Thursday, July 15, 2010
My Twins Train Adventure
I have to admit that it was a great time for the All Star Break to get here. The Twins needed it. I needed it. I’m sure there are a lot of Twins fans out there who needed it. For the better part of the last three-and-a-half month of the regular season, and six weeks before that, it has been a grind. It has been a grind for the players, and a grind for the fans too. So a Break is exactly what we all need before starting the next two-and-a-half months.
Today, I want to write about my Twins Train trip to Detroit. Going into the weekend, I was excited about going on a baseball trip. After the weekend, I was thrilled to have gone on an adventure in which we got to watch a couple of Twins games.
The trip began at about 1:50 a.m. on Friday morning. About 30 people in groups of two to five packed comfortably into a Lorenz chartered bus. I think I was awake for maybe 20 minutes before I started snoring. I know I woke up at 4, and woke up at 5. Before 7 a.m. we had passed Beloit and were into Illinois. We hit Chicago between and 8 and 9 a.m. Traffic was slow around O’Hare, but not as bad as I had thought.
Driving through Chicago was actually pretty cool for me. We had driven through on a family vacation… 23 years ago, so it was fun to actually see landmarks and know what they were. We saw the sign for the exit to Wrigley Field. We drove right past U.S. Cellular Field. By 3:00, we had arrived in Detroit. I had been through the airport on several occasions.
We stayed at the Hotel St. Regis in downtown. It has the potential to be a really nice hotel, just needs more towels.
About 5:00, we headed the 2+ miles to Comerica Park. When we got there, we walked right in. When my brother and I walked in, wearing our Twins jerseys, we were greeted by ushers who were very nice and very accomodating, telling us that we could walk right up to the screens behind the dugouts and behind home plate until batting practice was done. Instead, we went out down the right field line and watched Jason Kubel launch towering home run after towering home run in batting practice. Jim Thome hit a few a long way. Danny Valencia launched several well into the left field bleachers. We walked up into the 2nd and 3rd decks of the stadium for all of the stadium views.
But when it was game time, we went out to our Friday night seats out behind the Twins bullpen in left centerfield. We were able to walk right up to the bullpen and oversee Francisco Liriano as he prepared for the game.
Of course, you know the results of the Liriano/Verlander matchup. Liriano was out before the end of the second inning. Tigers fans in our section definitely let the group of Twins Train fans know that their team was clearly the leader on the scoreboard. That basically continued throughout most of the game. It was fun walking through the hallways and into the bathrooms and getting bumped by Tigers fans or other, much worse things (a few things that I wouldn’t feel comfortable typing here!) about how the Twins are not so good. And the best part, I got to sit by Sooze!! How cool is that?!
Since I am old, and had slept approximately three, maybe four, hours over the previous 36 hours, I headed back to the hotel, while others checked out some of the cool night spots in Detroit. I figured the next day would be another long one.
On Day 2, the Twins and Tigers were scheduled for a 4:00 start time. We left the hotel a little before 11 in the morning. One of the best parts of the trip was a drive around downtown Detroit. The General Motors center is a huge building that is pretty cool. There are several really nice buildings in downtown Detroit, but there were many more buildings that were huge that were not cool, were not nice. They were abandoned. But we also so Joe Lewis Arena, the home of the Detroit Red Wings. We got to see the bridge that connects the United States and Canada, and the sign to the tunnel to Canada.
We then went to Cheli’s Chili Bar, named after hockey great Chris Chelios. It is right across the street from Comerica Park. There was a DJ and we sat under umbrellas and in the sun. A few times, there was a military jet that flew overhead, loudly.
At 2:30, the Twins Train package included a pregame buffet in the Tigers Club. It is fairly similar to the Metropolitan Club at Target Field. The buffet was incredible with everything from ribs to chicken wings, from brats to some mushroom pasta thing, and fruit and dessert and shrimp and…
Sorry about that… anyway, while eating in style, we were also able to look through huge windows and watch the Twins take batting practice. It was really a great, filling experience. I didn’t need nachos during that day’s game!
Our seats for Saturday afternoon’s game were down the third base line. Excellent seats. They said it was 84 degrees. I think it was about 15 degrees warmer than that. Jose Valverde, the Tigers excellent closer came out of the dugout wearing a sweatshirt and slowly walking to the bullpen.
I noticed af the game was about to begin that there were a couple of guys in black suits standing at the top of our section. I found that crazy in such hear. It wasn’t long before I realized what they were doing. You see, Ms. America is apparently from near Detroit. She threw out the first pitch and then sat in the bleachers just four rows behind us and across the aisle. She, and her rather large, intimidating boyfriend, lasted about four innings before they were moved.
Again, Saturday’s game was not a good one for the Twins or specifically for Nick Blackburn. The Tigers dominated and the Tiger fans let us know about it. There was one really annoying heckler who just kept yelling at Delmon Young. This guy was shirtless. He seemingly thought he was tough. There are two funny parts to this story. First, the idiot seemed to be confusing Delmon Young with Delwyn Young (of the Pirates). Second, an older gentleman about five rows in front of him stood up in the middle innings, turned around and started yelling at the heckler, “Sir, there are woman and children here…” and the heckler just sat there and took it, nodding his head. It didn’t stop him, but at least he stopped using certain words.
There was much more rudeness. I was wearing a Kirby Puckett baby blue jersey, and no fewer than four people had to shout out “Kirby Puckett was overrated!” I know I was bumped into several times. But I also had no fewer than three people tell me that despite being Tigers fans, their favorite player of all-time was Kirby Puckett.
Following the game, we were taunted brutally by Tigers fans all the way back to the bus. It had been two frustrating losses, and the taunters were tough. After the bus left the stadium, we drove no further than two blocks when we were in the midst of some abandoned buildings. There was an old church with a sign that said “KEEP OFF, NO SLEEPING.” Laying down on the top step was a homeless man, sleeping. Talk about finding ways to put everything back into perspective and remind us of just how important baseball is in the grtand scheme of things, that will do it.
Late that night, we had several experiences in downtown Detroit which was equal parts fun and scary. In talking to some Twins fans, we mentioned how literally angry many of the Tigers fans were, an unusually high number. A Detroit man standing near said that it only makes sense that a city full of people who have lost so much in the last couple of years would be angry. It does make sense.
We left the Hotel St. Regis at about 9:00 on Sunday morning. Things flowed quite smoothly until Chicago when traffic on 94 was tight. Our driver, Ed (the greatest chartered bus driver ever!) took us through downtown Chicago, away from the traffic. It was tremendous because downtown Chicago is so much nicer (and cleaner) than downtown Detroit. We all were impressed with all of the buildings. But then we came to an intersection and looking down the street saw a few cars turned upside down, and pavement piled up from where the cars had landed. For a split second, all I could think was ‘Get Me Outta Here!” Cody (North Dakota Twins Fan) checked on his phone and quickly found that Transformers 3 was being filmed in downtown Chicago and affecting traffic in some areas.
Scott Povolny is the owner of Twins Train. He joined me on the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast on Monday night to talk about the Twins Train, what made him start it, and future trips. He began the Twins Train as way to bring the Twins community around to other cities to follow the team. He has set up terrific trips with great itineraries. In April, the Twins Train went to Chicago, Cleveland and Kansas City. In June, they went to Milwaukee. The Detroit trip was last weekend. Scott has added three more Twins Train trips for this season. August 6-8, they will head back to Cleveland. Just days later (August 11-13), the group will head back to Chicago. He’s also working on the details for a trip back to Detroit in September. And that’s not even mentioning the trip he’s taking in October, to Lambeau Field in Green Bay for a Sunday night Packers/Vikings game.
The baseball trips include the chartered bus service, tickets to two games, and hotel accomodations. Beverages of various kinds are also provided for the bus trip. You really should go to TwinsTrain.com and just surf the site. Be sure to check the pricing. I really don’t know that Scott makes much off of this venture. Considering all that you get, the hotel room for two nights, the bus ride, and the Twins tickets, it’s a very fair deal. Add in the experience, the adventure, the geography lessons and the comraderie with Twins fans, it’s a great deal.
Here are some quick minor league notes from last night:
· In the AAA All Star Game, the International League topped the Pacific Coast League 2-1. Anthony Slama was the winning pitcher. He threw a scoreless inning with one walk and one strikeout. Dustin Martin started in right field and went 0-3 with two strikeouts.
· In the AA Eastern League All-Star Game, the East Division lost to the West Division 10-3. Ben Revere went 0-2 with an RBI (on a sacrifice fly). He started in CF and batted second. Deolis Guerra pitched the third inning. He gavce up two unearned runs on two hits. He struck out one. Kyle Gibson pitched a perfect sixth inning.
· Ft. Myers beat Daytona 10-2. Deibinson Romero went 3-5 with three RBI. Estarlin de Los Santos went 3-6. Brian Dozier went 2-3 with a walk. Evan Bigley went 2-5 with his 21st double. Bobby Lanigan started and threw six shutout innings. He allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out four. Matt Williams, back from New Britain, got the save with three innings of two-run ball. He walked none and struck out five.
· Beloit lost 8-7 to Great Lakes. Steve Liddle went 3-5 with his 8th home run and four RBI. Anderson Hidalgo went 2-3 with a walk and his third home run. But the most exciting thing in this game is the return of Tom Stuifbergen to the mound. The Dutch right-hander threw three shutout innings, allowing three hits. Michael Tonkin came in and gave up an unearned run in his inning. Matt Tone gave up four runs on four hits (2 HR) and three walks in two innings. Eliecer Cardenas gave up two runs (1 earned) in his inning. Andrei Lobanov gave up an unearned run in his inning.
· Elizabethton lost 3-2 to Danville. Oswaldo Arcia went 2-3 with a walk and his 7th home run. The homer brought the E-Twins to within a run in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough. Adrian Salcedo fell to 2-2 with the loss. He gave up three runs on five hits. In seven innings, he walked none and struck out seven. Sam Spangler came in and threw two shutout innings.
· The GCL Twins lost 9-4 to the GCL Orioles. Max Kepler went 2-4 with his third double in the game to raise his average to .268. Pedro Guerra started and gave up four runs (3 earned) on three hits in four innings. He walked three and struck out three. Nathan Fawbush came in and gave up an unearned run on two hits in the fifth. Matt Schuld threw two scoreless innings. Luis Nunez struck out two batters in a perfect eighth inning. Nick Alloway came in and gave up four runs on three hits and a walk in the 9th.
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