Friday, January 21, 2005
OTHER QUICK THOUGHTS
TWINS WINTER CARAVAN
The Minnesota Twins as an organization do a lot of work within the community and really do a good job of marketing themselves in the Upper Midwest. One of the best ways that they go about doing that is through the Winter Caravans (see if one will be in your area here). This week, two groups went out to promote the 2005 Twins, a Dakota Leg (which visited 11 communities in North and South Dakota) and a Northern Leg (which visited 14 Northern Minnesota towns in four days). Next week, three more groups will cover towns throughout southern and western Minnesota, all in the name of good will and marketing.
Yesterday, I had my first opportunity to attend one of these events, and I really enjoyed it. I want to tell you about what became an incredibly interesting day!
"THIS IS TWINS TERRITORY"
Before Christmas, the Twins website announced its plans for the Winter Caravan. The closest community that the tours came to where I live, Warroad, MN, was Thief River Falls, MN, which is 90 miles southwest of there. I saw that Clay Matvik would be accompanied by Lew Ford, Grant Balfour and Dan Gladden. I decided then that I would keep an eye on it and try to make it.
Earlier this week, I e-mailed a friend of mine in Thief River Falls to see if she could find out the when-and-where details of the event. When I found out that it would just be a luncheon from 11:30 to 1:00, I realized that I would probably have to take the full day off to make the hour and a half trip to attend because of travel, etc. I just really couldn’t justify that in my head.
Well, I got to work at 8:00 yesterday morning, and I e-mailed my friend Missy Olson (you will remember her from the football picks panel) and told her the details. Well, she’s smarter than I am and determined that if we left at 10:00, we could be to Thief River Falls by a little after 11:30. If the event finished at 1:00, we could hit McDonalds (yes, the nearest McDonalds is 90 miles away! And yes, I have watched Super-Size Me) and be back by 3:00, meaning we only had to use four hours of time off. She said she would drive (because I drive too slow!) if I wanted to go. Well, I got the ok to take the time off, and at about 9:30, I decided that we were going! So, we left at 10:00.
We had to make a quick gas stop in Roseau. Missy had called her mom to meet us there with her Dan Gladden jersey so she could wear that! We drove through some snow and questionable roads, but it wasn’t too bad. We got to the Best Western at about 11:35 thinking that we would walk in late. We went to the table to pay the $4 entry fee. That also meant that we could eat hot dogs, but neither of us did, as we were eagerly anticipating McDonalds.
As we were standing in line, I saw Clay Matvik through a doorway. A second later, I saw that Dan Gladden was with him. Now, you have to understand that Missy has this thing for Gladden. She has been ‘in love with’ him since the 1987 World Series. Seriously, Missy has been almost infatuated with Gladden for years. Of course, if Mr. Gladden reads this site (COOL!) it is nothing to be worried about. I think it's just a crush!
When I saw Gladden, I looked at Missy and witnessed when she first saw him. She literally shook and turned to me and her eyes were huge. She was actually shaking. Gladden came toward the table and introduced himself to the two ladies working there. He was talking to people in line. Missy was wearing a Polaris jacket and commented to her about that. Missy uttered something, but I really couldn’t understand it. I stood their laughing.
At this point, we walked into the conference room. It was a standard room with a few tables of food, a lot of chairs and then the main table at the front for the Twins representatives. As we walked in, Lew Ford and Grant Balfour were on our left talking to someone from the local radio station that was sponsoring the event. Further in, Gladden was talking to people, really making everyone comfortable. We went in and put our jackets on some seats. At this point, I really needed to find out where the facilities were, so I went for a little walk and, I admit, did a little flirting with the ticket taking ladies!
When I came back, Missy had put on her Gladden jersey, pulled out the digital camera and said, "Seth, you have to take a picture of me with Dan." I said that was fine, and we walked over there. Missy asked him, "Can I please get a picture with you?" Gladden was very receptive and said, "Absolutely!" So, they got set up for the picture. I heard Missy admit to Gladden, "I am so totally shaking right now! You’re my hero!" I was about to take the picture when TC Bear stepped in between us, which was funny. Finally I took the picture (which you can see here).
As Missy was walking back toward me, Gladden saw that she was wearing the #32 jersey with his name across the back. He looked genuinely shocked and said, "You’ve got my jersey!" Missy sheepishly said, "Yeah." He asked if she wanted him to sign it, and if we would be staying until after the show so he could do that. We said we would be there the whole time. Then one of the other Twins employees told him that they did not have time to do any autographs after the show (because they had to get to their next town). So, Gladden took out a Sharpie and proceeded to sign the back of her jersey. It was very nice! (see autograph below).
You know, I hate to judge people by what happens on a baseball field or basketball court. I do understand that people can be different in different situations. I always thought that Gladden was an arrogant player, and from that, person. I didn't know what to expect from him going to this. But right from the start, he was the life of the group. He was very social and went around to different people. He made people very comfortable, joked with people and answered every question politely and thoroughly. I left with an entirely different opinion of Dan Gladden then I showed up there with.
At this point, the event was about to start so we sat down in our chairs. The Twins provided some information on each seat. It included a "This is Twins Territory" window sticker, a pack of cards (which included Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan, Brad Radke and Johan Santana as well as some pictures of proposed new stadiums in the Twin Cities), a big pamphlet on the different season ticket packets and a flyer for Twins Fest. We also were able to sign up for later drawings.
I should point out that there were probably about 40 people in attendance. There was a wide variety of ages represented. There were probably six to ten in the under-30 category. There were probably a dozen people who were retirement age or older. Everyone else was somewhere in the middle. It was just a tough time of day to get any more people. Most people don’t take time off of work to attend something like this (unlike Missy and I!). If the group would have been in Thief River Falls from 4-6, I am sure that there would have been two to three times more people there.
The program started with Clay Matvik of Fox Sports Net North welcoming everyone and thanking them for coming out. You could tell he had given that opening before, but he did well. He first introduced a video that we watched. The video showed a lot of highlights from 2004 of players that will still be around in 2005. There was a lot of Ron Gardenhire talking about the different players and his expectations for the team. Terry Ryan spoke throughout as well. It was narrated by Dick Bremer. There was talk on each position and the pitchers and some prospects, but clearly it was highlighted with talk of Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Justin Morneau, the Outfielders and, of course, Joe Mauer. I really enjoyed the video.
When it was done, Matvik introduced Gladden, then Ford (who received a spattering of Leeewwww’s from the sparse crowd of Twins fans), and finally Grant Balfour. He started it by asking a couple of questions to Gladden. Then he asked Lew Ford a few questions before finishing with Balfour. He had to stress that Ford is from Texas and isn’t used to the kind of weather he has seen this week. But, he made a point that I can’t believe I hadn’t though of. Balfour has spent his offseason in Australia, where it is summer. So, he left temperatures in the 80s and 90s to come to Minnesota where it was almost 50 degrees below zero earlier this week!
They then opened the floor for questions from the crowd. They did not have any problem getting questions. People would either raise their hands or just blurt out questions. One man asked Lew Ford if there is any chance that he would take some ground balls at first base just to give him more of an opportunity to be in the lineup. It was comical because Balfour was shaking his head and motioning "No Way" as the question was being asked. Ford pretty much said that he would be too small to play 1B, would take a lot of grounders off his jaw, and the best part of the answer was that the Twins already have the prototypical mashing first baseman in Justin Morneau. Other questions had to do with how the players were preparing, what their roles might be in 2005, and other standard questions. It was interesting. I wanted to ask a question, but my mind went blank. Whenever I would come up with a question, someone else would ask it. Also, I didn’t think I should ask why they chose not to resign Corey Koskie and chose to replace him and his contract with the likes of Rivas, Castro and Munson? Was I going to ask Ford how he feels knowing he is a far better defensive outfielder than Shannon Stewart, yet Stewart will likely be in the outfield most games? No.
And then at about 12:30, they ended that segment and drew names out of a box for autographed baseballs. Balfour, Ford and Gladden each signed a ball to be given away to the three winners. The first name drawn won a Gladden baseball. The second one won a Balfour baseball. The third won a Ford-signed baseball. There was one more baseball left and Matvik wasn’t sure what to do with it. Fortunately Gladden picked it up, grabbed the microphone and said, "I signed one extra one ball. One young lady here showed up wearing my jersey, so I wanted to give her this ball." I looked at Missy, and Missy’s eyes were again big as she got up and walked to the front to get the baseball. (at right)
At that point, the show was basically over. Someone asked a question about a new stadium, and Clay Matvik answered it very well, and very politically, which was good. Then a lady, I am guessing she was in her mid 70s, raised her hand and asked if she could get a picture with the guys. Clay said sure, so she went up toward the front. A Twins employee took her camera, and she went and stood next to Balfour. She was telling the lady to just push the button. Everyone enjoyed watching her. She was so serious. Someone told her to go between the two players, but she wanted to get a picture with "this one first." (Balfour) Someone told her to put her arm around him. She looked down and said, "It is!" She then went to Ford and took a picture with him. Then she went over to Gladden, who stood up for the picture. He asked if she wanted Clay to be in the picture too, and she looked confused and at Matvik (as if she had no idea who he was) and just said, "Sure."
Someone else asked if the four of them would stand together and be able to take a couple of pictures as a group. So, they stood together and some people went and took their pictures. The show was done.
I went up to the table and introduced myself to Lew Ford. I basically just said, "Hi, my name is Seth, and I write the Twins-related website that your father wrote an article for me in." We shook hands and he said, "Yeah, it was on Father’s Day, right? And I said Yeah. He told me that he and his family really enjoyed it and especially enjoyed the pictures that were included in the story. He said he hadn’t seen some of them in a long time. We did talk about a few other things for a couple of minutes, shook hands and then I walked away. (yes, that is me in the yellow sweatshirt with the bald, rolly head!)
Missy wanted to go over and thank Dan Gladden again. So, she did and shook his hand. I shook his hand too and thanked him for coming to town. On the radio, they sometimes talk about the town that Gladden lives. It is a community where my brother teaches. So, I talked to him for about 30 seconds about that area.
We went back to our chairs and started putting on our jackets. Just then, Grant Balfour was walking by and he looked over and said, "Thanks for coming out, Seth." I nodded, thanked him for coming up and said have a safe trip! As he walked past, I looked at Missy and asked, "Miss, did he just call me by name?" She looked at me and admitted, "I was just going to ask you the same thing!" So, maybe Grant Balfour reads this site. If so, Grant, send me an e-mail. I actually had a few questions that I would have loved to ask you at that time if I wouldn’t have been so surprised. For instance, I was curious about the time difference between Minnesota and Sydney. If the Twins play at 7:00 central time, what time is that in Australia? Do his parents have to get up during the middle of the night, or do they "watch" the Twins games online at work? He has started and relieved, what does he prefer to do? For that matter, if Lew Ford or Dan Gladden, or any Twins are reading this site, send me an e-mail and say Hi.
I should also point out to the female readers that apparently Grant Balfour is HOT! I guess I am not one to judge such things. All I need to know is that he can throw hard and will be excellent out of the Twins bullpen. But Missy insists that he is a very attractive man. She says that this picture does not even do him justice. Also that the Australian accent just adds to the allure. I also showed the included picture to a few female friends at work and received the following responses: "Who is That!? He's HOT!" and "YUMMM... I think I'm in LOVE!" I think I'll just include the picture and let you make up your own mind!
At that point, Missy and I left the Best Western and went back into the cold. When we sat down in the car, Missy said to me, "Seriously. This is so far more than I ever would have hoped for! This was the best four hours I’ve ever taken off from work!"
Quickly, the Twins MLB.com writer Mark Sheldon traveled with this group on the Northern Leg of the tour. He wrote daily updates that are very entertaining. Here are his takes on the four days:
Day 3 (ice fishing!)
And John Gordon wrote a quick article on the Dakota Leg.
And she was right! It was just a great time, even though it was short and we had to drive 90 miles both ways, we agreed that it was so worth it! And to top things off, we went to McDonalds next! I went with the 10 piece Chicken McNuggets and a small order of fries to go with my, ahem, Diet Coke. We got our food 'to go' and took off from Thief River Falls. I was set up. My nuggets and fries and barbecue sauce were in one container on my left leg. My pop was set up between my legs as I was making sure that we were ready to go. All of a sudden, a person was walking almost in the middle of the road. Missy hit the brakes and my pop flipped upside down into my McDonald’s bag on the floor. I reached down and amazingly, the lid was still on it so very little spilled. So, I picked that up and was all excited… until I realized that the open barbecue sauce container for the nuggets had popped up and flipped upside down as well… right onto my sweatshirt and crotch region. So, I had to clean that up. That also meant that when we got back to Warroad, we had to stop by my house so I could change.
Well, the weather was fine until we got about 15 miles from Warroad when the snow and wind both picked up dramatically. We stopped at my place for about 5 minutes. We left my place, and you guessed it, Missy’s car got stuck in my driveway, just like another friend’s car the other night. So, Missy called her fiance, and he helped us get out of that. I was back to work by 3:30 and worked until 5:30. In that time, I was able to call someone to plow my driveway. When I got home, I was so happy and excited about that! I still had to shovel my sidewalk and the deck off the back of my house (it’s where I let Abby out, that’s why I shovel it), but I didn't mind!
Oh, and then there was a new episode of Joey last night! That was excellent. And then the 90-minute premiere episode of The Apprentice 3. They are trying a new approach this season, college grads against people with just a high school diploma. Donald Trump admitted that the IQ’s of the two teams were very close, but that the net worth of the people with just the high school diplomas was triple that of those with college degrees. I think that is an interesting number, however, it is very leading. You have to remember that there are just nine people on both sides. From Episode 1, the high schoolers "Net Worth" looked smart, well organized, practical and common sensed. The college grads "Magna" were made to look stupid, arrogant, and just weird. Granted, some of the things they did were very stupid. But, I am curious as to 1.) how the season will go with these teams, and 2.) how the show’s producers will make the teams look.
Anyway, that was my day. The Twins Caravan was a lot of fun, and I’m glad that Missy and I just gave in and went to it. It was well worth it. If you have a chance in the next week to attend one, I would encourage you to. Also, if you can get to Twins Fest, that would be a lot of fun too. I would love to go, and if I lived any closer, I certainly would be there. The fact that I live about 6 ½ hours from the Twin Cities makes it a little more difficult to get there. But maybe I will.
If you have any questions or comments about the caravan, or about my story, or anything to do with the Twins, please feel free to e-mail me.
OTHER QUICK THOUGHTS
I have to put include my football playoff predictions today, so here they are:
Atlanta Falcons 24, Philadelphia Eagles 27
New England Patriots 19, Pittsburgh Steelers 6
Johan Santana was named the winner of the Warren Spahn Award, given to the best left-handed pitcher in baseball.
Former Twins Marty Cordova and Mark Guthrie signed minor league contracts with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Former Twin Denny Hocking signed a minor league deal with the Kansas City Royals.
Former Twin Jose Offerman signed a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
ESPN is doing a number of articles naming the best player in the major leagues at doing things from bunting to base running. Torii Hunter was named the Most Exciting Baserunner. It is interesting that the article was written by Phil Rogers! Rogers, of course, is from Chicago, and the reason Hunter gets this award is for taking out Jamie Burke!
The Twins Geek discusses the return of Paul Molitor to the Twins coaching staff and what it could mean to the team.
The Vikings hired offensive line coach Steve Loney to be their new offensive coordinator replacing Scott Linehan who went to the Dolphins yesterday. Mike Tice can say it is about maintaining continuity in the system. Lets be honest, it's because Loney probably agreed to do it for cheap!
With just his Top 15 prospects remaining unknown, Bryan Smith from Wait Til Next Year has posted his Top 75 prospects (and some honorable mentions). Francisco Liriano appeared in the Honorable Mention entry. Three Twins prospects showed up in Part 3 (45-60). They are Jason Kubel (50), JD Durbin (58) and Jesse Crain (59). Certainly Kubel would have ranked higher if not for his knee injury.
I would like to thank Matt for so thoroughly explaining to me that I was wrong about Mike Piazza's fiance yesterday! Thank you!
And I wish you all a great weekend! If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for future articles, please e-mail me.
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