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MIAC Profiles of Excellence: Todd Mathison, St. Olaf College

floated rightby Rich Mies, CSN Mapping the MIAC Columnist

Confidence, both in oneself and in one’s teammates, is a key attribute of a successful athlete. This is particularly true for baseball pitchers, for whom every pitch is a battle with the batter that requires poise and the ability to throw strikes. That self-assurance has made Todd Mathison a key part of the success of the St. Olaf College team and is part of the reason he is one of the best all-around players in school history.

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floated left“Todd is a unique baseball player because he can impact the game in so many different areas,” stated Coach Matt McDonald. “He has been a dominant pitcher, hitter, base runner and defender in his time at St. Olaf. He is a quiet leader, and is confident on and off the baseball field. His confidence in himself and our team is contagious. Todd is blessed with the ability to compete. He wants the ball on the mound in pressure situations, or the big at bat. This is a vital quality to have in baseball and in life.”

He has been one of the winningest pitchers in St. Olaf history, despite an arm injury his sophomore year that kept him off the mound for the second half of the season. His 26 victories are believed to be the second-most in school history, one off the known school record. With the MIAC Playoffs and possibly the NCAA tourney ahead, Todd could move into the top spot by the time he graduates.

Todd also has become one of the most feared hitters in the MIAC. He was named the league’s co-Player of the Year last year, mainly on his performance at the plate, as he hit .471 in league play, with 19 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .618. He added a 3-1 pitching record, with an ERA of 2.90 and 25 strikeouts in 31 innings.

He has been named to the All-MIAC First Team each of his three seasons and he is expected to be named to the squad this year, as well. Todd was named to the All-Midwest Region First Team his freshman year and All-Region Second Team as a junior. His freshman season, Todd also was named Third Team All-American.

Todd grew up in Northfield, a city of just under 20,000, about 30 miles south of the Twin Cities. It is home to St. Olaf and Carleton College. He is the oldest of three. “My sister Megan is a sophomore at Winona State,” he said. “She played volleyball and soccer in high school. Jake is in eighth grade. He plays baseball, basketball and football.”

He attended Northfield High, where he played basketball, football and baseball. On the hard court, Todd played guard, both point and shooting. He played on the ninth-grade team and JV as a freshman, and he saw limited playing time on the varsity as well. The next year, Todd split time between the JV and varsity. His junior year, he was one of the Raiders’ top subs and took over as a starter his senior year. Northfield lost in the middle rounds of Section play in each of Todd’s seasons.

On the gridiron, Todd missed his sophomore season to injuries, suffering a broken wrist as the season started and then a broken ankle as he came back. He started at cornerback as a junior and took over at quarterback his senior year, as well as playing cornerback. “We were ranked No. 1 in the state, but lost to Sartell in the State semifinals, 14-9, and finished 12-1,” Todd recalled. He was named All-Conference and All-State. “That was my all-time favorite team in any sport to play on.” Todd added. “We started a lot of seniors, and had a phenomenal year.”

Todd played infield and pitched in baseball. He was on the JV as a ninth-grader and split time between the JV and varsity his sophomore year. He started at second base on the varsity as a junior, and led the team in batting. “We had three senior stud pitchers that year, so I didn’t pitch much,” he said.

floated rightHis senior year, Todd was the team’s ace, and played shortstop when not pitching. He was voted team Most Valuable Player, and was named All-Conference, as he led the league in strikeouts and ERA. Todd was named to the All-State team as well. He also played in the Lions’ All-Star series and the East-West Metro All-Star game.

He was named Northfield High’s Male Athlete of the Year for team sports as a senior.

Away from the playing fields, Todd was a member of the National Honor Society. He also was involved in RALIE. “That stands for Raider Activity Leaders Improving Enthusiasm,” he said. “It was made up of athletes and leaders of various activities. One of the things we did was hold a welcome for freshmen on their first day of high school, to help them adjust to things.”

He was selected to represent Northfield at Target 1AA, a leadership convention of student-athletes from around the region in which NHS competed. “They worked with us there, helping us develop leadership skills,” he said.

Todd also was active in the youth group at his church, and served on the church’s youth board.

In the summers, Todd played baseball in the American Legion and VFW organized leagues. He also played amateur ball for the Dundas Dukes in Minnesota’s “town team” baseball organization. He continued to play for the Dukes throughout his college summers. “We made it to the State Class B tourney in 2003 and 2008,” he said. “We were the runners-up in 2008.”

He was recruited by the University of Minnesota to play baseball, along with some smaller Division I schools. He also was recruited by many Division II and III schools for baseball and for football. “Most of the schools in the area talked to me about playing one sport or the other for them,” he said. “Most of the schools in the MIAC recruited me for both sports. My plan was to play both. I was very familiar with St. Olaf and I knew a lot of people there. Coach McDonald and Chris Meidt, who was the football coach then, were fine with me playing both sports, which was a big factor. I also liked the school’s academics, particularly the Math department. I pretty much made up my mind early in my senior year that I’d enroll at St. Olaf.”

floated leftIn the summer before he started college, Todd made an important decision. “I realized that baseball was my sport, and decided I wanted to give it all my effort,” he said. “So I decided not to play football in order to focus on baseball and academics.”

Todd had an exceptional season his freshman year. He posted a 9-0 record, with 53 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.40. In MIAC play, he went 5-0 and led the league in opponent’s batting average (.167), fewest hits allowed (18) and fewest runs allowed (one). He posted a league-record ERA of 0.00 and was third in base on balls issued (six). He helped the Oles to a 15-5 MIAC record and a second-place finish. Rain shortened the MIAC Playoffs to single elimination; the Oles captured the title by defeating Gustavus 6-4 and Hamline 3-2 to wrap up the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA tourney. They defeated Dominican (17-8) and Coe (8-2) before falling to Ripon (7-4) and UW-Steven’s Point (11-4) to close the season 30-10.

His sophomore season started strong, but by early April, Todd was experiencing pain when he threw. “I had a strained ulna lateral and could not throw,” he said. “By April 21, I was limited to playing DH.” Even in that limited role, Todd helped St. Olaf to a tie for the MIAC regular season title, with a 16-4 record. They defeated Saint John’s 4-3 and St. Thomas 4-2 but lost twice to St. Thomas to finish second in the MIAC Playoffs. They received an at-large berth in the NCAA tourney, where they lost to Ripon, bounced back to upend UW-Steven’s Point before falling to UW-Oshkosh to end the campaign with a 32-10 record.

floated leftLast spring, Todd’s arm was recovered and he pitched as well as played infield for the Oles. He finished among the league leaders in ERA (2.90), opponent’s batting average (.250), innings pitched (31) and strikeouts (25). Todd led the MIAC in called strikeouts (15) and fewest walks allowed (three). As a hitter, he ranked among the MIAC leaders in batting average (.471), hits (32), RBIs (19), and on-base percentage (.486) and shared the league’s MVP award with Hamline’s Dan Kaczrowski. The Oles finished second in the MIAC with a 16-4 record. They finished second in the MIAC Playoffs, beating Hamline and Gustavus but losing twice to St. Thomas and ended the year 28-12.

This year, the Oles finished second with a 14-6 record and were the second seed in the MIAC Playoffs. They defeated Hamline 11-3 in the first round, but lost to St. Thomas 4-2 in the second round. They bounced back to top Hamline 9-4 and then swept a pair from St. Thomas (19-1 and 8-0) to claim the championship and the MIAC’s berth in the upcoming NCAA tourney. It was only the second time a team came back through the loser’s bracket to win the MIAC Playoffs. In the 19-1 rout, Todd went 4-for-5 with eight RBIs (a record for an MIAC Playoff game). He added a solo homer in the final game. The Oles are 29-12, heading into the NCAA tourney.

Todd led the league’s pitchers in called strikeouts with 18, and ranked among the leaders in strikeouts, ERA and opponent’s batting average. He hit .323 in league play and .358 overall.

He has been active in the Student Athletic Advisory Board all four years. The group looks out for the well-being of student-athletes on campus and promotes support of Ole teams.

Todd has played intramural flag football, floor hockey and basketball. “My team won the championships in my junior year in football and basketball,” he stated. He has been on the practice squad that takes on the Ole varsity women’s basketball team.

He has been involved in FCO, the Fellowship of Christian Oles, his entire time at St Olaf. “It is kind of a spin-off of FCA,” he explained. “I have also been part of the Thursday Night Bible Studies and am a leader of Baseball Bible Studies, a group I helped form this year.”

This past January, Todd spent the month studying in the Caribbean. “I took a class called Literature in the Eastern Caribbean,” he said. “We visited Barbados, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago and read works written by authors from those countries.”

Todd is a Mathematics major with a minor in Statistics. He sports a 3.53 GPA and will graduate this spring. He is planning to start a career in insurance, hopefully as an underwriter. “I thought about becoming an Actuary,” he said. “I realized that would use my technical skills but I would not be using my people skills, so I looked into underwriting.”

For Todd, St. Olaf has been a great choice. “I knew coming in that I was getting a well-rounded education and a chance to compete in sports at a high level,” he said. “It has been all that I expected and then some. I love the community here, and the people are great. It has been great to play baseball for St. Olaf. Baseball has always been a huge part of my life. The main three things for me have been faith, family and baseball. I give thanks to God for everything I’ve done in baseball.”

[The photos are used courtesy of the St. Olaf College Sports Information Office.]

The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is widely respected as one of the premier conferences in nearly every sport competed in Division III. Year after year, the MIAC produces teams and individual student-athletes who excel in their given sport. At the same time, the MIAC schools maintain a reputation of commitment to academic excellence. This article is one in a series of spotlights on some of the young men and women who represent the league’s commitment to excellence, both in the classroom and athletics during the 2008-09 academic year.

This feature will be included in the “Profiles of Excellence 2008-2009″ book which will be available for order at RDM Publishing. It will feature profiles of student-athletes from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, written by CSN’s “Mapping the MIAC” columnist Rich Mies.