Gopher hurlers have some unfinished business this season

Photo courtesy U of M Athletics Joshua Culliver

There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2020-21 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players.

This week: Minnesota pitchers—senior Joshua Culliver and junior J.P. Massey

Pitching a full season is among the goals for Minnesota right-hand hurlers Joshua Culliver and J.P. Massey. The team’s only Blacks, they saw along with their teammates their 2020 season shut down shortly after it started because of the coronavirus.

Culliver recorded a save and two strikeouts. The Omaha, Neb. native later got redshirted due to injury. He is among the MLB preseason draft prospects.

Massey, a Chicago native, is among the 2021 MLB Draft prospects. He started three games last season and made five total appearances, finishing with a 1-1 record and 24 strikeouts.

“I think both Josh and I agree, we got some unfinished business,” declared Massey during a Zoom call with both players.

Reflecting on last season’s abrupt shutdown, Massey said, “It was very confusing and difficult going home on what the future was going to hold. It’s been difficult, a mental toll.”

Culliver spent the off-season recovering from his injury. “I had to get a surgery done, so this summer I was mainly focused on rehab and trying to stay healthy,” he pointed out.

Massey added that he was able to get some throwing in. “It was difficult not being able to play any live games this summer,” he continued. “I was fortunate enough to have a lot of minor league guys at home because there wasn’t any season. I was able to get some live outings with some pretty talented professional ballplayers.”

Photo courtesy U of M Athletics J.P. Massey

COVID-19 also impacted how the players attended school, mainly taking on-line classes. The young men said they adjusted to it and their degree goals are still on track.

“My GPA has been constantly rising,” reported Massey. “I’m in business and marketing, with a management minor. My first goal coming [to] school is to get my degree.”

Culliver added, “Because I redshirt, I decided to go another year.” He is studying construction management with a minor in real estate law. “My main goal is [to] work for a construction company as a project engineer or working in their accounting department. This school has helped me a lot in figuring out what I want to do as a person and a man. I know I made the right decision to come here and get a degree from here.”

“I talk pretty fast. I am moving toward the sales area,” admitted Massey. “If [playing] baseball not my route, I want to work for an organization or become an agent.”

Both players are committed to their faith and relied on it, saying it helped them through these uncertain and scary times.

“I don’t really fear when I’m outside,” said Culliver.

“As long as you follow [state health] guidelines and wear your masks,” added Massey. “You start to understand the virus a little bit more, and it is avoidable if you follow the guidelines.”

The 2021 Gopher baseball season is still being planned, but both Culliver and Massey have their personal and team goals in place. “We all have that common goal…to win a lot of ball games,” said Massey. “My only goal I’ll ever say is I want to go out there knowing that my teammates have confidence in me to win that ball game when I’m out there.”

“My personal goal is to get through the whole season and stay healthy,” said Culliver.

Bits and pieces

Each of the 12 WNBA clubs has a $1.3 million salary cap for the upcoming season.  Minnesota has 10 players under contract and has $452,000 in cap room. 

February 1 is the first day teams can sign players.

About Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at challman@spokesman-recorder.com

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