Seeing Nishioka in Action!

Obviously there is a LOT of attention being given to the Twins newest infielder, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, but Twins fans really don’t have much to SEE yet.  (If you are a Facebook user, I encourage you to go to his Fan Page). The Twins have even put out a little video heads up from the clubhouse but if you can’t wait for the televised spring training outings, here is some videos put together interviewing him on his home turf and even on the field.

Mike Pomeranz from Kare11 actually got to go to Japan to meet Nishioka and brought the video back to share with us in Minnesota. At least this should give all of us a better idea of what to expect when the boys hit Ft. Meyers!

Kare11 Interview, Part I:

Kare11 Interview, Part II:

And even a little extra attention on his new wife:

Obviously, this is just not quite the same as seeing him actually play with the rest of our team but let’s call it whetting the appetite!

Off-season Photo Farewell

With all the off-season signings that took several of our Twins to other teams, we thought we would take a moment to bid a fond farewell with a little photo montage of some of our memories of their time with the Twins.  Obviously, for those that had been with us longer, I had a LOT more time to take pics of them.

Since we won’t get to see their adorable faces (or other features of choice) on the field this spring, here’s an opportunity for you to get one last look of Guerrier, Crain, Fuentes, Rauch, Hardy, Punto, Hudson and Harris in Twins uniforms.  We really do with you all the best with your new teams guys!

Spring Training is Just Around the Corner

Happy New Year from Knuckleballs!

We all recognize that the Twins have work to do yet this off-season as the front office continues to mold a roster together and various players complete their rehab work as they continue efforts to overcome injuries of various degrees. Yet, as we toss out the 2010 calendars and put up those new 2011 versions, we’re reminded that baseball is coming!

Yes, the temperatures where most of us call home remain bone-chilling and it’s far too early to store away the snow shovels. But pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training NEXT MONTH so regardless of how cold it may feel outside, it’s time to get in the mood for baseball!

I’ve made the journey to Ft. Myers FL for the past few years to take in anywhere from a couple of days to a full week at the Twins’ Spring Training complex and I can’t recommend it strongly enough. I can’t speak for anyone else, but by March, there’s nothing quite like getting a jump on the warmer weather with a trip to the Florida Gulf Coast and when you can combine the warmer weather with getting a sneak peek at the upcoming year’s Twins roster, it just makes for a terrific trip.

But rather than try to describe what it’s like, I thought I’d dig in to my photobucket scrapbook and share this Spring Training Tour to make you feel warm all over… I hope you enjoy. – JC

2010 Twins Legends game! Pics GALORE!

 

So I had no plans to actually be at the ballpark this weekend. 

But after watching those 50 All-time Greatest Twins come out on Saturday, I got so nostalgic that I really, really wanted to see that Legends game on Sunday.  So many of those guys have such a tender place in my heart that seeing them all out on the field together just made me tear up.  I put out a rhetorical plea to the baseball gods on twitter and my angel of mercy stepped up to say, “sure, let’s go to the game!”  Kirsten and I had a blast at our very first baseball game together.

I also REALLY wanted to get one of those cool Fedoras they were handing out at the game but because I stayed at home late enough to get the lineups up in the gamechat, we just didn’t get to the park until after all the hats were gone.  There were a LOT of people there VERY early so I was clearly not the only person who wanted to see that game (or get the hat).  So, no Fedora for me.  For the record – if you were there and got a hat and you aren’t so much a hat person?  Consider sending it my way.  I would wear that sucker a LOT!  I’m just a hat person through and through.  Let me know if you have an extra sitting around not being used.

OK, down to the REAL point of the day!  Seeing all the Old Timers!!  There were many unforgettable moments during the short period of time they were all out there.  For the record, the Minnies beat the Pauls 5-1 but I couldn’t even tell you who was on which team!  I was just enjoying all the interplay on the field and watching pitchers throw and batters hit and old guys try to catch!  It was just soooooooo much fun.  But, if you ask anyone who was there, there was one moment that really seemed to speak to the reality of all these guys doing this in a brand new park.  Kent Hrbek isn’t quite the man he used to be – more specifically, he’s about TWICE the man he used to be.  So when he dove to grab a foul off 1B and his full weight into the turf… well, the turf said, “ouch.”

Even funnier was the fact that he just sat there and stared at the hole in the ground for at least 5 minutes while they filled the divot back in and put the grass back.  You couldn’t even tell where the hole was by the time they were done but even Hrbek couln’t believe how much dirt he had managed to displace.  The fun wasn’t over yet either, he only finally got up when a couple buddies picked him up by each arm.  I just about died laughing as he totally milked the whole situation.  Of course, I can’t believe that more of these guys didn’t hurt themselves because you could tell they were having so much fun that they were pushing themselves to extraordinary limits. 

Ron Washington (Rangers manager), actually put on a Twins uni, sat in the Twins dugout with all the guys as one of our 50 Greatest Twins.  And he REALLY played too – to the point where he tweaked a hamstring and had to hobble off the field.  We’ve certainly heard that a lot lately but you really don’t expect it from the opposing team’s manager.  He got himself all ready for the game with his own boys after that but I couldn’t believe how much these guys of all ages really put themselves out there.  Some of them really look like they could still play today – or like they just left.  I just got super happy with the camera and took lots and lots of pics.  I hope y’all really enjoy them!  I would love to hear if you have a favorite!

JC’s Twins/Angels Slideshow

Making the 4 and a half hour drive home after the game Saturday made for a late night, but I really have only myself to blame for feeling sluggish on Sunday. After all, nobody MADE me stay up to watch the final couple innings of the Bitch Sox and Royals game. Even then, that game finished a bit after 1:00 am so I could have gone to bed then instead of watching a movie and sorting the weekend’s photos for the next two hours.

Now that I’m watching the Sox and Royals play yet another close ballgame (and occasionally chuckling at Hawk and Frank Thomas constantly whining about Joe West and his umpiring crew), I figure I might as well post a slideshow of the pictures I took Friday and Saturday. If photos aren’t really your thing, then feel free not to spend the time necessary to glance over the 70+ pictures in the slideshow. We’ll have a GameChat posted in a couple of hours anyway.

About the photos… I discovered that night games viewed from the upper deck are not real conducive to getting good pictures (at least for someone with hands no steadier than mine), so there aren’t a lot of pictures from Friday and those I did include aren’t the highest quality. Ah well. Saturday’s vantage point was from Section L in the Legends Club so those came out much better, I thought. I hope you enjoy. – JC

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Minnesota Baseball Icon – TC BEAR!!

Ok, not everyone has the same kind of feelings about TC that I do but as KL can tell you, I’ve taken every opportunity I could over the years going WAAAAAY back to collect fun shots of TC and followed his career.  But I know there are a few of you like me out there – yes, you, Jamar, and you, Betsy, and I’m sure there are others.  So, this post is for you!

Most Knuckleballers figure out in about 5 minutes that I kind of have a thing for kids.  I also take my responsibilities for passing on the love of baseball to the next generations seriously!  That includes the love of TC BEAR!  So when he informed me, via Twitter (@TC_00 if you’re interested), that he would be a library near my house doing a reading for kids, I knew what to do!

Oh yeah, I took a few kids along too!  My youngest brother, Ben, my nephew Camden, and his mommy and Aunt Lexi and her friend ALL went to the library to see TC Bear.  It was a really wonderful event.  They read a great baseball story while TC and a couple volunteers acted it out.  I’ve always been amazed by the hitting and catching that TC accomplishes given his limitations but he goes ALL OUT when he’s acting out a story.  He really knows how to commit to an action and not only that, the kids loved every minute of it!  So did the adults quite frankly.  Thanks TC!  And of course, I had to take lots of pictures!

I have no idea what kind of schedule TC has to keep in addition to his game schedule but a) it’s heavy and b) he is a wonderful reflection on baseball and the Minnesota Twins.  I don’t care what your job is, when you do it THAT well?  You are an honorable person.. err.. Bear.  :D

Target Field fieldtrip!

So I got to see the game from a new vantage point on Sunday thanks to my friend Deb!  Honestly, I’ll take any excuse and suffer pretty much any indignity to get to a game when circumstances and/or finances allow.  That includes getting rear-ended by a knucklehead while parking at a meter (long story, no damage, no biggie).  That being said, it was a GREAT game!!

Of course, I had the same problem I always have.  I took too many pictures!  It took me forever to get them narrowed down and as it is, there are still too many to post individual pics.  Mostly I was trying to get as many shots of the new guys as I could for our media library purposes (at least that is the excuse I use).  But I hope you guys enjoy the record of the game in snapshots!

Here’s my favorite shot of the game though – Repko making that amazing catch in LF:

And for the record since I was at the game and it seems to be the thing everyone is talking about, Gardy absolutely did the right thing not sending Kev back out there in the 8th.  It’s not about pitch count – it’s about the fact that there was no way he was going to FINISH that game anyway.  He’d been erratic (fairly effectively so) but we all know that inning-ending double play for the 7th was a thing of beauty because Kevin NEEDED it there.  He was done.  I don’t know what game you were watching if you couldn’t see that but I’ll argue with you if you want – doesn’t make you right.  *GRIN*  I don’t ever want Kevin to WANT to come out of a game but the fans who were standing and cheering when he left the field at the end of 7 knew he wasn’t coming back.

I hope you all enjoy the slideshow and I can’t wait to get back! You just can’t get too much baseball at Target Field!

Do You Know Your Baseball Mustaches?

I’m still constantly amazed at how much attention Carl Pavano’s mustache gets. I mean, the guy is tied for the lead in wins in the American League after notching his 15th on Friday night but if you ask 10 people what they know about him, 9 will mention the mustache before anything else. (OK, if any of the 10 people you ask are Yankee fans, they might not mention the mustache first… but I’d be too busy snickering at their answer to care).

You think I’m wrong? Then let me ask you this: We started posting on this blog in March. Which post do you suppose has been the most-read? Was it one of our early pictorial posts from our first visits to Target Field? No. Was it the rant about Why the Yankees $uck? No. (But that was quite popular.. I wonder why.) It was the post where we sought to assign “blame” for Pavano’s mustache. And it’s not even close. That post was published weeks ago and it still gets a number of new hits every week.

So just to make the point that it’s not completely unheard of for a Major League ballplayer to have some hair above his lip, we’ve come up with the following “mustache quiz”.

Below are pictures of 12 Major League ballplayers, all of whom anyone claiming to be a serious baseball fan should have at least some casual knowledge of. Some of these are tougher to identify than others but there are no obscure one-year wonders here. They all had more than just 15 minutes of fame. In fact, among the choices, there are Hall of Famers and some guys who either arguably should be Hall of Famers or likely will be some day. We’re also showing you more than just the mustache… in fact you’ve pretty much got the lower half of each player’s face to go on. Let’s see how many you can name.

(The answers will be posted in the Comments section, but no peeking until you’re finished with the quiz!)

1

2

3

4

………………………….

5

6

7

8

………………………….

9

10

11

12

………………………….

How well do you know your mustaches?

0-1 players identified = Just what part of the players’ bodies are you focused on all game anyway?

2-3 players identified = Amateur. Apparently, you’ve only been watching baseball since 2008

4-6 players identified = Minor Leaguer. Not great, but at least you know your Hall of Fame mustaches.

7-9 players identified = Major Leaguer. Not perfect, but you know a Major League mustache when you see it!

10 players identified = Show off! Nobody likes the smartest kid in the class, yanno.

A Snapper Weekend

As I mentioned in my little essay about minor league baseball on Saturday, the Twins’ Midwest League (low-A) affiliate, the Beloit Snappers, are in Cedar Rapids taking on the Kernels in a four game series that runs through Tuesday. I’ve been to the first two games of the series, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon and I’m hoping to get out to the Tuesday game, as well. Monday’s game is a noon start so that would could be a bit iffy. (The blogging gig hasn’t blossomed to the point where I can quit my day job… yet.)

Saturday night, I was at the game with family and friends and friends of family, so the social aspect was fine. It was a pleasant enough evening, just a bit on the humid side, but nothing compared to what it was a week or so ago (or what it would be on Sunday). But the game itself was among the more difficult professional games to watch I’ve been to in a while.

Snapper/Kernel games are always a bit of a challenge for me, anyway. I’m a Kernels fan, of course, since they’re my hometown team. But when the Snappers come to town, I also look forward to seeing the Twins’ young prospects do well. So I root for the Kernels to win and the Beloit players to do well individually.

Pitcher Pedro Guerra and Danny Rams (1B)

Saturday night, the Kernels won the game 10-4, and it wasn’t among the better efforts I’ve seen out of the Snappers.  Top prospect Aaron Hicks, had a nice double down the LF line in the first inning and I got to see Pedro Guerra get his first start since being called up to Beloit. The Snappers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead through two innings. Guerra had a respectable debut, though he didn’t throw the ball particularly hard. He gave up a couple of runs in the third inning and left after giving up a walk and a double to the first two hitters he faced in the 5th.

That’s when the wheels fell off.

The Kernels sent 8 players to the plate in the 5th inning while taking a 7-5 lead in what had to be one of the longest half innings I’ve witnessed all year, purely in terms of time elapsed. Deliberate pitching, hitters stepping out of the box over and over, an error or two and a pitching change made that half inning drag on forever.

There aren’t many bright spots among your pitching staff in a 10-4 loss, but Nelvin Fuentes entered the game in the bottom of the 7th and went on to strike out 3 in two scoreless, hitless, innings to finish the night. It was also a tough night for the Snappers in the field as they ended up being charged with 5 errors on the game. Second baseman Reggie Williams had a nice night at the plate, going 2 of 4 with a double (that I thought should have been ruled a triple).

After doubling, Aaron Hicks takes his lead in front of Kernel SS Jon Karcich

But the great thing about baseball is that there’s always another game tomorrow. In this case, the Snappers bounced back from Saturday’s 10-4 loss to win Sunday afternoon 10-9. Yes, they did still have some pitching issues and yes, they did rack up 4 more errors, so it may not SEEM like it was much of an improvement, but I’ll guarantee it was a happier clubhouse after the game than the night before.

Pitcher Martire Garcia and 3B Reggie Williams

Danny Rams leads off behind Jeremy Cruz and in front of Jean Segura after a walk. He added a 2B and a HR in the game.

For the second straight game, Beloit manager Nelson Prada sent a pitcher to the mound for his first start as a Snapper. Sunday, it was Martire Garcia making his MWL debut. Garcia got off to a bit of a rocky start the first two innings but settled down and hung a couple of zeros on the board for the Kernels in the 3rd and 4th innings before calling it a day.

Nelson Prada's not telling the umpire a fish story

Of course, Prada didn’t see much of Garcia’s performance as he was tossed early in the bottom of the first inning for arguing with the home plate umpire over whether a Kernel double down the RF line was fair or foul. That left the team in the capable hands of Twins fans’ old friend Tommy Watkins, who’s the Snapper hitting coach.

And his hitters were doing their jobs at the plate (if not so much in the field). 1B Danny Rams and CF Aaron Hicks brought the big lumber. Rams went 2-3 with a walk, double and a home run. He also scored 3 runs. Hicks was 3-4 with two doubles.

Tommy Watkins signals pitches to his catcher

Once again, the pitchers struggled a bit, but lefty reliever Matt Tone managed to shut the Kernels out in his two innings (the 7th and 8th) of relief. That allowed Beloit the cushion to withstand a 9th inning rally and hang on to their 10-9 win.

It was one long, hot day at the ballpark for these guys following a very long game the night before.  We’re approaching mid-August. It’s hot. They’ve been playing baseball virtually every day since they reported for Spring Training over five months ago. But that didn’t stop Aaron Hicks and Steven Liddle from diving for balls in the outfield (Liddle also showed off his arm on an impressive throw to the plate) or Reggie Williams from diving for hard ground balls down the line at 3B or James Beresford and Derek McCallum from hanging tough on double plays at 2B. And Josmil Pinto caught a day game in oppressive heat and humidity after catching the game the night before. The execution isn’t perfect, but there’s no doubting their effort and that bodes well for the future of our favorite Major League team.

Finally, just because we’re all Tommy Watkins fans, one last picture of Tommy positioning his outfielders from the bench Saturday night. – JC

Don’t let a loss get in the way of a great celebration

Let’s just pretend the final 2 innings of Saturday’s game with the Rays never happened, shall we? If you’ll join me in that fantasy, I’ll share a couple of pictures from the day, starting with the game ball being delivered by a group of Navy Seals that came in from above.

The Strib’s Joe Christensen tweeted that he thought it was “idiotic”, and that “People came to see baseball, not potential catastrophes.” I dunno… I guess I just think this kind of thing over Independence Day weekend is very appropriate and I applaud the guys.

I also really enjoyed the messages shown on the big scoreboard during play stoppages from Minnesotans currently serving in the Middle East. I can only imagine the pride and emotion felt by their family members.

By the way, I realize not every one of us is as much of a Vikings fan as we are Twins fans, but I read this article over brunch at Hell’s Kitchen and I have to admit that reading about the surprise coach Brad Childress got while on the NFL-USO tour struck a chord. (Yes, it was a bit odd reading the print version of the StarTribune.)

Jim Thome crosses home plate and in to 10th place on the career HR list

As for the game, it was exciting to see JJ Hardy return, of course. Francisco Liriano threw a terrific game as he sat down one Ray hitter after another. But Jim Thome most certainly stole the show today.

Thome lined a home run just inside the LF foul pole (and barely above the wall) in his first at bat, to tie Harmon Killebrew’s mark of 573 home runs… and give the Twins a 1-0 lead in the second inning. But that was just a teaser. In his next plate appearance, Thome launched one in to the Rays’ bullpen for #574 and pass “Killer” in to sole possession of 10th place in the all-time Major League HR list.

Harmon could not be in attendance, but he recorded a message to Thome that was played on the big screen immediately after Thome circled the bases.

Harmon Killebrew delivers a congratulatory message to Thome

In his game story at the Strib, Christensen quoted Killebrew from a telephone conversation after Thome hit #574.

“Good for [Thome]; he’s a good guy,” Killebrew, who hit 559 homers in 21 years with the Twins franchise, said by telephone from Arizona. “I talked to Jim quite a bit when I was in spring training. I told him, ‘Don’t feel bad if you pass me up, because I passed up a lot of guys in my career.’ “

Is that class or what?

Thome and his team mates watch the message from Killebrew

The 23 foot wall in right center field is all that kept Thome from making it a 3-HR day as he doubled in the 9th inning with the ball hitting just below the top of the wall.

So, those of us at the game got to see history, Navy Seal skydivers, another top notch pitching performance by Liriano, the successful return of JJ Hardy (who barely missed a HR of his own when he doubled off the LCF wall in his first AB), another home run by Justin Morneau and a pretty darn good day at the plate by Joe Mauer.

Now, if only they had won the game! – JC