A Spring Training Tale of Two Sites

I really like having the Red Sox being just down the road a bit from where the Twins train. Sunday, I was able to spend the morning watching the Twins’ minor leaguers play intrasquad games (low A vs. high A on one field, AAA vs. AA on another field and “rookie” teams on yet a third field) and then drive 15 minutes east to watch the Twins take on the Red Sox at the Saux brand new JetBlue Park in the afternoon.

BJ Hermsen

It was great getting to watch fellow Iowan B.J Hermsen take the mound to start for the high A club against the lineup likely to be fielded by the Beloit Snappers, including uber-prospects Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario. Hermsen struck out both Rosario and Sano in the first inning, but Sano did get a measure of revenge with a double off of Hermsen later on, leading to a run.

Beloit manager Nelson Prada chats with Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano and Daniel Ortiz

Max Kepler hitting, Drew Butera catching

 

I also spent some time watching the older minor leaguers, where prospect Max Kepler and his AA team mates were taking on a AAA team filled with a number of players, such as Drew Butera, Mike Holliman and Casey Fien who were still in the Major League clubhouse up until just a few days ago.

I really didn’t pay attention to the scores and I didn’t stick around to see the games to their completion, but it was a lot of fun not only watching both games, but watching far more important observers, like General Manager Terry Ryan, who was also turning his attention back and forth between the fields.

The game with the Red Sox wasn’t so interesting, but it was good to see Chris Parmelee celebrate the news that he’s made the Big League roster to start the season by giving the Twins a brief 1-0 lead over the Sox with a towering home run to right field. Carl Pavano cruised through five innings of work before he started getting knocked around a bit in the sixth. Alex Burnett didn’t fare nearly as well in relief.

I thought I’d share a few pictures of the game, as well as a few I took of the new ballpark itself. In case you weren’t aware, JetBlue Park was built with the same dimensions as Fenway Park, right down to a “green monster” in left field.

JetBlue Park from behind home plate

Infield prospects James Beresford and Estarlin De Los Santos got their opportunities to play in front of the big crowd and the Big League coaches

Newcomer Sean Burroughs manned 1B for the Twins

The "Green Monster" at JetBlue Park

The view from atop JetBlue's green monster

JetBlue Park from the outside

 

Spring Training: Photos of the Twins Busting the Bucs

There are plenty of accounts elsewhere about the Twins’ win over the Pirates in Bradenton Thursday, so I’m not about to give yet another one. Suffice to say the Twins looked really good for the first five innings and then coasted to an 11-6 win.

At least Chris Parmelee isn't chewing tobacco at 1B

I was in the first row down the right field line for this game, in a position where I was glad every throw from third base to first baseman Chris Parmelee was on target, because anything that would have gotten by him would have been dangerously close to my nose. But neither overthrow nor line drive foul ball threatened my health and well being today.

Few of the Twins regulars made the trip up to Bradenton. We probably might as well start thinking of Parmelee as a regular, of course. In addition, Danny Valencia DH’d, Luke Hughes manned 3B and Ben Revere patroled CF. Otherwise, this was largely a team bound for Rochester or New Britain and looking to leave an impression on manager Ron Gardenhire and the other coaches. Some of them, most notably a couple guys named Brian, did just that.

Brian Dozier looked good at SS, but he impressed more with his HR

Dinkelman and Dozier both homered for the Twins, backing up Matt Maloney, who looked plenty good again while getting stretched out to three innings after largely pitching an inning at a time so far this spring.

Ben Revere showed his speed, of course, and prospect Angel Morales, who was called up for a spot start in RF, not only showed off his speed but also the cannon attached to his right shoulder.

Former Twin Garrett Jones signed some autographs before the game

All in all, just a very enjoyable day at the ballpark watching some young players show their stuff.

Friday, I’m going to catch a few innings of the Orioles vs Tigers game in Sarasota before heading south to Ft. Myers.

– JC

 

If Twins prospect Angel Morales felt like he was being observed by more than just his manager, maybe he had good reason to feel that way

 

A Saturday in Winter

I know I shouldn’t complain about getting half a foot of snow yesterday here in Cedar Rapids, given that we’ve had remarkably moderate weather this winter. But I’ve never let the fact that I shouldn’t complain about something keep me from doing exactly that, so yeah… I’m complaining about the weather. I just really have come to dislike winter weather.

It does, however, force me to think about how we’re getting closer to spring every day and that means we’re getting closer to baseball.

I really had nothing of any significance to accomplish this weekend, except to get a haircut. For follically challenged men like myself, that task chews up all of about five minutes at the local Cost Cutters, so I still had plenty of time on my hands to kill on this cold, white Saturday.

Einstein

One thing I am doing this weekend, however, is dog-sitting for my son and his wife. This, so far, amounts primarily to watching TV at their home instead of mine. Yes, of course it also involves trying to remember to feed their dog, Einstein, a couple of times a day and letting him outside to deal with nature’s calls.

“Einey” regarded me a bit suspiciously when I first arrived, but within a few minutes, he apparently decided I wasn’t much of a threat, because he found his way to my lap. This did make it a challenge to draft this post, but it turns out he’s plenty happy to simply lay next to me and share the couch.

This is the first time I’ve been trusted to watch Einstein and my goal is to just not screw it up, on the off chance that it turns out this is some kind of test to see if I’m trustworthy enough to be a grandpa at some point.

On the way over to Einstein’s house, I did drive past Veterans Memorial Stadium, the summer home of our Cedar Rapids Kernels, and took a few pictures.

I’ll share some of them here, but I actually took them to send to Craig Wieczorkiewicz , of The Midwest League Traveler blog.  He sent out a Tweet a while back asking for winter pictures of Midwest League stadiums, so I thought today would be a good day to snap a couple and send them to him.

Craig visited all 16 MWL ballparks last season and blogged about it at mwltraveler.com. He’s also writing a book about the experience. It’s a great idea and I’m quite jealous that I didn’t think of it first.

In any event, if you’re interested in minor league baseball at all, you should check out the blog and read back through his posts about his travels last summer. He’s also well worth a “follow” @MWLtraveler on Twitter.

I can’t really decide for myself whether these pictures are depressing, with all the snow on the ballpark, or if they offer a hopeful reminder that there WILL be baseball again, soon. I’ll let you decide that question for yourselves.

– JC

This time of year, there apparently isn't a need to rush to get the parking lot at Veterans Stadium plowed out after several inches of snowfall.

A bit closer look at the home of the Kernels from across the parking lot

I had hoped someone would be in the Kernels office so I could pick up a couple books of tickets for this season and maybe get some decent interior pictures, but no luck. The best I could do was to get a few shots through the external gate.

Yes, this is an exterior picture of Veterans Memorial Stadium, not an excerpt from the movie "Patton"

The tank is actually a part of the Veterans Memorial that gives Veterans Memorial Stadium its name

So long Vets Stadium... I'll be back before you know it.

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A Winner And Some Losers

It may have taken longer than we anticipated, but we finally have a winner in our 1991 Anniversary DVD contest. “Rick” may not have been correct with his prediction of when Joe Nathan would get his record-breaking save, but who cares? It may never happen at this rate. So based on the random selection process we posted Friday morning, Rick is our winner.

Rick, we need you to email us your mailing address so we can pass it along to the good folks who are sponsoring these contests and get your DVDs in the mail to you. Click the “Contact Us” link up above for our email address.

I wish I would have seen a few more winners at the ballgame Friday night, but it was not to be.

I was seated way out down the RF line tonight so the pictures aren’t terrific, but they aren’t nearly as bad as the Twins’ brand of baseball, so I’m not going to apologize too much.

This was the line to get in Target Field at 3 pm... 2 hours before gates opened

My line, around to the back of TF for Gate 14 wasn't nearly as long

The 1991 World Series Champions

Ozzie enjoys a chat with some of the 1991 Twins

Looking for Twins highlights? This is pretty much it. Kubel homered in the 1st inning

Yes, I did get my bobblehead and yes, I opened it.

That’s it for tonight, folks.

Looking forward to a bit better game Saturday night.

– JC

Snappers Photos, Part Deux

I took the afternoon off from the office to sneak out to the ballpark and take in the final game of the Snappers/Kernels series today and it was well worth the penalty I’ll pay of having more work to do tomorrow.

The Kernels won the game 5-4 in 11 innings. Given the heat and the fact that I went straight from the office and thus was still in “business casual” attire, I really didn’t need a four hour extra innings game, but it certainly was entertaining.

Lefty Ryan O’Rourke threw six solid innings for the Snappers but was left with a no decision as his team mates committed four errors behind him (OK, technically only three were committed behind him since O’Rourke committed one of those errors himself when he lobbed a pick off throw to 1B well down the RF line).

The latter stages had everything a fan could want to see in a game. Strategic bunting, clutch hitting, diving catches, good baserunning, controversial umpiring, and a 9th inning manager ejection (the Kernels manager, Brent Del Chiaro… though Snapper manager Nelson Prada and 1B coach Tommy Watkins came close to getting early showers one play later, following what could best be referred to as a pretty obvious “make up” call).

In the end, the Kernels won the game on a walk-off HR down the LF line. If it was fair, it wasn’t by much, but it was called fair and that’s all that matters I guess.

Here are a few pictures of some of today’s action… I didn’t take as many as Sunday, but we have a few shots of guys who didn’t play in Sunday’s game.

Infielder Adam Bryant gets low at 2B

OF Wang-Wei Lin gets some swings in during a catcher's visit to the mound

Coach Tommy Watkins with instructions to Lin at 1B

Starting pitcher Ryan O'Rourke delivers

Catcher Tobias Streich glances toward the Kernels dugout

Relief pitcher Michael Tonkin delivers and SS Daniel Santana breaks to cover 3B as the hitter squares to bunt

Lefty reliever Jose Gonzalez strides toward home

Reliever Nelvin Fuentes gave up the game winning HR, though he and the Snappers weren't convinced it was a fair ball

Pinch runner Derek McCallum scored the tying run in the top of the 9th on a wild pitch as Tobias Streich gives him the "get down" sign

 

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Down On The Farm: Snappers Photos

The Beloit Snappers, Midwest League (low Class A) affiliate of the Twins, are making their last appearance of the season in Cedar Rapids this week with games Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and Monday afternoon, and as I’m prone to doing, I’ve been out at the ballpark getting a look-see at the young future Twins.

Snappers in the field in Cedar Rapids

I saw plenty of offense out of some of the Snappers on Saturday night and Iowan BJ Hermsen survived some early struggles to squeak out a “Quality Start” in front of a packed house that included a fair number of Hermsen fans. Beloit won the game 10-5.

Sunday, the results were less favorable for the Snappers, as they gave up three runs in the first inning to the Kernels en route to a 6-1 loss.

But enough about the games. The purpose of this post is simply to give Twins fans a glance at the names and faces of a few of the young players who are toiling in the farm system as they work toward their dreams of playing Major League baseball. They work hard and know they face long odds… and they deserve some recognition. – JC

Jhonatan Arias donned the catchers gear on Sunday

DH Michael Gonzales was the picture of intensity at the plate

SS Andy Leer takes his lead off 1B

LF Derek McCallum gets his cuts

RF Daniel Ortiz went deep with this swing... but foul

3B Jairo Perez rips a line drive

OF/1B Lance Ray checks signs before getting in the batters box

Starting pitcher Adrian Salcedo strides toward home

CF Daniel Santana watches a pitch sail wide of the plate

Relief pitcher Sam Spangler delivers to the plate

2B Reggie Williams readies on defense

 

Twins Caption Contest!

Still a couple of hours to take part in the Twins Caption Contest – you have until 2 pm Central time to submit your best caption in 105 characters or less! Click the picture below and you’ll be taken straight to the contest application!

photo courtesy of Minnesota Twins

THAT’S How Ya Do It!

After attending the debacle Friday night and then reading that Francisco Liriano had been scratched from his Saturday start in favor of Anthony Swarzak, who would be facing off with Jared Weaver, I can’t say I was optimistic about the possibility of witnessing a Twins win Saturday night.

Silly me.

OF COURSE this would be the circumstance under which the wins would put things together to pull out a W!

There was a great crowd on hand, reminding me a bit of the enthusiasm I felt during so many games last season. I think we all knew that the Twins were likely to have trouble scoring much off of Weaver, who’s had a pretty strong year, thus far. But Swarzak was every bit Weaver’s equal as the two pitchers matched one another almost pitch for pitch from one inning to the next.

Toward the 7th inning, Swarzak gave up a couple of pretty deep, well hit balls that found the gloves of Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young. In fact, the defense tonight was very solid all night long. It hasn’t been often that we’ve been able to say that this year.

With one out in the 8th inning Peter Bourjos laced a line drive down the left field line for a double to ruin Swarzak’s no-hitter bid and the crowd immediately rose to give the young pitcher a huge standing ovation. As we sat down, the three 20-something women sitting to my left asked me why everyone had been cheering… they had no idea Swarzak had a no-hitter going. I’m not sure they even knew what a no-hitter was, to be honest. Ah well.

The guy to my right almost flipped out when Matt Capps entered the game to start the 9th inning on the mound for the Twins… but he stood and gave Capps an ovation with the rest of us after his hitless inning. Alex Burnett followed with a clean inning of relief, himself. (Where have THESE versions of those two pitchers been lately… and can we keep them a while?)

And then it was the bottom of the 10th. Lefty reliever Hisanori Takahashi took over for Weaver and struck Jason Kubel out looking before giving up a solid line drive single to Justin Morneau. Jason Repko ran for Morneau and righty Kevin Jepson took the mound for the Angels. Michael Cuddyer grounded a single past the SS in to left field and Delmon Young lined a single to center field. Unfortunately, Repko couldn’t get a jump on that single because there was a real chance it could have been snagged by the shortstop (I thought he was going to catch it from where I sat).

A lot of people around me were upset that Repko didn’t score, but to be honest, he HAD to make sure that ball got through. The LAST thing you want is to have him get doubled off 2B to end that inning. He still got to 3B and the bases were loaded with just one out and Danny Valencia at the plate.

The Angels used five infielders, all playing in on the grass, and just two outfielders, but it didn’t matter. Valencia lifted a fly ball to RF and right off the bat, everyone knew it was deep enough to score Repko from 3B. Torii Hunter jogged back a bit but he knew it didn’t matter whether he got to it or not and it landed well beyond Hunter. Game over.

The Twins celebrated on the field and you could just tell this was a win that made everyone feel good… players and fans alike.

I didn’t take as many pictures this trip as I usually do at games and many I did take are far from high quality, but I thought I would post a few anyway… hope you enjoy!

– JC

Pregame fraternization between Torii, Denard and Cuddy, as well as Justin and Russell Branyan

TC Bear fires tshirts in to the crowd

Anthony Swarzak was very, very good

Jared Weaver was also very, very good

Torii Hunter went hitless... but looked good doing it

An appreciative crowd gives Swarzak a standing ovation after he gives up the first Angels hit in the 8th inning

The Angels play a 5 man infield when the Twins loaded the bases in the 10th

Danny Valencia strokes a deep fly ball to right field...

... and the Twins celebrate a much-needed win!

Harmon Killebrew Day

photo courtesy of Jim Mone/ASSOCIATED PRESS

There are a great many Twins fans heading into downtown to join with others to commemorate the life of Harmon Killebrew. Here’s all the details if you want to join Knuckleballs’ own JimCrikket and the rest. My advice is to get there as early as possible.

What: Public memorial

When: 7:10 p.m. today (broadcast coverage on FSN will begin at 6:00 pm)

Where: Target Field (gates open at 6)

Scheduled speakers: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau

What fans should know: Event is free and open to everyone. General admission seating. Concession stands will be open. All attendees will receive a commemorative program.

Due to the solemnity of the day, Governor Dayton has declared today to be Harmon Killebrew Day here in Minnesota. I thought I would share his declaration here in it’s entirety.

Whereas:

Minnesota Twins legend and Hall of Famer, Harmon Clayton Killebrew, passed away on May 17, 2011, at the age of 74 after a courageous battle with esophageal cancer; and

Whereas:

Mr. Killebrew’s Hall-of-Fame career began when he was signed out of the ball fields of Payette, Idaho by the Washington Senators, who moved to Minnesota in 1961 and became the Minnesota Twins; and

Whereas:

Thanks to quick hands and extraordinary upper-body strength, Mr. Killebrew developed into one of the most feared power hitters of all time, amassing a staggering 573 home runs throughout his career; and

Whereas:

Mr. Killebrew dominated the game, racking up 11 all-star game appearances, named American League Most Valuable Player in 1969, and, in 1965 led the Minnesota Twins to their first World Series appearance; and

Whereas:

After retiring, Mr. Killebrew’s illustrious career was recognized by Major League Baseball, when he was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1984; and

Whereas:

Much of Mr. Killebrew’s retirement was devoted to his foundation, the Harmon Killebrew Foundation, where he worked with the Minnesota Twin Community Fund and the Miracle League to bring the joy of baseball to children; and

Whereas:

Mr. Killebrew’s life should serve as an inspiration to everyone, and his work on the baseball diamond and through his foundation will never be forgotten; and

Whereas:

Today the citizens of Minnesota join with Mr. Killebrew’s surviving family members, his many friends, and his passionate legion of fans in celebrating the man an all he accomplished throughout his life, on an off the diamond.

Now, Therefore, I, Mark Dayton, Governor of Minnesota, do hereby proclaim May 26, 2011 to be:

Harmon Killebrew Day

 

That was a truly amazing and moving service. If you were unable to watch it or attend, FSN has it divided into clips for you watch. I encourage you to take the opportunity.

Harmon Killebrew Memorial

Hi all, JC here… I agree with Babs, if you weren’t able to watch the Memorial, I highly recommend it. I was there and just thought I’d post a handful of pictures below.

Team mates, current players and other MLB & Twins execs along the 3rd base line, and members of the Killebrew family down the 1st base line

 

Rod Carew and wife Rhonda with (L to R) Michael Cuddyer, Jim Kaat, Henry Aaron

Harmon Killebrew's Autograph on the RCF wall

Jim "Mudcat" Grant sing's "What A Wonderful World", accompanied by Ric Oliva

The newly painted Killebrew watertower in behind Minnie and Paul

Killebrew team mate Jim Kaat speaks, with co-emcee Dick Bremer looking on

The Twins Tower with Killebrew's image

Killebrew's Legacy, kids who've benefitted from Miracle Field program circled the bases for Killer's 574th HR

Jim Thome shows us where Killebrew's "longest HR at Met Stadium" would have landed at Target Field.

Rest In Peace #3

 

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Snappers Extra-Inning Win in Photos

Like their parent club, the Beloit Snappers played extra innings Monday. Unlike the Twins, however, the Snappers actually managed to get some hits with runners in scoring position and thus avoided getting swept out of Cedar Rapids with a 5-4 win over the Kernels. Thunderstorms during the morning threatened to delay the Snappers “getaway”, but the two teams got started on time and completed their 10-inning game in just under three hours.

The 20+ mph wind that blew in from right-center field most of the game made for some interesting (and entertaining) defensive plays, but rather than just write about this game, I thought I might try to tell the story with pictures and even a short video.

Snappers shortstop Daniel Santana got things going for Beloit by lining the second pitch of the game over the left-centerfield wall for a leadoff home run.

Daniel Santana homers to lead off the first inning

Leftfielder Nate Roberts collected three hits, scored a run and stole two bases on the day, then added a sacrifice bunt to move Andrew Leer in to scoring position in the top of the 10th inning.

Nate Roberts leads off in front of Kernels SS Jean Almanzar

Also contributing three hits to the Snappers attack was centerfielder Wang-Wei Lin, who put the Snappers ahead 3-0 in the 5th inning with an RBI single to right field.

Wang-Wei Lin moves away from Kernels 1B Brandon Decker

Starting pitcher Adrian Salcedo didn’t give up a hit until Kernel 1B Brandon Decker reached on an infield single in the 4th inning (on a backhand play that Snapper 2B Derek McCallum would likely admit he should have made). Salcedo was regularly hitting 93 mph on the stadium radar gun and was dominating the Kernels through 6 innings.

Adrian Salcedo was all but untouchable for 6 innings

The wheels fell off for Salcedo in the 7th inning, however (or more accurately, they fell off for the Snapper defense behind him), as the Kernels batted around, scoring four runs (only two earned) to tie the score at 4-4. Clinton Dempster relieved Salcedo with bases loaded and two out and gave up an RBI single and a sac fly before getting the final out of the inning.

Dempster was more effective over his remaining two innings of work, facing the minimum six hitters.

Clinton Dempster collected a blown save AND the win

That’s where the score remained until the top of the 10th inning when Leer let off with a single to left field, was moved to 2B by Roberts’ sacrifice bunt and on to 3B by Michael Gonzales’ second single of the day. Daniel Ortiz’s groundout to second base was deep enough to easily score Leer.

All that remained was for relief pitcher Matt Hauser to nail down the save. He made it a bit interesting, giving up a walk and a single (almost makes it seem like the Twins actually teach their closers to do that, doesn’t it?), before getting the final Kernels out to finish off the Snappers’ 5-4 victory.

Matt Hauser talks things over with catcher Matt Parker

The Snappers make their next (and final) trip to Cedar Rapids for a three-game series July 30-Aug 1, but both teams are off to good starts in the first half of the season and have real shots at the Midwest League post-season.

– JC