Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 31

Episode 31 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

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In Episode 31, PaulEric, and Cody get together to discuss Twins news leading up to Opening Day, the Twins 25-man roster, and they make their MLB predictions for each division, for the World Series, and for MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year.  Cody does a great job in his first full show on Talk to Contact, and while his segways are initially weak, he gets stronger as the episode goes along.  Along the way we’re joined by Bryan Craves, the Displaced Tigers Fan, to talk about Opening Day, Justin Verlander, and what might happen in the Twins’ first series of the year.  Brace yourself for more than 130 minutes of awesome.

 

 

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help Wilkin Ramirez get playing time).

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.
You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan.

– ERolfPleiss

 

Knuckleballs at the Ballpark with the Internet (bloggers)

Blogger Day with FSN (L to R: John Bonnes, Me, Bill Paker, Aaron Gleeman, Nick Nelson and the FSNorth Girls, Angie Avestruz and Kaylin Cockriel)

This past Thursday I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a baseball game at Target Field as the guest of Fox Sports North. In addition to myself, Twins bloggers Aaron Gleeman, John Bonnes, Nick Nelson, and Bill Parker were all in attendance to take in a day game against the Orioles and help Fox Sports promote their recently upgraded GameConnect service.*  A great big thank you to Becky Ross and Laura Beshire from Fox Sports for hosting us, and Robby Incmikoski for stopping by the suite to talk to us and share some of his humorous baseball stories from the recent past.

I brought my father along with me last Tuesday.  It was nice to bring him along as my guest, an opportunity for me to repay him for bringing me to so many Twins games in the Metrodome in the early/mid 90s when I was a young boy.  We arrived on the suite level (just above the Legends Club) about 40 minutes before the first pitch so we took some time to wander around and check out a part of Target Field where we had never been before.  The suites are arranged around the infield lines from first base, back to home plate and then over to third.  In addition to being numbered, the suites are named after Minnesota lakes. My father and enjoyed looking at the images of the lakes and reminiscing about fishing trips at Pelican Lake or a vacation up north at Kabetogama Lake, as we walked through the halls.  On the wall opposite the suites were pictures, poster sized baseball cards, and paintings of great Twins players and management dating all the way back to the origins of the Minnesota Twins franchise as the Washington Senators.  I knew the names of a lot of those Twins greats (Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Bob Allison) but my father could remember watching these guys at Met Stadium.

My father and Danny Gladden (who may or may not be my step-mom’s all-time baseball crush).

Eventually we made our way into the suite, introduced ourselves to the rest of the bloggers and their guests and settled in with a couple of beers and brats to take in a game of baseball.  In the past when I have attended games I am usually locked into the on field action.  I know who is on deck, who is warming up in the bullpen.  I like to watch the ways that players communicate with each other between plays and I am always trying to decipher the signs coming in from the dugout or third base coaches.  Up in the suite, hanging out with the bloggers I found myself spending time socializing and talking about baseball things not necessarily happening on the field below.  Numerous times I found myself searching the scoreboard to find out not just what the score was, but what inning it was and who was ahead.

After the game was over (the Twins bullpen ultimately coughed up the lead in the 8th) we joined the Twins Geek, Aaron Gleeman and Nick Nelson at the Fulton Tap Room for a beer (compliments of Mr. Gleeman) before heading back to the car and returning to Wisconsin.  All in all it was a really fun day and I cannot thank FSN enough for giving me a chance to spend a day doing the things I love: tweeting, watching baseball, and spending time with my father.

*The GameConnect webpage designed to be a tag-along feature to enhance your game watching experience.  It is updated live and provides a plethora of stats and has an integrated twitter feature to connect you to social media.  While you are not going to grab a bunch of advanced stats GameConnect gives you enough information to heighten your awareness of what is going on in the game.  The Twitter feed is a little clunky, but it searches Twitter and pulls in tons of tweets referencing the current game.  It is a great place to find new twitter followers and gives other Twins tweeters a chance to find you.  

-ERolfPleiss

Guest Post – Beloit Snappers Game Review

The following entry comes from one of our faithful Knuckleballs readers and regular GameChat participant Lecroy24fan.  Lecroy24fan chronicles his recent visit to the Twins Low Single-A Affiliate, the Beloit Snappers. Enjoy.

 

I was heading to  Elkhorn, WI this past weekend to visit my girlfriend, and we decided to head a half-hour down the road to Beloit on Saturday night to catch the Snappers game. Pohlman Field was really easy to find. When we arrived, it was posted that the game was moved up to 6:45 PM because of weather moving in. We walked up to the ticket booth and got Section C, Row 3, seats 1-2 for nine dollars apiece. Turns out the first Row was removed at some point, so we were to the right of home plate, second row. The section was covered by a net, so no foul balls could be had. I got to meet Chrissy Scaffidi, Director of Media and Community Relations, as well as PA Announcer extraordinaire

The game itself was a bad night for the Snappers, who were playing the Oakland A’s affiliate, the Burlington Bees. An 11-3 loss started ugly in the first and really got worse by the inning. SP Jason Wheeler just didn’t have it. He struggled through 5 innings, giving up seven runs, four of them earned. Tim Shibuya and Bart Carter also looked like they had nothing. Clint Dempster pitched the ninth and I felt like he was very dominant. Other than 2B Adam Bryant, who was 3 for 4 with a double and a triple, the bats were pretty quiet most of the night.  

Defensively, there were five errors. C Jario Rodriguez made a low throw trying to catch a runner stealing in the first, with the runner moving to third after the ball rolled into CF. JD Williams dropped a routine fly in RF and SS AJ Pettersen had a bad throw to first.

The player I was there to see was 3B Miguel Sano. He made two errors, giving him 24 on the season. The first one was on a routine grounder he never got his glove down and it went right under and into LF. His second error was on a throw that was about two feet over 1B Steven Liddle‘s head. I saw quite a few things about Sano that concern me. Every throw he makes is very high. Every grounder he stutter steps, which makes turning double plays impossible. He’s looks like he’s using an outfielders glove, which is causing him to have major issues getting the ball out of his glove. That could be leading to the stutter steps he takes. I don’t understand why these issues haven’t been fixed by now.

After the game, there was a fireworks show, which happened as planned. The rain started towards the end of the fireworks, so we headed for the exit. I would recommend Pohlman Field to anybody looking to catch a minor league game.

Thanks for sending in the post, Lecroy24fan!  During his post Lecroy24fan mentioned that he had the opportunity to meet Chrissy Scaffidi who, among the other things she does for the Snappers, recently started a blog detailing her adventures in the Minor Leagues.  Definitely an interesting read for anyone interested in some behind-the-scenes action in the Midwest League. If you have a guest post idea of your own feel free to email one of us Knuckleballers or reach out to us in one of our GameChats and we will be more than happy to give you an audience.

-ERolfPleiss

Minor (League) Thoughts

Yes, I know, most of my thoughts these days can only be described as “minor” in nature. But I’m going to share a few of them with you, anyway.

My home town Cedar Rapids Kernels announced their 2012 schedule this week. The first thing I checked was to see how many home series the Kernels have with the Twins’ Midwest League affiliate, the Beloit Snappers. I was happy to see the Snappers will be coming to Cedar Rapids for three series next year… May 2-4, June 22-24, and  August 25-28. The May series is a mid-week series but the June and August series are weekend series.

I’m hopeful that some of the Twins’ better young prospects will be starting the season in Beloit and I always enjoy getting a look at the Snappers. By the way, I’m pretty sure Cedar Rapids is the Midwest League city closest to the Twin Cities. I only mention that in case some of you feel like a road trip. After all, it’s only fair… I have to make the same drive up to the Twin Cities to watch the Big club!

Speaking of the Midwest League, The Quad Cities River Bandits swept the Lansing Lugnuts to win the MWL Championship. So what? Glad you asked.

I mention this only by way of pointing out that runner-up Lansing finished the season 77-60, before advancing in the playoffs by winning the MWL Eastern Division title. Again, you ask, “so what?”

Well, I’d just point out that the Blue Jays’ farm club did quite well under their first year manager; a guy you may remember… Mike Redmond.

Lugnuts manager Mike Redmond (Photo: Rod Sanford/Lansing State Journal)

Yes, Red Dog not only led his young team to the championship series of the MWL in his first year of managing, he was also named the Midwest League Manager of the Year.

It sure is too bad the Twins’ minor league managing/coaching staff was too full of great baseball minds to find room for Redmond, isn’t it?

I’m sorry, that was a bit snide, I know. But I can’t help but wonder what a combination of Redmond, as manager, and Tom Brunansky, as hitting instructor, would do with an opportunity to run things in Rochester next season.

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I noticed an item over at springtrainingonline.com about the good folks who run Lee County (FL) making plans to work with the Twins on upgrading their Spring Training home, the Lee County Sports Complex. (It’s also the home of the Ft. Myers Miracle… to continue with the minor league theme of this post.)

Outside Hammond Stadium

Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers is a nice stadium. Not great, but nice. From the outside, it’s actually pretty impressive, with Churchill Downs-type spires. But inside, it’s just not really anything special. The stadium was built in 1991 and it could definitely use some updating, but it’s nowhere near the worst spring training stadium in the Sunshine State (the Blue Jays’ stadium in Dunedin would get my vote for “worst” stadium, from among the nine I’ve visited). But Hammond is far from the nicest, as well.

The point that captured my attention in the article was a brief mention that the Twins’ lease, which runs through 2020, includes a clause that requires Lee County to maintain the facility, “at the same level as the five newest Florida spring-training facilities.”

Lee County just built the Red Sox a new $75 million facility down the road from the Twins’ complex, so I’d guess Lee County just raised their own ante a bit. I haven’t been to the five newest stadiums, but I can say with certainty that the Twins do not currently train in one of the five best facilities in Florida.

I’m not exactly sure how they would determine what the five “newest” stadiums are, for that matter. If it’s based purely on when the stadium was built, that’s one thing… those stadiums would range from Boston’s new facility that opens next spring to the Yankees’ Steinbrenner Field in Tampa which was built in 1996.

But a number of stadiums have had major face-lifts much more recently than that. If you measure based on the year a stadium underwent a major remodeling job, the most recent (after the Red Sox) would be the Orioles facility in Sarasota, the Rays’ park in Port Charlotte, the Phillies’ facility in Clearwater and the Tigers’ Lakeland complex. I haven’t been to the Lakeland ballpark, but the other four would rank above the Twins’ in my view. So would the Yankees’ Tampa facility and the Mets’ park in Port St. Lucie.

The Twins have been selling out just about every spring training game the last couple of years, so in the unlikely event that the Twins decided to start looking for a new spring home, communities across Florida and Arizona would trip all over themselves to bring the Twins in. I doubt that the Twins would get in to a serious battle with Lee County over an escape clause in their lease, but they have every right to expect to see the county make an honest effort to live up to the terms of their agreement.

OK, that’s enough on that subject. Thinking about it just makes me anxious to get down to Ft. Myers in March and the Twins have a whole lot of work to do before then.

– JC

 

 

Fenway Park: Venerable or Just Old?

It’s a question that has to be posed, isn’t it? Is Fenway Park really worthy of “historic landmark” status or just a really old ballpark? And with the Twins starting their only series in Boston, now is probably the time to pose that question.

I went to a ballgame there a few years ago. I was in downtown Boston on business for a few days and I remember thinking I should make a point to get to a game because they were bound to build a new stadium there before long and I would like to say I’d been to a game at Fenway.

I don’t remember much about the game, but I remember my initial impressions of the ballpark when I walked through the turnstiles and made my way toward a concession stand to get a beer on my way to my seat. I think I could best sum those impressions up with, “What a dump.”

Things can get wet in the concourse (Photo: C. Laubenstein)

I don’t know what I was expecting. I didn’t expect it to impress me the way Camden Yards had done on my first visit there. But I recall thinking that the concourses reminded me a bit of Veterans Stadium in Cedar Rapids… the same Veterans Stadium that had to be torn down and replaced in order to allow the city to keep its low-Class A team in town.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I respect and appreciate the unique history of baseball in our country. So, from that standpoint, I can appreciate Bostonians’ reluctance to let go of this monument to their historic past. But then again, just how many “historic” moments took place at Fenway? It’s not like they racked up a ton of championships there. Generations of Red Sox fans were born, lived, and died without ever seeing a World Series Championship from Fenway’s home team.

Sure, some Hall of Famers called the place home, but that can be said of pretty much every old ballpark that’s been wrecking balled over the past century. It’s not an excuse for making today’s ballplayers and fans play/watch games in an antique. Or is it?

I think the “Green Monster” is just a romanticized quirk that was necessary because they built the ballpark on a plot of land that wasn’t big enough for a ballpark in the first place. It makes the leftfielder position for Boston probably the last remaining defensive position that most AL designated hitters could play, in a pinch. A shortstop with above average range and arm could probably just play deep enough to cover both positions. But if keeping that particular quirky ballpark fixture is so important, I would think a NEW ballpark could be built with a similar LF wall.

Remember to zip up, Manny?

They could even incorporate the manual scoreboard and the doorway that leads behind the wall (you know… the one Manny used to mistake for a bathroom door in the middle of innings) if keeping things like that mean so much to people.

As a matter of fact, this is pretty much what the owners of the Sox proposed to do a dozen or so years ago, but the outcry was so loud that the team sank close to $300 million in to a decade’s worth of “renovations” to the existing park, that supposedly make the park usable for another 40-50 years. Can you say “Money Pit”?

Of course, the Boston faithful are not alone in their irrational love for a ballpark that should have been demolished decades ago. Cub fans have pretty much the same relationship with Wrigley Field (and yes, having been to that ballpark, too, I feel pretty much exactly the same way about it). It probably makes even less sense for Cub fans to be so attached to their ballpark when you consider that they’ve won absolutely nothing at Wrigley Field during the lifetime of any fan still ambulatory enough to attend games there.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great bars surrounding both Fenway and Wrigley. I’ve had a very good time at some of those bars. But yanno what? If you build a new ballpark, it’s just possible that there will be some good bars near the new place, too (as any Twins fan who’s enjoyed the local pre-and-post-game festivities around Target Field will attest to)!

Anyway… it’s their ballpark and I really don’t care all that much what they do with it. There’s just a part of me that believes that if the good folks in Boston would put their mind to it, they could come up with a new ballpark that would show just how much better they could do with that kind of project than George Steinbrenner’s monument to excess in the Bronx (and people would actually show up to watch games in a new Boston park, I’m sure, unlike what’s going on in NY). The prospect of that, alone, should be enough to make it worthwhile.

What do you think? Have you been to a game at Fenway? Am I being too harsh? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

– JC