Thursday, January 20, 2011
Twins Winter Caravan
SethSpeaks.net Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2011 – The Handbook is now available for pre-order, so if you are interested in a copy (or copies) of the book, scroll down this page for details on the handbook and on how you can pre-order. Pre-order available through Friday. Also, I will be on The Jack Michaels Show this morning about 10:05 to talk Twins. Those of you in the Bismarck area can catch it on ESPN 710. Those in other areas of the country can click here to listen live.
Have you ever been to one of the Twins offseason events? The weather is frigid. Allegedly, here in northern Minnesota, the temperature when I wake up in the morning is going to be around 30 degrees below zero with a wind chill factor of 50 below. Seemingly the Twins send out their representatives into areas all around the Upper Midwest right during the winter’s most frigid, cold conditions. However, they get great turnouts because, frankly, Minnesotans are ready for baseball talk. Spring Training is now less than a month away. The Twins roster is pretty well set. Twins fans of all types are ready to talk baseball. Those of you that read blogs like this one know all the moves that have been made, but many fans don’t follow it quite that closely. In fact, many Twins probably didn’t know that JJ Hardy had been traded, or that the Twins let Orlando Hudson go. I’m sure everyone with any interest in the Twins knew about the signing of Tsuyoshi Nishioka and the re-signing of Jim Thome, but many fans just literally watch the games and go on with their lives. (part of me misses that! Not really!)
But the Twins Caravan goes all over the Upper Midwest and visits schools and nursing homes, hospitals and car dealerships, and at night, they go to major events bringing hundreds of fans out. Last night, I went to Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls, MN. First of all, what an incredible arena for high school hockey. When my daughter and I walked in, we watched a little of the Thief River Falls Prowlers high school hockey practice. Soon, we realized that Jeff Manship and Drew Butera were participating in the practice. I guess I should clarify; Drew Butera was participating. Manship was trying not to fall down. After a while, the team was all in a circle, and Butera gave a nice pep talk to the team, in part, thanking them for letting them play a bit. Now, I was a little bit slow, but knowing the event was supposed to start at 6:00 and not a lot of people were in the arena. Well, Engelstad has a huge conference room in the basement that fit the 500+ people that were there.
Let me side track just slightly here. I brought my 4 ½ year old daughter, Jozie, with me to this event. She loves the Twins. At times, I suppose I should feel bad. The poor girl has no chance. I mean, as she was turning four, in May, she knew the Twins lineup. I would say, “Joe” and she would shout, “Mauuuuerrrr!” I would say, “Justin” and should would say “Morneau.” I would say “Michaelllllllllll” and she says, “Cuddya!” I say, “Denard?” and she says, while raising her eyebrows up and down, “Span Man.” Thome, Young, Kubel. Slllooooowweeeyyyyy. We’re now working on Nishioka. At one point, my sister just shook her head and said, “Wow… maybe next on your list of things to do should be Letter Recognition, or Addition?” Of course, her favorite of all remains TC Bear.
So anyway, the two of us got there and guess what they had for their pre-caravan meal? You bet! They had nachos! And yes, I stuffed my face!
We sat down in the third row, sitting in front of the big TV screen. A bit later, TC Bear came in and started taking pictures with kids. Jozie wanted to go to him. She was talking all big and brave, and even noting how other kids were being scared of TC, probably because they don’t know him as well as she does. But when we got to the front of the line, and it was her turn… she clung to me, and we had to get our picture taking with TC together… which was fine.
Anyway, the show began with Kris Atteberry as host. He thanked everyone for coming out before announcing to the crowd that minutes before, the Twins had signed Carl Pavano for the next two years.
Aside – Pavano signed for two years and $16.5 million. Starting last June, when Pavano was working wonders for the Twins, discussions first started about an extension. I remember saying that I would offer Pavano two years and $18 million at that time and if he took it, great, it would be a fair deal. If he didn’t, let him go. Well, I said all offseason that I would rather have the draft picks than give Pavano a three year deal or too many dollars. So, in the end, when the Twins got him for two years and $16.5 million, I was clearly just fine with it.
The news got a large ovation from the crowd. He then introduced the Twins contingent; Jeff Manship, Drew Butera, Joe Vavra and Ron Gardenhire. He asked each a couple of questions before the crowd was able to ask questions. I have to say, when you see Gardy in this type of setting, you realize how perfect he is for that type of environment. He knows how to work the crowd. The man is hilarious. It is easy to see why he gets so much out of his players and why the players want to play for him. It’s easy to understand why Jim Thome wanted to sign with the Twins and why he took less to stay. It’s easy to see why Pavano wanted to come back. It’s all about Ron Gardenhire. As Joe Vavra said, “Gardy’s personality is infectagious.”
Atteberry announced that there would be just five more questions. Jozie raised her hand. Atteberry came over and said, “Young lady, what is your question?” I didn’t know what she was going to ask, or what would come out. With the microphone is in her face, she said, “I want to play with TC Bear.” Good question.
The Twins that were there signed several items and prize winners were drawn. After TC took a prize to a winner way in the back of the room, he came back to the front, but on the way, he gave Jozie a really big hug which made her smile and laugh and the look on her face was priceless. That alone made her night.
Following the program, the Twins contingent went to the back of the room where they signed autographs and took pictures with the people. As you know, Jeff Manship has been a participant in the SethSpeaks.net NFL “Expert” Pick panel for at least the last four years. He is a terrific guy. He and Drew Butera were willing to take this picture with Jozie (which from the response I’ve heard on Facebook and Twitter, primarily from the female population, is a pretty good picture?).
Again, the Twins Winter Caravan is wonderful on several levels. First, it’s an opportunity for people to meet and see first-hand the players and the manager and coaches that they see on FSN throughout the year. They get to see personalities and hear stories and jokes. They get to shake their hands in the autograph lines. They get to think about baseball even when temperatures are hovering around ten below zero. It’s a way to know that the season is close. The caravan will be traveling around the Upper Midwest next week as well leading up to Twins Fest weekend. There are a lot of reasons to be excited and optimistic about the Twins 2011 season and these types of events really help people get there!
So, thank you to the Twins that were in Thief River Falls and made the event a lot of fun.
Have you been to a caravan event yet? Will you? What are your thoughts and stories? If you have any questions or comments or want to share one of your experiences, please feel free to e-mail me or leave your comments here. (also click there is the pictures do not appear on this page.)