The Cedar Rapids Kernels, Class A affiliate of the Twins, have announced their 2013 Giveaways. From their website (kernels.com):
The season starts with a double giveaway on Friday, April 5th as the first 500 fans through the gates receive a free Kernels cap, thanks to the Best Western Longbranch, and 2013 Magnet Schedules will be passed out, thanks to MercyCare Community Physicians.
Other gate giveaways include (first 1,000 fans unless indicated):
Friday, April 26th – Copyworks Team Photo Night #1 (first 500 fans)
Thursday, May 30th – Iowa Wrestling T-Shirts (part of Iowa Wrestling Night)
Friday, June 7th – Mr. Shucks/TC Bear Bobbleheads
Friday, June 14th – Superman/Kernels T-Shirts (part of Superman Movie Night)
Friday, June 28th – Kernels Snow Globes (part of Halfway to Christmas Night)
Friday, July 5th – Perfect Game USA Kernels Baseball Card Sets
Friday, July 12th – Copyworks Team Photo Night #2
Friday, July 26th – Twins Youth Baseball Jerseys (first 800 kids 12-under)
Friday, August 16th – Kernels Black & Gold T-Shirts (part of Hawkeye Sports Night)
Friday, August 30th – Fan Appreciation Night
Wait… did that say a Mr. Shucks/TC Bear bobblehead night? Why… yes it did! You know you all want one of those! Check it out!
What a great night for baseball fans in Eastern Iowa!
In celebration of the new affiliation agreement between the Twins and the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the organizations combined to put on a terrific event Thursday night.
Every winter, the Kernels put on a Hot Stove banquet with proceeds going to their own charitable foundation. The event combines dinner, a silent auction and induction of the new Cedar Rapids Baseball Hall of Fame members. Tonight’s event, however, also included a local stop by the Twins Caravan.
The combination brought out a record crowed for the Hot Stove event. The banquet sold out and standing room only tickets were sold at a discount to give even more Twins fans an opportunity to attend the Caravan.
Media members (including this humble blogger) were invited to come in starting at 4:30 to interview some of the participants. I had a chance to visit a bit with Twins pitching prospect, BJ Hermsen. He will be heading to the Twin Cities next week where he’ll receive his Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year award and then attend TwinsFest. Not long after, he’ll be on the road to Fort Myers for his first Major League Spring Training.
I asked whether Hermsen has any sense of where he’ll start the 2013 season (he doesn’t) and talked a bit about the offseason training work he’s been doing. He was asked by another person if he was going to be speaking during the Caravan portion of the program and he indicated he didn’t think so (he was wrong… emcee Dick Bremer had a number of questions for Hermsen during the program).
Ron Gardenhire and Terry Steinbach also were made available for interviews with the media, as was new Kernels manager Jake Mauer. Naturally, the local media had questions for Gardy that alluded to the new Cedar Rapids affiliation and he was appropriately complimentary in his responses.
Gardenhire did bring up the fact that his managerial debut was with Kenosha in the Midwest League in 1988 and that his team had their “butts beaten” by Cedar Rapids in the playoffs to end that season.
The Hall of Fame induction was sandwiched between dinner and the formal part of the Caravan program. The CR Hall inducted former players Trevor Hoffman and Casey Kotchman, along with longtime Kernels groundskeeper Jim Curran and Pat Harmon, one of the people credited with bringing minor league ball back to Cedar Rapids in the 1940s. But the highlight, for me, of the ceremony was the induction of former Cedar Rapids manager Alex Monchak.
I’m sure most of you have no idea who Monchak is, but this man epitomizes the career baseball man. He had a cup of coffee with the Phillies, but his career was interrupted by World War II. While he never returned to the Big Leagues as a player, that didn’t stop him from spending the rest of his life teaching others to play the game the right way.
He was inducted in to the CR HoF specifically for managing the 1958 Cedar Rapids Braves to the Three-I League championship, but after leaving our little town, he spent about a decade as a scout and almost 20 years as a coach on manager Chuck Tanner’s staffs with the White Sox, A’s, Pirates and Braves. In fact, he was a coach on the Pirates’ Championship team that also included pitcher Bert Blyleven.
Hoffman and Kotchman had other commitments that kept them from attending the event, but Monchak, who will be 96 years old in March, was in attendance to accept his award and address the crowd.
Dick Bremer did a professional job of emceeing the Caravan program. It’s no small task, I’m sure, to do that job in a way that comes across as fresh to every crowd, despite the fact that they’ve been essentially going through the process multiple times per day for about a week. Bremer did sports for the local CBS affiliate in Cedar Rapids before moving on to Minnesota, so he was able to blend in some anecdotes from his days here.
Everyone on the dais did a good job of fielding the questions Bremer has no-doubt asked them several times over the past week, as well as a number from the crowd. Obviously, Gardy got the lion’s share of the questions from fans and he handled them with his typical combination of optimism and humor.
Of course, there are causes for concern from Twins fans after the past two seasons, but this event was all about generating interest and enthusiasm among the fan bases of the Twins and Kernels, as well as celebrating the upcoming inaugural season of this relationship. Based on the attendance and enthusiastic support from the crowd, it was an overwhelming success at doing just that.
I’ll wrap up this post with a few pictures from the evening. – JC
Christmas is coming quicker than I’m ready for but I’m ALMOST done with my Christmas shopping… yesterday was a long day. But just in case you aren’t in the Christmas mood yet, maybe this will get you ready for the impending holiday!
In a return to the form we all know and love so well, TC Bear has managed yet another victory amid his mascot colleagues. I don’t think we Twins fans really appreciate how hard that bear works to represent Twins baseball at its finest. Can you imagine trying to hit baseballs with paws not to mention that limited field of vision???
We just want to say CONGRATS and THANK YOU for all your hard work.
And now that we have the important stuff covered, we’re ready for the other Home Run Derby. If you’re planning to watch it, you can hang out and chat with others!
Here’s the way things went down! Prince Fielder just KILLED the competition this year. He’s officially the first player ever to win the HR Derby representing both the NL & AL Leagues. Interestingly enough, both of his Derby wins were also in Missouri – one in St. Louis, one in Kansas City. Congrats Mr. Fielder!
So, I missed yesterday’s game because I went to the MN Swarm game with the SO and his entire family as part of his birthday celebrations… I have to give him a lot of credit because when we spotted TC Bear was in attendance, it was HIS idea to have us wait in the hallway for an opportunity to grab a picture since he knows how excited I am for baseball to start!!!
And Beloit is teasing us poor Minnesotans because they put in their homeplate today:
But back to the baseball game today! Yes, it’s another Monday Lunch broadcast on FSN.. I really don’t get it. Even the Red Sox announcers on Saturday night were commenting on the lack of MN broadcasts for important/watchable games. I really wish one of the insiders somewhere would find out what’s going on with the schedules and tell us why it’s been so … inscrutable.. during this year’s spring training.
I’m trying to restrain myself, but on days like this, it’s not easy. I think with good health and a little bit of luck, this Twins team could be something special.
As Joe Reardon, the fictional manager of the Durham Bulls so eloquently put it, “This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.” On Saturday afternoon, the Twins did all of that and did it well.
This is what I came to Ft. Myers to see. Now I just hope everyone stays healthy and we see exactly this kind of performance all season long.
Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey both looked sharp. Blackburn gave up seven hits, but 2-3 of those were infield hits that I generally don’t mark against a pitcher’s performance. He did give up a 2-run home run, but since it was off the bat of a former Cedar Rapids Kernel (Casey Kotchman), I’m willing to let it slide. Slowey struck out three in his three innings and gave up only one hit.
Jim Hoey, who got one inning of work sandwiched in between Blackburn’s five and Slowey’s three, had another solid performance. That’s two appearances I’ve seen this week from Hoey and let me just say, this man can throw a baseball! He was in the upper 90s again today and he sure didn’t look like he was having any control issues to me.
Every starting position player except Jeff Bailey collected at least one hit. Delmon homered. Span and Nishioka doubled. Span, Casilla and Young all stole bases.
Speaking of Nishioka, I’ve been very impressed with his play at second base. He made three excellent defensive plays in today’s game, in addition to teaming with Casilla to turn a couple of double plays. Denard flashed some speed and leather, as well, tracking down a couple of gappers.
But my goal here today is to try to give you a bit of the flavor of a beautiful day at a ballpark. After all, you can read all you want to know about the performances on the field by checking out any of the great beat writers. Speaking of beat writers, mlb.com’s Kelly Thesier is moving on to greener pastures (quite literally, I suppose, since she’s going to work as communications director for the LPGA) and Sunday is her last day covering the Twins. I’ve enjoyed reading Kelly’s reports, her blog and her Tweets and I wish her all the success she deserves in her new job.
I worked up the nerve to introduce myself to both Kelly and the Strib’s LaVelle E. Neal III on Thursday over at the minor league complex when several Twins were getting some extra work in over there. They were both very gracious (meaning neither of them yelled at me for bothering them) and I appreciated that.
So let me tell you about my terrific day and share a few pictures (I took 257 of them today… I get carried away sometimes).
I slept in a bit after the late night on Friday. I didn’t get back to Ft. Myers from Sarasota until nearly midnight and by the time I uploaded pictures and posted on the blog, it was after 2:00 before I get to sleep. I’m too old to get by on very little sleep, so I decided that the three days I’ve spent over on the practice fields this trip will have to suffice.
I pulled in to the stadium parking lot about 11:00am and spent a little time dickering with some of the ticket brokers there, before finding one with a single seat available in the section I was hoping to sit in today… the area behind the Twins dugout. Around noon, I entered the stadium and wandered around, watching a few Twins wrap up their workouts. As I was enjoying a beverage, I looked out over the now-deserted Twins practice field and saw a solitary figure in workout clothes, wayyyyy down the far left field line, signing autographs for fans who handed him things to sign over the fence.
At first, I couldn’t tell who it was, but I suspected it might be one of today’s cut victims, getting every last moment he can out of his allotted time with the Big League club before moving over to the minor league complex. I thought he would probably sign for a few people, like the players generally do, and then go about his day.
I was wrong on both counts.
The player turned out to be Twins closer Joe Nathan and he just kept signing… and signing… and signing. I watched him sign anything that people stuck over the fence to him for close to half an hour, until he had literally signed for everyone who asked. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Major League player anywhere near Nathan’s level sign autographs until there’s nobody left to sign for.
In fact, he signed two more autographs when he finally did reach the fence that connects the practice field to the stadium. It takes a lot for professional athletes to impress me when it comes to interacting with fans, but I was impressed. That earned Joe my “good guy award” today.
Shortly before game time, I grabbed some food and another beverage and found my seat. Before I could even sit down, someone a few seats away recognized me as Jim Crikket from the Knuckleballs blog. Seriously. I’ve never had that happen before. Thank God he didn’t ask for my autograph… I haven’t given any thought whatsoever to what I should charge for that kind of thing yet.
This was my last visit to Hammond Stadium this spring. I’m going to two more games before heading home Tuesday, but both games are on the road. Sunday is up in Dunedin against the Jays and Monday is in Bradenton against the Pirates. I’ve never been to the Jays’ ballpark, so I’m looking forward to seeing that. It’s been a couple of years since I was at the ballpark in Bradenton, but it’s one of my favorites, just because it’s an old-school neighborhood setting that reminds me of the ballparks you used to find in small and medium sized towns across Iowa and Minnesota back in the 1960s.
With that, here are a few more pictures from my day at Hammond Stadium:
Yes, I know the big news at the Twins Spring Training site on Wednesday was the long-awaited debut of Joe Mauer in their game with the Mets, but what is there really to say about that? He hit a line drive up the middle in his first plate appearance off of Mets starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey. In fact, Pelfrey himself might have said all that needs to be said about Mauer’s debut. “I threw a slider in, and he hit a rocker right up the middle,” he was quoted as saying after the game. “He’s obviously Joe Mauer for a reason…” Indeed.
But for those of you who don’t believe what you don’t see, here’s the evidence I captured at the game.
For me, though, I’m a bit of a people watcher and today, I was interested in watching people just talk… communicate.
One of the more humorous bits of “communication” was the bantering between Manager Ron Gardenhire and the fans surrounding the backstop of the Twins’ practice field during batting practice. Just before the last player (Jim Thome) finished getting his cuts, Gardy himself picked up a bat and stepped in the cage. From that point on, the only “communication” coming from Gardy was the word “ouch!” after each swing.
Not long after I settled in to watch some batting practice on the field where the AA level minor leaguers were getting their swings in, a group of today’s cuts from the Major League camp showed up. Rene Tosoni, Joe Benson and Chris Parmalee were not going to be going north with the Twins and today was the day they got the official word and joined their minor league brethren… and the coaches working with those young players. Among the coaches and instructors on this particular field were former Twins outfielder Tom Brunansky, who’s now a coach in the Twins organization, and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. I just hope all of these guys know enough to take advantage of the advice available from the guys who the Twins have around this camp.
Before heading in to Hammond Stadium for the game, I stopped along the “autograph fence” that runs between the Twins practice field and the stadium. This is where players often pause on their way to the stadium after practice to interact with fans. I found two players doing exactly that, pitcher Scott Diamond and Mr. Incredible, Jim Thome. Diamond certainly seemed popular with the young ladies.
Once inside the stadium, I spotted a few people having conversations that I would have been interested to listen in on… like these:
What’s that you say? Wasn’t there an actual game going on today?
Why yes, there was. In fact, the Twins won the game with a walk off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. After Matt Brown opened the inning with a double to the RCF gap, Danny Lehmann followed up with a hit that drove in Brown and saved his team mates from having to endure the most hated thing among ballplayers… a spring training extra-inning ballgame. Here, below, are a few more of the 250 or so pictures I took today, beginning with a shot of Lehmann’s game winning hit.
Finally, while Johan Santana is still on the shelf, the Twins did reunite for the day with a couple of former team mates. Jason Pridie started in centerfield and Luis Castillo started at second base for the mets.
That’s a wrap for today. I’m not sure whether I’m going to make the trip up to Lakeland for the Tigers game Thursday or stick around Ft. Myers. Media reports are that Carl Pavano, Drew Butera, Matt Capps, and Joe Mauer are going to be playing in a minor league game at the Twins’ complex and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew is reportedly going to be arriving at the complex Thursday as well.
If you want to read a bit more about my time at the Twins complex, check in periodically with Howard Sinker’s “A Fan’s View from Section 219” over at the StarTribune site. I’ll be sending periodic reports to Howard which he may be posting.
Of course, I’ll be trying to post something daily here at Knuckleballs, as well.
Hey folk, it’s that time of year again! I thought I would make sure you knew where to go to get your baseball fix while doing the Fair thing. The Twins and FSN have their little shindig set up on the South East corner of the fair by the Snelling entrance. If I remember correctly, it’s a big tent on the East side of Judson between Underwood and Cooper. How about a helpful Map?
Of course they have tons of Twins gear and such that you can pick up. They have official Minnesota Twins Baseball licensed merchandise plus an exhibit of Twins baseball memorabilia and interactive activities for children and adults. They also have free stuff and prize giveaways. At the very minimum you can get Twins bags and schedules for next year! Here’s the Fair promotional guide that you can look through for deals – baseball and otherwise!
I will admit that I really did only the most basic of searching for this and while I tried to find out if there was a schedule of player appearances at the Twins site and they didn’t have any Fair related info for current players. But here’s a link to the alumni players who are going to be there.
I did at least grab the link to the daily schedules. If you know what day you are going, you can check to see what’s going on that day. Of course, I have gotten the word from TC Bear that he will be in the parade every day at 2 pm so if you haven’t gotten your Twins fix by that point in the day, you know where to go.
And just because I found it and couldn’t resist sharing, here’s a little insight from April this year into what some of our Minnesota boys think about all that food on a stick!
A kind concessionaire named Brandi looked at the menu behind her and summarized it thusly: “How much more Minnesota can you get? Everything on a stick!”
Such adventuring spirit hasn’t quite infiltrated the home team, which, during the yearly Minnesota State Fair, tends to find itself in pennant races. Finding a walleye-on-a-spike veteran was harrowing.
Manager Ron Gardenhire? Nope.
“I’ve seen my buddy Walleye walk with a stick because he’s so drunk,” he said.
Reliever Brian Duensing? Negative.
“I don’t know if I could trust it,” he said. “The stick scares me. If it’s one a plate, sure. I might try it. I’m sure it’s not bad.”
Second baseman Orlando Hudson? You can’t be serious.
“I ain’t eating no fish on no damn stick,” he said. “I eat bass, crappy, walleye. But not on no stick. That don’t sound right.”
Everything else was fine. “This is a great town,” Hudson said, and it got even better when the threat of baseball contracting the Twins forced the city’s people to save their team. They could’ve said no. They could’ve done a bootleg job. Instead, they’ve got this new jewel in the middle of their city, set up and finished with a spike.
You know, I really think it would be fun to walk around the Fair with a couple of these guys on their first time!
It’s really good to have our boys back home and I hope that the weather cooperates while they are here! I think everyone in MN would be glad for a short break from torrential rain. So Morneau is improving but Gardy announced today that they aren’t talking time tables with him anymore – they want to make sure that he’s ready and so far he still hasn’t had any symptom-free days – at least he’s not feeling bad until he gets home now. If you want a full recap of life for him right now, Phil Mackey did a great write-up today.
Unfortunately, news about Mijares is not as good. He’s got more than a sprained knee – it’s a torn meniscus and requires surgery and he’ll be out 4-6 weeks. Ouch.
TC Bear announced today on twitter that he & Bert Blyleven planted trees over at the Luce Line trail today for all the bats Twins pitchers have broken so far – he said the broken bat total right now is at 131. At 100 trees per bat, that’s a lot of new canopy! Here’s a pic! Bert is supposed to talk about it in the FSN pregame if you are able to watch the program.
Coming off the series win in Chicago, I’m sure that the team morale is high. Let’s hope that Pavano does a very Pavano job and that our offense keeps up the good work.
That was a CRAZY game – some INCREDIBLE defense and amazing plays and then some absolutely head-banging plays. But it all worked out to give Carl Pavano win #15 which puts him in a tie for first place in the American League! In the postgame interview, he FINALLY expressed what it is about Drew Butera that he connects so well with – they are both Italian. But he did mention that he’s a bit angry with Drew for shaving the mustache off. AND he really enjoyed the walk-on music that Target Field played for him tonight – the theme to Mario Bros! And even TC “grew” his mustache in honor of the big guy’s start tonight. Carl’s not sure what it is about his mustache that has elicited such support from the fans but I think I speak for all of us when I say, if you keep winning, we’ll keep loving the ‘Stache! (at least metaphorically)
The most incredible play of the night was a GORGEOUSLY executed suicide squeeze bunt between Drew Butera and Danny Valencia. Wow. Butera’s bunt was perfect and I swear that Danny was 2/3 of the way to homeplate with his leadoff before Butera even made contact. VERY well done boys. For that play alone, they both have a special bakery prize – their very own “BUNT” Cake!! Hope they really enjoy it!
SECOND, there were inumberable plays tonight where our boys sacrificed the body to make the play – Lexi, Spanky and Hudson all really laid it out there – literally. But none came up with blood on the uniform, met with the trainer and stayed in the game the way Michael Cuddyer did. For that grit and determination, Knuckleballs awards him the very rarely offered GOLDEN BANDAID! Thanks for all you do, Cuddy!
Additionally, the bullpen came out AGAIN and in some high pressure situations, kept the Twins in the lead and allowed us to walk off the field with the win. Since there was still a bit of roughness that I am worried is attributed to dehydration after the keg they got last night, they will have to live with rootbeer floats tonight instead of the other kind. And Jesse Crain – for coming in with the bases loaded and nailing it down anyway, you get yours in a tall, frosty mug straight out of the freezer with an extra scoop! We really enjoy it when you come in and do stuff like that!
Of course, all this leads up to who did we vote to get the BOD!?! For that we go back to the beginning. In addition to that absolutely gorgeous squeeze, Valencia went 2/4, with a double, a run, and 2 RBI. For that, he has earned today’s BOD! Viva La Valencia!