Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Twins Fest '07
Good Morning everyone! Well, I have been away from blogging for almost five days now. I should feel bad about that, but the fact that I was able to spend the time at Twins Fest makes me feel not quite so bad about it. I had a great time again, as I did last year. It was fun to be able to meet a couple of the players in person. Today, I am going to give some of my thoughts on Twins Fest 2007. I know. I read many other bloggers who just don't get into the idea of Twins Fest of Cubs Fest or Cardinals Fest. I don't get it. I personally think that this type of event is exactly what a team needs to do before training camp to get people's interest. The idea of Twins Fest is not to impress the bloggers or those of us who are into deep statistical analysis. Twins Fest is for Twins fans. Period. No matter what level of fan-dom you have, Twins Fest has something for you. And really, those statistical types are going to follow the team no matter what. The idea is to keep the interest of new fans, young fans and casual fans. Whatever the goal, it worked as over 35,000 people showed up at Twins Fest this year.
If you were there, I think it was pretty easy to tell that things were much more crowded in 2007 than they were a year ago. I think the amazing 2006 season had a lot to do with that. However, I also believe that the fact that the Twins now have some major star power doesn't hurt either. The Twins have a two-time Cy Young Award winner in Johan Santana. They have the reigning AL MVP in Justin Morneau. They also have the reigning AL Batting champ in Joe Mauer. Torii Hunter remains a star as he still wins gold glove awards and is great to listen to in an interview. Joe Nathan is baseball's best closer. Young stars like Matt Garza, Alexi Casilla and Glen Perkins all made their big league debuts. Pat Neshek dominated AAA and the big leagues all while developing a world-wide audience because of his website. At the minor league signing station, there were the likes of Kevin Slowey, David Winfree and Matt Tolbert with former first-round picks Denard Span and Trevor Plouffe. And there are Hall of Famers like Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and Paul Molitor in attendance. Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson are around. Terry Ryan even walks around talking to people. Fans come out because they get a real opportunity to get up close and personal with stars, former, current and future. They can shake their hands and wish them well. They can say thank you for the work that these players all put in during the season and in the offseason to give us, as fans, the great show that we get to watch 162 times (or more) each year!
Yes, I am a blogger. Sometimes I overanalyze a game, or a trade or a signing. But in the end, I am just a huge baseball fan, and a huge Twins fan. That's why Twins Fest is so great to me. For me, it is cool to get the autographs that I get, but it isn't for the autograph itself. To me, having the autograph is about the memory. It is about the hand shake and the 30 seconds that you get to converse with a player. From now on, I can take a look at a signature on a baseball, a baseball card or another memento, and I can remember when I got it and the conversation that I had with the player.
So that is enough background. You just want to know what I did when I was at Twins Fest. Before I start, I would like anyone who was at Twins Fest for any amount of time last weekend, to share a story or two in the Comments below. I really enjoy reading that kind of thing. Of course, you are also welcome to e-mail me as well.
We left my girlfriend's place at about 5:30. It was my sister, Heather, my girlfriend, Amber, and our daughter Jozie (so you know who I am referring to when I say "we"). The drive went well for the first 10 minutes. And then we hit 394. From there, it should take maybe 15 minutes. Stop-and-go traffic meant that we did not get to the Metrodome until about 7:30. That was frustrating. I had tickets at Will Call, so I ran ahead to the Will Call booth where they told me that I needed to get the Will Call tickets at Gate F. So, I ran over there, through some very cold wind. Then I ran back to Gate H where I met the others and we went in the Dome. Of course, I found out that I could have picked up the tickets at Gate H's booth too. That would have been nice to know. So, it didn't get off to a great start at all!
But that's what makes it so great. Once inside the Metrodome, and in its concourse, you can look through the doors and see the playing field, and all of the booths and displays. There are no longer any negative thoughts! We walked down the steps and onto the field. Really, we just kind of meandered through the crowd from one side to the other. Since I had a program and knew that Kevin Slowey was currently signing in the free minor league section, we went there and I pulled out some cards. The lines for the free autographs were much, much longer than last year. I was certain that the reason this particular line was so long was because of Slowey's status as a top pitching prospect. However, throughout the weekend the free line remained very long! Anyway, we got to the front of the line, and I was able to shake Slowey's hand and introduce myself. Again, it was just about a 20 second quick conversation, but it was cool. Slowey was very conversational and truly looked like he was enjoying this opportunity! Next up was Garrett Jones. He was nice, but pretty quiet this year. Then came Eli Tintor who came down from Hibbing for the event. Like Slowey, Eli has done a couple of Q&As for this site and has always been nice to me. The final two at the table were 25 year old catcher Korey Feiner, who came over from Wisconsin for this event, and David Shinskie, a tall, lanky, very hard throwing righty.
After that, we walked around a little bit more before heading back to the free minor league autographs. There was a new group of players there. When we got to the front of the long line, David Winfree was the first at the table. As I approached, he looked at me and said, "Hey, there is The Infamous!"
Shocked, I very eloquently said, "Huh?"
He said, "It's The Infamous Seth!"
I laughed, and then regaining some cool, I asked him if he thought he was heading to New Britain for the 2007 season. As he was saying, "Yeah, I think that makes the most sense," Matt Tolbert, who was sitting next to him said, "No way, Man, Rochester all the way."
I asked Tolbert if he was going to join him in Rochester, and he said, "That would be nice!"
Tolbert, who had a breakout year after being demoted from New Britain to Ft. Myers and kept hitting when he was quickly returned to New Britain, signed a 2006 Bowman Heritage card. After signing it, he was quick to point out just how thick the card was.
Errol Simonitsch was very quiet but signed kindly. Denard Span, who was added to the Twins 40 man roster after the season, was next. I have always heard about what a great guy he is and how great he is with fans, but he was very quiet. Not at all in a bad way. Ricky Barrett was also added to the Twins 40 man roster. I asked him how his arm was and he told me that it was 100%, stronger than ever.
As it was getting late, we decided to walk back toward the exit. On the way, we saw that the $10 line with Pat Neshek, Matt Guerrier and Boof Bonser in it was only about half full. So, I decided to dish out the money as I think that the Twins do a great job with the Twins Community Fund. Also, it would be good to talk to Neshek as he has done a lot for me and for this site. I walked through the line, and in behind me was Neshek's wife Stephanee and her family. I was about to turn around and say Hi, but as I was turning, she just said, "Hi Seth!" She is great! Her family is great! We just had a very nice chat for the 10 minutes or so that we were in line. When we got to the front, talked to Pat just a little bit, but it was cool. Guerrier was very quiet and Bonser seemed almost upset about something, or ready for the session to be done.
And with that, we pretty much called it a day and headed out.
Well, the plan was to get going by about 9:30, so that we could be at the Metrodome by 10:15 to hear Pat Neshek and Matt Garza on the radio (KSTP-1500, the new Twins flagship radio station after 45 years with WCCO). Didn't quite happen, but we did get there to hear the final response. We were close. So as not to bore you with every deal, I may skip some details, like just walking around looking at stuff.
One of the first things that we did is took Jozie to get her picture taken with TC Bear. That was very cool. We got several pictures of the two of them. She got an autographed picture of TC and he even signed her Twins one-sie! Later, Jozie could be seen on the Dome's Big Screen thanks to Camera Corner!
Back to the autograph reporting, we headed back down to the minor league area. The line was even longer on this morning. Most of the people at the table were players that we had seen the previous night, so my wanting to go back was met with some hesitance. I just said that I really needed to go and shake the hand of Trevor Plouffe. Also, I've got about 25 of his rookie cards, so might as well get a couple signed, right?
So we finally got to the front of the line and I introduced myself to Trevor Plouffe, the Twins top pick in 2004. We talked for about a minute or two and you will see why in the coming weeks. Also at the table were Matt Tolbert and Justin Arneson, a native of Fergus Falls, MN. I had to ask Arneson if he ever went yard in Perham (my hometown). He told me that he had, including a home run that went over a building out in left field. I jokingly asked if any of them were off of me! Then I remembered that I am old! One thing that is certain that the Twins do a nice job of keeping the Minnesota natives in their organization active in these types of events. Among the minor leaguers there for the weekend were Arneson, Mark Dolenc, Toby Gardenhire, Eli Tintor and Cole DeVries. Pat Neshek said that he was part of the 'free' autographs for three years. Glen Perkins was last year.
Anyway, David Winfree was just sitting at the end of the table with the group. I had to go up to him after going through the line and ask him one question. So I did. I asked, "OK, I have to ask... is "Infamous" a positive thing? I mean, if you look it up in the dictionary, it is a negative term. I mean, Jesse James was infamous."
Winfree right away said that it was definitely meant as a positive. he said that he frequents the site and especially enjoyed Kyle Waldrop's domination in our NFL "Expert" Pick Panel. I thought that was pretty cool... and I told him that he needs to be part of the picks next year and try to beat him.
After that group, we kind of took a bit of a break and grabbed some food and sat in the chairs by the Fox Sports North area where they were showing World Series highlights from 1987. That never gets old!
On the way back to the minor league area, we walked through some of the collectable booth areas. In the middle of all of the cards, pictures and autographs was the Gameday Magazine booth. In it was none other than The Twins Geek! It was good to see John again and talk for just a couple of minutes. He is now a big wig with Gameday and deservedly so. They put out a Twins Fest version and included a free sheet with pictures of all of the minor leaguers so that people had something for them to sign. Gameday is an excellent magazine that you can buy outside of the Metrodome before Twins games!
Finally, we had to head back to the minor league area because Kevin Slowey was signing again. As long as the line was, it really did go quite quickly. There was a gentleman and his son (probably about 7 years old) waiting in line. The father didn't really know anything about the players in the line, so I told him some about Slowey, Ricky Barrett and David Shinskie. When we got up to the front of the line, the boy was handing Slowey a baseball and asked him what the highlight of his season was. Slowey seemed genuinely excited to answer the question and mentioned the game he pitched against Cuba in Havana to win the Olympic Qualifying Tournament for the United States. But then Slowey asked the boy what his highlight was. He also took a second to show the boy his two-seem fastball grip. It was all just very impressive. The Twins are an organization that finds things like 'character' to be very important. There are several great examples of this in the Twins organization, but Kevin Slowey really impressed me with how he interacted with the fans. He really just seems like a guy who gets it.
On the way out, I decided to stand in the $5 line that had Matt Garza in it. I mean, I have several of his rookie cards, and I had also bought an 8x11 photo of him (with four successive pitchers of his delivery) on ebay, so I figured I could hand over another $5! Garza was nice and actually signed two items although they clearly say you're only supposed to get one. In the same line was Tim Laudner, he of the Buck-Ninety fame in the 1987 World Series. He was wearing his championship ring and it was monstrous. Finally, former Twins 20 game winner, and Minnesota native, Dave Goltz signed a baseball for me.
That was really it for Day 2, and I was pretty certain that it would be the end of my Twins Fest 2007.
However, I had two complimentary tickets in my possession, so I called up my brother and asked him if he would be interested in going for just two hours on Sunday morning. I'm glad he said yes. So, we got to the Dome about 10:00, just before the gates opened. The lines were very long at Gates F and H. Finally, each Gate opened, but only two gates at each Gate were opened. It took more than 15 minutes to get inside. Not a big deal until you remember that it was three degrees below zero out there.
Anyway, once we got in, we just walked around the down's floor. He had never been to Twins Fest, so I thought it would be good to just walk around and see what was there. After a quick walk through, we got in line for the Twins clubhouse tour. It started with a presentation in the Twins dugout. It was followed by a walk up the steps, past the dining area and into the clubhouse. When you walk in, Ron Gardenhire's office is to the right. You turn left and you see the locker room. You see all of the coaches on the inside wall. And then each player has a small locker, maybe three feet wide and the same deep. The lockers are not big. The locker room is the smallest in Major League baseball. There are a few TVs and a big table, but that is about it. There is an exercise room with a couple of treadmills and free weights, but that is it. We also walked up to the press box and learned what all takes place there. Did you know that mlb.com requires six places in the press box to complete all that they do?
The tour was over, and we walked around the perimeter again. We stopped in and looked at the drawings for the Twins new outdoor stadium. Of course, that brings up the question... what happens with Twins Fest when the Twins are playing outdoors? Will they still be able to do it in the Metrodome? If not, then where?
We knew we were on a quicker time frame, so we walked through the middle, spent some time at the Hall of Fame display and other places. Finally, we walked behind where the minor leaguers were signing. I put my head around the corner and just then David Winfree looked over and said, "Oh hey Seth! Are you taking off today?" Trevor Plouffe looked over and said Hi as well. Winfree told me that he had been on my site the night before. Last Thursday (my most recent posting), I posted a bullet point about Towny Townsend, a youth coach in the Virginia Beach area who has fought off cancer twice, but now it is back for a third time. Townsend coached Michael Cuddyer, David Wright and the Upton Brothers. Winfree informed me that Townsend was his coach when he was 11 years old. I can't believe I missed that. But anyway, I wished them well and we left the area. We walked over to the KSTP radio area and sat and listened to sessions with Joe Nathan and the hilarious Torii Hunter. I know, I have questioned the Twins decision to pick up his option, but when it comes to giving great interviews, no one is better than Torii.
It was noon when Torii finished, and with that, our two hours were up. We left, and that became the end of Seth's 2007 Twins Fest.
Again, it was an absolute blast for me. I truly enjoyed every bit of it. I will try to get some pictures up if I'm able to make them smaller. I will also try to scan and post the pictures of some of the autographs that I was able to get. So, check back throughout the day to see if there have been any updates. Again, leave your Twins Fest stories in the Comments below.
By the way, Aaron Gleeman posted his choices for Twins prospects #11-15 yesterday.
And with that, I am going to call it a day! I must now sleep! Check back throughout the day to see if I am able to add some pictures or post some scans of any autographs I got. Have a wonderful day!|
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