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College baseball: UWS's Fairbanks is in position for pro hopes

Tom Fairbanks hit 14 home runs and knocked in 61 RBIs in 35 games this season for Wisconsin-Superior's baseball team. (UWS photo)

Tom Fairbanks spent Friday driving to his parents’ home in Brainerd, Minn., where, for the most part, he will be living out of a duffel bag the next couple weeks.

The Wisconsin-Superior senior is between tryouts with major-league baseball teams and hopes to be taken in the upcoming draft.

That goal was aided Friday when he became the first UWS player to be named first-team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for myself and the program,” Fairbanks said.

A career .273 hitter his first three years with the Yellowjackets, the outfielder meteoretically raised the bar as a senior. He batted .439 (58-for-132) with 14 home runs, eight triples, seven doubles and 61 RBIs in 35 games as UWS went 17-18 and finished fifth in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

“This year, more so than the past, I focused on the mental side of the game and my routines,” Fairbanks said. “I approached every at-bat, every play in the field as the same. If something good happens, throw it away because it’s a new at-bat. Or if something bad happens, don’t let it snowball and take it on to the next play.”

First-year UWS head coach Nick Bursik said Fairbanks bought into the coaches’ system and put in the extra effort required to improve.

“There’s a reason why he might get a professional opportunity to play baseball,” Bursik said. “He put in a lot of hard work and he’s reaping the benefits right now.

“He positioned himself this year by having the season that he did of making that (professional) dream a potential reality. It will be an exciting time.”

Fairbanks attended a Minnesota Twins tryout camp Tuesday at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, Minn. He said scouts from the Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins — all teams that saw him play during the season — were in attendance.

“They all knew who I was and what I could do,” he said. “That was nice because I felt like I didn’t need to prove myself. Overall, the workout went well for me.”

Fairbanks will attend another invitational-only Twins workout June 1 at Target Field and then will wait to hear if he’s taken during the Major League Baseball draft from June 5-7. Growing up a Twins fan in outstate Minnesota, Fairbanks can only imagine what the feeling would be like if the Twins came calling.

“Obviously I’d love to have the chance to play for any team, and it’s not too big of a deal but if I could get picked up by the Twins that would be an ultimate dream come true,” he said.

Independent teams also are eying Fairbanks in case his name doesn’t land on draft boards. Either way, a stellar performance as a senior has given him a chance.

“After this season, the door has opened up again and the dream is still alive,” he said. “I would assume I’m going to get another chance to play at a higher level, but I just have to wait and see what happens.”

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