As teammates at OU, Kenny Gajewski and the late Ryan Minor won the 1994 College World Series. Playing with Minor was a memorable, meaningful experience for Gajewski that produced lessons for his coaching career at OSU.
Kenny Gajewksi and his Oklahoma baseball teammates frequently lined up outside the Lloyd Noble Center 90 minutes before games.
Two items were must-haves on those winter days: signs and hard hats.
“We had to fight to get seats,” Gajewski said. “At that time Lloyd Noble was rocking. We called ourselves ‘Ryan’s miners.’ So we all wore these hard hats like miners. We held signs. We were on ESPN. They had always flashed up to the baseball team. Showed us there every game.”
Ryan Minor, the 6-foot-7 two-sport star who was the 1995 Big 8 Conference basketball player of the year and helped propel OU to a 1994 College World Series championship as a first baseman, died at 49 on December 22 after a battle with colon cancer.
Gajewski, Oklahoma State’s softball coach, was a pitcher on that title-winning OU team. The Sooners’ undefeated postseason run that year culminated in a 13-5 win against Georgia Tech.
Thirty years later, Gajewski still coaches on a lesson he learned from Minor.
“I tell these girls all the time, nobody really cares how good you were here,” Gajewski said. “They really just care how you treated them.”
Despite Minor’s myriad athletic accomplishments, Gajewski said, Minor wasn’t untouchable. He interacted with kids who idolized him and respected his teammates who worked to be like him. If you went to the bars with Minor, Gajewski recalled, you were getting one of the free drinks sent his way. If you asked Minor for an autograph, you got a signature and a smile.
It’s no surprise Minor’s teammates worked themselves into a frenzy to watch him play basketball.
“Ryan was kind of the dude you just get behind,” Gajewski said. “Like he’s a giant. You hear people talking he was their hero. Well, he was probably a hero of ours too, when you look back at that.”
A California native, Gajewski moved to Oklahoma in 2016 to become OSU’s softball coach. He has led the Cowgirls to four consecutive College World Series. That, too, can be traced in part to Minor.
“The reason I’m still here in this state — what made me fall in love with Oklahoma — is the people. And he was part of the people,” Gajewski said.