Twins Fantasy Camp Part II

Here’s the second half installment from Corey. Even though I’m old, falling apart and wasn’t good at baseball to start with, I can’t tell you how much I really want to do this some day.. although I think for me, wishing about it would turn out to be far more healthy than actually participating…

Don’t forget to check out Part I

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The REST of Twins Fantasy Camp 2013

A Rookie’s Story: By Corey Sauer

Tuesday, January 8th: PLAY BALL!

photo 2b

photo credit: Corey Sauer

The day dawned bright and relatively clear. Early morning fog quickly burned off as the South Florida sun rose and flooded the city with light and heat. Two 7 inning ball games were on the schedule for 10:00 a.m. and 1:15 p.m., and as the sky grew more blue and the temperature skipped past the 70’s and right into the 80’s, every camper was smiling and full of excitement. We were finally going to play ball.

 

Me in the dugout of Hammond Stadium during the Pros vs. Rookies game chugging Advil after pitching to Tim Laudner, Gene Larkin, Tom Brunansky, Ron Coomer and Milt Cuyler and after that performance, I came to bat and got a hit off of Rick Aguilera. I am SORE. And very HAPPY. :D photo credit: Corey Sauer

Me chugging Advil after pitching to Tim Laudner, Gene Larkin, Tom Brunansky, Ron Coomer and Milt Cuyler and I got a hit off of Rick Aguilera. I am SORE. :D
photo credit: Corey Sauer

The Dream Weavers were ready to play and we took a solid lead in Game 1 and never looked back as we won 9-6 over the Burnsville Bombers (coaches: Frank Quilici and Dick Stigman). After a tasty lunch back at the clubhouse, we took the field against the Canterbury Clan (coaches: Ron Coomer and Julio Becquer) for Game 2 and played a close game that ultimately went our way, and we one 5-3.

I was called in to pitch in relief in Game 1 and while I wasn’t exactly Cy Young on the mound, I did enjoy my brief stint on the bump, but unfortunately it did lead to a muscle injury in my left hip that would nag at me and hinder my mobility for the rest of the week.

 

Wednesday, January 9th: TRIPLE HEADER! 

photo 1b

photo credit: Corey Sauer

As a consequence of Monday’s complete rain out, the solitary game that was originally scheduled for Wednesday was going to be accompanied by two extra games. And instead of forcing campers to play 21 innings in a single day, it was determined that the three games would only be 5 innings each, and that one game would be pitched by each team’s Pro Staffers. This strategy would allow the games to move along at a good pace and to minimize the possibility of injuries to campers.

Game 3 saw the Dream Weavers play against the Hrbekskis (coaches: Kent Hrbek and Tom Brunansky) and we scored often and early in a 14-2 blowout.  Game 4 was against the Battery Mates and this game was pitched by the Pros. Two of our coaches, Camilo Pascual and Bill “Soup” Campbell, pitched to us, while our opponents had to face their two coaches, Frank Viola and Tim Laudner.

I had the pure pleasure and luxury of playing warm up toss for several minutes prior to this game with the great Camilo Pascual. The 79 year old former pitcher was having a ball. He had a huge smile on his face, and I could see his eyes sparkling from behind his large black horn-rimmed glasses as he was breaking off one wicked curveball after another during our warm up, and I couldn’t stop grinning like a fool. A great memory, unforgettable.

As for Game 4 itself, apparently Camilo didn’t understand that he was supposed to make it easy for us to hit the ball. Instead he allowed only one hit to us. Meanwhile, Bill “Soup” Campbell finished what Camilo had started, and we ended up losing the game 1-0.

Game 5 was played after lunch and despite our best efforts it didn’t go our way either. We faced a really tough left-handed pitcher and were able to manufacture several hits and runs, but in the end we still lost 6-5 to the Warriors(coaches: Rick Aguilera and Phil Roof).

We had started the day with a 2-0 record and finished the day with a 3-2 record, despite the losses, were still in a good position to get a high seed in the playoffs that would take place on Friday.

I was named MVP at tonight's MVP ceremony during dinner for my 2-2; 1 BB; 1 Run; 2 RBI performance in Game 3 we played on Wednesday morning. Below is my award, the scoresheet from the game signed by my coaches, Bill Campbell and Tony Oliva. :D photo credit: Corey Sauer

I was named MVP at tonight’s MVP ceremony during dinner for my 2-2; 1 BB; 1 Run; 2 RBI performance in Game 3 we played on Wednesday morning. Below is my award, the scoresheet from the game signed by my coaches, Bill Campbell and Tony Oliva. :D
photo credit: Corey Sauer

Thursday, January 10th: POSTSEASON DRIVE!

Armed with our 3-2 record, we knew that if we won both games today, we were a shoe-in as a number one seed. And if we split, we would be no less than a three or four seed.

Our Game 6 opponents were the Panama Stingers (coaches: Juan Berenguer and Lee Stange) and we faced a very good pitcher whose fastball and curveball combo was just too much for us. He also got us at the plate with a 350’ home run over the left field fence. We dropped the game 4-1.

Game 7 was the final game of regular pool play and would determine the final seeding for the Friday playoff games. Our opponent Stay Thirsty My Friend (coaches: Gene Larkin, Erik Rasmussen, and Milt Cuyler) had earned a reputation during the week of making big comebacks and it was reflected in their 4-1 best of camp record at the start of play on Thursday. We began the game very well, with solid starting pitching, great infield defense and good productivity at the plate.

Before we knew it, we had taken a 6-2 lead, had turned four fantastic double plays and were looking at what could be a great win to break our three game losing streak.

In the bottom of the seventh, it all fell apart. The Thirsty’s mounted an incredible comeback as they kept attacking the ball at the plate, and our consistently solid defense started to crack. The Thirsty’s scored 5 runs in that inning to win the game 7-6 in what turned out to be a shocking loss for us.

Friday, January 11th: PLAYOFFS!

A new day and a new opportunity to win. After losing four straight games (three of them were one run losses), the Dream Weavers were looking for redemption. The playoff structure of Fantasy Camp features two divisions: Red (lower) and Blue (upper). We were seeded number one in the Red Division with our 3-4 record and were slated to play the Burnsville Bombers (the number four seed in the Red Division) in a one game playoff. A win and we would play in the Red Division Championship on Saturday. A loss and we’re done.

The pitcher we faced was a right-handed curveball hurler who kept us off balance for much of the game and by the bottom of the seventh inning we were down 3-2. I came to the plate with runners on and drove a base hit up the middle to drive in the tying run. The very next batter drove in the winning with a hit through the left side of the infield. We beat the Bombers 4-3 and earned a Championship berth.

photo credit: Corey Sauer

photo credit: Corey Sauer

After a well-deserved lunch, it was time for PROS vs. ROOKIES game at Hammond Stadium where the Miracle play, and where the Twins play their Spring Training exhibition games.

This was basically an exhibition and not an actual competitive game. All of the 39 Rookies were separated into four “teams”. Each team would get two at-bats per player and two chances to play defense against the Pros.

The highlight for me: After my team’s pitcher pitched one inning against the Pros, amazingly none of my teammates wanted to pitch, so I jumped at the chance! I “pitched” against Ron Coomer, Gene Larkin, Tom Brunansky, and Milt Cuyler. It was awesome because I suck, so the Pros just hammered my “pitches” all over the outfield.

Saturday, January 12th: CHAMPIONSHIP!

The Dream Weavers were thrilled to get a chance to play more baseball. And not only did we get to play in a championship game, we got to play it inside Hammond Stadium

The field was immaculate and resembled a jewel glistening in the sunlight.

photo credit: Corey Sauer

photo credit: Corey Sauer

Our opponent for the Red Championship was the Warriors. A team whom we had already lost 6-5 to earlier in the week, but we knew we were capable of getting hits and runs against their starter, former All-American southpaw Billy McMacken from South Dakota, so we had confidence we could do it again.

Unfortunately, Billy was on fire and his curveball was essentially unhittable. I was able to manage only one hit in my at-bats, a hard shot comebacker past the pitcher and over second base. The rest of my teammates managed to pile up five combined hits, but we could not score. The Warriors’ offense was a brute force attack that made our reliable defense look completely overmatched.

In the end we were bludgeoned 8-0 in a loss that actually was NOT humiliating. I say that because, we had the chance to play baseball and no matter the score, it was a huge thrill to be on that field, and have former “voice of the Minnesota Twins” John Gordon calling out our names as we came to bat, and recapping the action over the P.A. in between innings. It was an awesome experience.

In Conclusion

Fantasy Camp was an absolute thrill for me. The atmosphere in the clubhouse everyday was fun and good-natured. Everyone was excited about getting to play baseball and be surrounded by some of their heroes from Minnesota Twins history. Being able to walk ten steps in the clubhouse over to Bert Blyleven’s locker or Frank Viola’s and have the chance to chat and get an autograph was simply priceless. The evening banquets featured fantastic food, plenty to drink and lots of opportunity for the Campers to mingle and get to know one another and build friendships.

Some personal highlights: Taking batting practice against Juan Berenguer, Rick Aguilera, Phil Roof and Bill Campbell. Having both Kent Hrbek and Frank Viola refuse to sign an autograph when I called them Mr. Hrbek and Mr. Viola, and then very quickly and graciously signing the second I referred to them as Hrbie and Sweet Music, respectively. Getting to listen to listen to Tony Oliva dispense his hitting wisdom while sitting next to him on the bench every game. Chatting with Frank Viola one-on-one in the dining room during lunch. Getting to walk around all day in a Twins uniform and cleats and feeling like a Major Leaguer everywhere I went. Bert Blyleven giving me props for striking out swinging instead of looking. Hrbek giving me props for drilling the ball during batting practice in the instructionals.

Weavers Win!! Weavers Win!! We scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 7th to win 4-3 and advance to the Red Division Championship! :D I am literally a happy camper posing in the photo after the game with my mom and dad. Woohoo!!!!  photo credit: Corey Sauer

Weavers Win!! Weavers Win!! We scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 7th to win 4-3 and advance to the Red Division Championship! :D I am literally a happy camper posing in the photo after the game with my mom and dad. Woohoo!!!!
photo credit: Corey Sauer

Another great part of camp was the familial aspect. There were several brothers; fathers and sons; grandfathers and grandsons. And they have been coming to camp for years in order to play baseball together. What a great tradition.

Fun was an integral part of camp. From Camp Commissioner Bert Blyleven’s antics during “Kangaroo Court” at two different banquets, or literally mooning my team during our team photo, to the clear camaraderie and joy of playing baseball that was evident in the clubhouse, the dining room, on the diamond, or just in low-key social gatherings outside the structure of camp. The people, both Pros and Campers alike, genuinely LOVED being there. And that made the trip worthwhile.

By Sunday morning as Campers were heading back to their respective home states, people were exhausted, sore, and more importantly, very happy.

Twins Fantasy Camp Part I

My good buddy Corey (you’ve seen his name because we frequently use his photos here on Knuckleballs) got the birthday present of his life from his folks this year – a trip to Twins Fantasy Camp. He has graciously summarized his experiences into a bit of a “daily diary” to share with those of us not as fortunate and jealous as H. E. Double Hockey Sticks.

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Twins Fantasy Camp 2013

A Rookie’s Story: By Corey Sauer

On June 16th, 2012, while having dinner with my family to celebrate my 40th birthday I opened a present from my parents, and I was thrilled at what I found inside.

It was a picture frame with a letter under glass. The letter was from Stan Dickman, the guru of the Minnesota Twins Fantasy Camp, informing me I was all signed up for the 2013 camp.

I had wanted to go to Fantasy Camp since I turned 30 a decade earlier and suddenly, I had my chance, but I had to wait another seven months. Imagine having to wait for an entire summer (and fall) to pass by before you can play fantasy baseball…in the middle of winter.

Cut to January 5th, 2013. I headed south on Delta Airlines to Fort Myers, Florida, the Spring Training home of the Twins. Camp was slated to last from January 5th to January 12th. I was very excited to spend a week in sunny southwest Florida playing baseball and soaking up the rays.

Once I arrived in Fort Myers, I picked up my rental car (highly recommended) and drove to the Crowne Plaza Hotel at the Belle Tower Shops. The Plaza Hotel was only 5-10 minutes from the Lee County Sports Complex, where the Twins have Spring Training each year. LCSC is also the home to the Twins Minor League affiliate, the Fort Myers Miracle, who play their home games at Hammond Stadium, based at the complex.

Check-in at the hotel was quick and easy, and I was paired up in a room with a fellow rookie by the name of Andy Schmakel.

Registration for Camp took place in the hotel and was a snap, I got to meet former Twins relief pitcher Juan “Señor Smoke” Berenguer in the registration room. Juan was very pleasant and happy to meet a rookie.

What follows is a relatively brief summary of each day’s events and the highlights.

There were many. 

Saturday, January 5th: ARRIVAL DAY

"R" stands for Rookie  photo credit: Corey Sauer

“R” stands for Rookie
photo credit: Corey Sauer

After checking in to my room and completing camp registration, there was a “Rookies Meeting” at the hotel. There were 39 rookie campers this year, including myself. We met in a small conference room, where Fantasy Camp guru Stan Dickman gave us an overview of what to expect during the week. Not 5 minutes into the orientation, Bert Blyleven walked in and dropped an F-Bomb before taking a seat. There was a roar of laughter. 

After the meeting was the first of five banquets that would be held during the week.

Fox Sports North broadcaster Dick Bremer (himself a veteran camper) welcomed the group and mentioned that Kent Hrbek wouldn’t want anyone to know that the reason Hrbie arrived at camp on crutches was due to a “bowling injury”. Laughter from the crowd , then a torrent of laughing and clapping as Hrbek stood up and gave Mr. Bremer the finger. That set the tone for the rest of the week. 

Sunday, January 6th: DAY ONE

My locker at Twins Fantasy Camp. :D We are in the Minor League facility at the Lee County Sports Complex. photo credit: Corey Sauer

My locker at Twins Fantasy Camp. :D We are in the Minor League facility at the Lee County Sports Complex.
photo credit: Corey Sauer

The official first day of camp. Rookies reported early to get a brief orientation of the clubhouse, its rules and protocol for camp. Breakfast was served in the clubhouse dining room and would be a regular offering every day of camp, along with lunch. 

Rookies and Veterans alike dressed in our provided uniforms and participated in a session of stretching led by former relief pitcher Bill “Soup” Campbell. It was made clear to us from the start (and we were reminded constantly during every game we played) to “TAKE IT EASY” when stretching and when playing ball. (Remember this statement later) Apparently, in the past they have had campers blowout hamstrings, damage knee ligaments or otherwise get injured on the first day and miss the rest of camp.

After the stretching session, all campers were divided into six groups and commenced with participating in a series of six separate “Instructionals”: Hitting; Base Running; Infield Drills; Outfield Drills; Pitching; Catching.

Former major leaguers, referred to as the “Pro Staff”, led each instructional.

My first instructional was hitting with Gene Larkin and Kent Hrbek.

photo 1After instructionals were completed, we reported to the dining room for lunch. After lunch, all 39 rookies were divided in to four separate teams in order to play two games in front of the entire Pro Staff for evaluation.

It was during the evaluation game that I was forced into pitching (I’m an outfielder, I cannot pitch). During my stint on the mound I “pitched” decently. In other words I threw the ball toward the plate and sometimes it was hit and sometimes it was not. The low point of my outing on the bump came when my camp roommate, Andy, came to the plate and my first pitch drilled him high on his left hip near his lower ribs. He laughed and smiled as he trotted slowly toward first base while I circled the mound with my glove covering my face in embarrassment. Andy had quite a bruise after that. He forgave me almost immediately. I bought him a beer later that night at the bar.

In my final at-bat of the evaluation game, Bert Blyleven suddenly stepped out on the mound to pitch to me. I had no idea what was going on. I thought perhaps this was what sometimes happened at camp, that Bert would show up wherever and provide some entertainment. He threw me three pitches. I took the first high and out of the zone. The second I swung at and fouled off. The third I made partial contact and chopped the ball slowly down the third base line. I ran it out and was safe. My roommate Andy was the catcher and he was unable to get to the ball in time to make a play. I got a hit off of Bert Blyleven.  I later realized, Bert only came in to pitch just to get the game over so the Pro Staff could get back to the hotel and conduct the draft. 

After the completion of the evaluation, everyone got changed and went back to the hotel where the Pro Staff tucked themselves away in a suite to conduct the Camp Draft. All campers were drafted onto eight separate teams, with at least two Pros coaching each team. 

At the banquet in the hotel that night, the Pros formally announced their team names and then named each camper who had been drafted to their respective team.

I was drafted on to the Dream Weavers with Bill “Soup” Campbell, Tony Oliva and Camilo Pascual as coaches.

me hanging out with (from left to right) Juan Berenguer, Camilo Pascual, and Tony Oliva during the marathon that Game 1 became. Both Camilo and Tony are my team's coaches, along with our manager Bill Campbell. Great day today. :D photo credit: Corey Sauer

me hanging out with (from left to right) Juan Berenguer, Camilo Pascual, and Tony Oliva during the marathon that Game 1 became. Both Camilo and Tony are my team’s coaches, along with our manager Bill Campbell. Great day today. :D
photo credit: Corey Sauer

Monday, January 7th: RAIN OUT!

We awoke to overcast skies and the threat of rain. The schedule had us locked in for two 7 inning baseball games, one at 10:00 a.m. and the second at 1:10 p.m. After reporting to the clubhouse and enjoying another fantastic breakfast, all campers were dressed for baseball and began batting practice sessions in the indoor batting cages.

The rain had already begun while were eating, and by the time campers started B.P. the light rain was a steady downpour. We stretched, threw warm up toss, hit baseballs, joked around and waited for word from Stan whether we would get to play the morning game.

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Then finally, the call was made. RAIN OUT. The storm system had parked over Fort Myers and was very sluggish. There was no way we could play either game.

Luckily, there was a contingency plan. Meet in the dining room and watch a highlight video of the 1991 World Series with the Pro Staff and stick around for Q&A with Rick Aguilera, Kent Hrbek, and Gene Larkin.

photo 2Afterward, we had our afternoon free before the evening Team Dinners where each team treated their Pro Staff coaches to dinner out on the town. Upon returning to the hotel following dinner, a special Autograph Party took place on the deck of the hotel restaurant & bar, Shoeless Joe’s.

On Sunday, each rookie had been given a full-size wood baseball bat with their name and the camp logo and year engraved on it. The autograph party was the perfect opportunity to collect signatures on the bat. Each player was very gracious, friendly and accommodating. My bat is loaded with autographs. Great souvenir!!

photo credit: Corey Sauer

photo credit: Corey Sauer

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Now watch for Part II (and more photos) coming soon!

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 24

Episode 24 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

This week Eric and Paul are joined by long time Twins blogger Cody Christie (@NoDakTwinsFan,www.NoDakTwinsFan.com) to talk about the Twins off-season moves and a look at 2013. Also joining us is MLB Fan Cave applicant, Michael McGivern (@McGive_It_To_me,www.McGiveItToMe.blogspot.com), to discuss his attempt to gain entry to the MLB Fan Cave, why he’s worthy, and his life as a Minnesota Twins fan (you can vote for him here). In addition to the above, the Twins twins also discuss the Anthony Swarzak injury, Jim Perry‘s place in the Twins HOF, prospect Deibinson Romero and a look forward to spring training. Join us for almost 2 hours of half-drunken #MNTwins talk on the Talk To Contact Podcast.

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 us bake fluffier cakes.)

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

- ERolfPleiss

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 23

Episode 23 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

This week the Pleiss brothers spend way too much time discussing obscure state capitols and bantering on about MySpace and hipsters.   In between those strange and obscure conversations you can find plenty of talk about the Minnesota Twins, including a discussion about the 25-man roster, Frank Viola, prospect Luke Bard and former Twins around the MLB. Also making his Talk to Contact podcast debut it Jason from The Inverted W podcast (www.invertedW.com) to continue the series looking around the AL Central, this time discussing the Kansas City Royals.

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 us become more like summer time on the shores of Cape Cod.)

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

- ERolfPleiss

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 22

Episode 22 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Paul "Autograph Hound" Pleiss

Paul “Autograph Hound” Pleiss

Paul spent the weekend up in Minnesota attending TwinsFest, drinking beer and talking baseball. As a result, he sounds both hungover and lifeless on the podcast, but there’s still lots of great content. Apologies to the listener for the audio quality at points during the recording as Paul was using his AWESOME (sarcasm) travel laptop for recording, thus you can literally hear the computer fan whirring in the background trying to keep the computer from exploding. We are joined towards the end of the episode by Jose Bosch (@HJBosch21) from Motor City Bengals (Detroit Tigers blog) to take a look at the Detroit Tigers off-season. We also discuss Twins Hall of Famer Tony Oliva, prospect Matt Summers and a comprehensive review of TwinsFest and the cat video guy.

 

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 us become more like a slimmer Ron Mahay.)

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

- ERolfPleiss

Sunday Morning Comic Relief (in person – advance warning/invitation)

offseason baseball

Since it’s currently Winter – that means we are all starved for good baseball/baseball conversation. That is where TwinsFest comes in handy.. We here at Knuckleballs would love to get together with all of you but not all of us can go to the Huberts/Twins Daily event…

So we are proposing a bit of The Hair of the Dog for those of you who enjoy your Saturday evening – perhaps too much. Enjoy a little personal comedy as a break to the cold northern winter!

KL, CB & JC will drown our sorrows at the absence of ERolf in a bloody mary or two and you are welcome to join us! Here’s the plan:

Champps – 10:00 am

2401 W. 7th St.
St. Paul, MN 55116

(click the address for a map)

please RSVP – either here or on twitter – so that we know how many people to save places for (if you must drop in and surprise us, we’ll take it but you have to sit on someone’s lap!)

All Is Well

AllIsWellIt has been pointed out to me more than once that I’m a bit bipolar when it comes to my feelings with regard to the Minnesota Twins and they way they’re operated. That’s probably a fair observation. I can sometimes seemingly blow off steam about a decision by the Twins one moment and then turn around and be really excited about the team and chastise someone else for going too far in their negativity toward the organization. I never claimed to be the most consistent person in the world.

Like most fans (and, it seems, almost all bloggers), I’m quick to point out what I think the decision-makers are doing wrong and what I believe they should do to fix things. This is particularly true at specific times of the year: during spring training when the final roster spots are being filled; at or near trade deadlines in July and August; and during the first couple of months after the season when, presumably, the front office is making and executing their plans to revise their roster for the following season.

When I go on a rant about how Terry Ryan isn’t doing this right or should do that instead, it may even seem like I’m angry. I may, indeed, be frustrated, but I don’t think it often reaches the point of anger. In fact, I’m actually having fun. Putting myself in the General Manager’s role is just one part of what’s fun about being a Twins fan, for me. If you think I come down hard on Terry Ryan at times, you should have been around me during Calvin Griffith’s days of (mis)running the team. Yet Griffith, like Ryan, managed to assemble some of the most talented teams in the franchise’s history.

You may have noticed that I haven’t ranted much lately. Sure, I’d like to see Ryan throw a few bucks at Joe Saunders and add him to the rotation for the next couple of years and, like almost everyone else, I’m less than enthusiastic about Kevin Correia being the Twins’ “big free agent” signing for their rotation (at least measuring by contract size).

But, for all intents, I’ve turned the page. This time of year, I move in to, “I can’t wait for baseball season to start!” mode. I don’t care if it’s Little League or Major League, I want to see somebody playing some baseball and I want to see it NOW!

I’ve been writing about the coming season for a few weeks now. I contributed a piece about the addition of Cedar Rapids to the Twins family for Seth Stohs’ 2013 Twins Prospect Handbook and that certainly put me in the mood to look forward to this season. I researched and wrote a few posts about Twins prospects we could see playing in Cedar Rapids for the Kernels and that genuinely got me excited for baseball to start. I attended the Twins Caravan/Kernels Hot Stove Banquet event last week and seeing over 500 people celebrating the new relationship and hearing the Twins representatives on stage talk about how they looked forward to 2013 just added fuel to my baseball fire.

This weekend, it’s TwinsFest at the Metrodome. I’m only going to make it for a bit on Saturday (and hopefully across the street to Hubert’s to sit on the periphery of the gathering of Twins bloggers taking place there Saturday night), but I’m pretty sure that’s all I’ll need to bring my fandom to a boil. I don’t really get heavily in to autographs or pictures with players, but I enjoy watching the people who do. It’s a celebration of baseball… and of being a Twins fan.

So I hope everyone will understand if I don’t keep piling on Terry Ryan at this point. I think there’s been enough of that, at least for now.

There seems to be a prevailing opinion out there that the signing of Correia and, perhaps more importantly, the lack of signings of any of the more statistically successful free agent pitching options, indicates that Ryan and the front office are now in full-blown “rebuild” mode. This, despite early offseason assurances from Ryan and others that the Twins were intent on making significant improvements to the rotation and the general competitive level of the Twins in 2013. I have to admit that, for a while, I was bordering on being convinced that was the case.

But I really don’t think so.

From various recent media accounts and interviews with the Twins’ GM, I think it’s pretty clear that it has been, is, and continues to be his intent to put a far better product on the field in 2013 than we’ve seen the past two seasons. He believes Correia will be a significantly better pitcher than almost all of the guys the Twins trotted out to start games last year. He believes Vance Worley will be, as well. Likewise Mike Pelfrey.

It’s fair, of course, to question the basis on which Ryan and his organization came to some of those conclusions.  As 1500ESPN’s Phil Mackey pointed out this week, Ryan is clearly sticking his neck out with Correia and saying he and his scouts believe the former Pirates pitcher will be better than his numbers indicate he has been in the past. In retrospect, while it’s reasonable to question how wise relying so entirely on “old school” scouting is in this case, I’m not sure why any of us should be surprised by that.

But right now, I just don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, Correia, Worley, Pelfrey and the other new arrivals are now Minnesota Twins and that makes them our guys. I say we welcome them aboard and wish them all the best.

I want to SEE whether the right decisions were made or not. I want to see the new pitchers pitch and I want to see if Trevor Plouffe can hold down third base and, hopefully, hit like he did for a couple of months in the middle of last year. I want to see if Chris Parmelee can establish himself as a legitimate Major League hitter and I want to see young outfielders, who probably thought their paths to the Big Leagues might be blocked by not one but two centerfielders in front of them, compete to break camp in the starting outfield of a Major League baseball team. And I want to see familiar faces like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau hit baseballs.

And I want to see a bunch of kids put on Cedar Rapids Kernels uniforms and show us whether they’re as good as we all seem to think they will be. Some day, some of those guys will wear Twins uniforms and someone will ask me whether I remember them when they played for the Kernels. And I will remember. I’m just so anxious to get started burning those memories in to my mind right now.

My opinions about what woulda-coulda-shoulda been done this offseason haven’t changed. But I’m ready to move on.

I spend nine or ten hours a day working so I can spend a few hours with family and friends at a ballpark or in a bar watching baseball or even just talking about it. I do that because I just wasn’t good enough at anything that would allow me to make my living at a ballpark, but there are still very few things I’d rather do than watch baseball.

In a few weeks, we’ll all get to start doing that again. As long as that’s the case, I’m going to try to remain calm… all is well.

- JC

TWINSFEST 2013!

300_twinsfestThat crazy time for fans who are starved for a little baseball action in the cold north is finally here! (starting tomorrow)

I know a couple Knuckleballers have been talking about attending so keep your eyes peeled for unfamiliar faces… oh, wait..

Yeah, there are going to be a LOT of unfamiliar faces in the old HHH Metrodome because it’s always packed.

Here’s a round-up of the general festivities:

  • Day 1, Fri, Jan 25: 4:00PM – 9:30PM
  • Day 2, Sat, Jan 26: 9:00AM – 6:00PM
  • Day 3, Sun, Jan 27: 9:00AM – 4:00PM

TwinsFest 2013 will feature:

Tickets are on sale now!

Ticket Prices:
Adults:$9 in advance
($15 at the door)
Children (14 and younger): $5 in advance
($8 at the door)
Advance pricing ends at 5 p.m. CT on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2012.

 

CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS

 

Metrodome
900 South 5th Street
Minneapolis, MN
Get Directions »

For more information, see twinsbaseball.com