rehab and rejoin the rest of their teammates with full, unrestricted abilities,” says Dzurak. “As much as I enjoy their company, I ultimately want to send them back to their team as quickly as possible.”
Although Dzurak no longer teaches with his social studies education degree, he still finds those experiences to be helpful in his career. While on the path to become a teacher, Dzurak was able to interact with students from many different backgrounds. This taught him to appreciate the value that each individual can bring to a larger group. He uses these lessons now while working with players and staff who come from around the world.
Since starting his position with the Twins, Dzurak has had the opportunity to work with many talented players, including Akil Baddoo and Tyler Wells after they both underwent Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) surgery. Also known as a Tommy John surgery, this is a common surgery among baseball pitchers due to the strain on their elbows when throwing.
Baddoo and Wells have since been drafted in the Rule 5 Draft by the Detroit Tigers and the Baltimore Orioles, respectively, and have proven to be successful in their major league debuts this spring.
Dzurak is excited for the Twins season and is glad their minor league affiliates have resumed play after being shut down last spring. With all the hard work that the organizations have put in after having their seasons cancelled last year, Dzurak is thrilled they received approval to resume their regular seasons.
“This job is not something I ever considered even remotely possible, and it never gets old putting on a Twins hat every day for my job,” says Dzurak.