He broke his ankle, tore abdominal muscles, and went under the knife at separate times for shoulder, wrist and ankle surgery.
Right now, near the home dugout before a recent Brainerd Area Lunkers game, he is pointing to a spot in the ankle where titanium screws prohibit full movement.
Shocking, then, that he doesn't feel his body betrayed him. That he isn't bitter that his body didn't hold up long enough for him to realize a dream.
"Maybe I wasn't meant to be a player," Shane Gunderson says. "Maybe I was meant to be a coach."
Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers assistant coach Shane Gunderson coached first base in a game this season. The Faribault native was a first-team All-American at the University of Minnesota and played five seasons in the Twins' organization. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey
Gunderson, an assistant coach with the Lunkers, was drafted by the Twins in the sixth round in 1995 after a dominant season with the Minnesota Gophers as he earned All-Big Ten first-team, Big Ten Player of the Year, Big Ten Tournament MVP and first-team All-American honors.
But his road to the majors was derailed by one health setback after another. He played five seasons in the Twins' organization, reaching Class AA New Britain before retiring in 2000 at the age of 27.
"I was hurt the majority of the time," Gunderson said. "It takes about 2,000 minor league at-bats before you are prepared to play in the big leagues. Normally that is about four to five years. That six-year span that I played, from the '95 season through the 2000 season, I only had about 1,200 at-bats."
He now thinks maybe that was all part of a master plan. His baseball career was blessed. He got to play for John Anderson and Rob Fornasiere at the U of M. Gunderson studied how Anderson built relationships with players and how Fornasiere taught baseball skills.
Team: Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers assistant coach
College: Received bachelor's degree in deaf studies with a minor in coaching from the University of Minnesota in 2007.
Occupation: Graduate assistant coach at Bemidji State University, pursuing master's degree in sports studies.
Gunderson played for John Russell, current manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, while he was in the minors.
"I was fortunate to have those guys as mentors," Gunderson said. "Hopefully I can give kids the same experiences that they gave me."
Gunderson's experience as a former collegiate star and minor-leaguer gives him an in with Lunkers players. He's played against Major League All-Stars like Vladimir Guerrero and gone on 16-hour minor league bus trips through the South with no air conditioning.
"I think they understand that I have been through minor league baseball," Gunderson said. "So that gives me some credibility when I talk about how you have to go about business everyday and how you never know who is watching.
"But I still think you have to build relationships with them. They have to trust what you are telling them, that you are not trying to screw them. My history does help a little bit that I was somewhat successful at the Division-I level and professionally a little bit."
Gunderson has been an assistant coach at Bemidji State for two years. His route to the Lunkers was fortuitous.
Tim Murphy, the police chief in Longville, had a son in one of Gunderson's baseball camps. Murphy was a partner of Lunkers owner Joel Sutherland's brother. Gunderson called Sutherland. Then he talked to manager Ryan Levendoski.
This summer Gunderson is working with, among others, current Gopher standouts Michael Kvasnicka and Justin Gominsky, two players he has no doubt will be playing professionally someday.
Gunderson is currently finishing his master's degree in sports studies at BSU while he coaches. He wants to stay at Bemidji for one more year and then pursue his dream of being a college head coach. If he can't do that, he might look at coaching jobs in the minor leagues.
"I'd love to someday be the coach at the University of Minnesota," Gunderson said. "But you have to be a head coach and you have to pay your dues. So that's some years down the road."
Until then, he will have fun paying those dues. He will build relationships and push young men toward their goals. Because he has the experience, the knowledge, the work ethic ... and the titanium screws.
"I've been through some difficult times," he said. "It's not the end of the world if bad things happen to you. Because you can come back and there are always other avenues in life."
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