Sunday, February 28, 2010

Florida, Day 2



SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 28th

I woke up this morning and went to church with my Mom. Afterwards, we made the short jaunt up to Ft. Myers along Tamiami Trail and spent some time at the Twins complex before I had to pick up my cousin from the airport. Didn't need to look at a map, it was ingrained in me after my trip to Spring Training last year. You can see the stadium lights almost as soon as you turn onto 6 Mile Cypress Parkway, the stadium looks kind of like Canterbury Park but with palm trees, and its surrounded by road construction and Home Depot, so it's hard to miss -- the only bright spot in miles.

I love the names of the parking lanes: Kelly, Hrbek, Grant, Kaat, etc. It's a paved jungle of baseball glory. My Mom had never been to Spring Training, she kind of lives vicariously in her appreciation of baseball through me and my younger brother, but she definitely enjoys it. I could tell she was even in awe of just how close you were to the players: you could reach through the batting practice wire and your fingers would almost brush JJ Hardy's jersey.

The first thing I noticed as we walked up to the stadium was a crowd of people outside the batting cages. I heard the name "Denard" and immediately I ran towards the crowd of people. Sure enough, Span was there politely talking to everyone and signing autographs. I pushed my way into the mass of Twins fandom around him and eventually reached him and told him how much I enjoyed his being on Seth Stohs' podcast. He kind of smiled and said "You heard that!? Cool!"

From there I walked along the batting cages and watched a blurry Joe Mauer take some practice swings -- he even practiced bunting, which I doubt he'll ever do in the regular season...

And then we spent some time watching JJ Hardy take instruction from Rod Carew and Joe Vavra on his swing, which was pretty fun to see first-hand.

From there we watched Tolbert and Harris field some grounders and worked our way into the empty Hammond Stadium. It was beautiful seeing an outdoor park, palm trees, feeling the sunshine. I wished I could just sit down and watch a game.

Eventually we made our way back out to where the players were practicing and we got there just in time to see a golf cart full of bullpen pitchers arrive on their way back from the weight room.

We had to kill a little time until my cousin arrived on her flight into Ft. Myers, so we hung around on a bench after the workouts were done and eventually Gardy meandered his way out of the stadium and stopped to sign some autographs.

In total we were only there about an hour or so. I hope to get back tomorrow morning and spend some more time walking around, but it was a nice start and I got to speak with Span and Gardy a little bit, which was fun.

The rest of the day was spent drinking mai thai's on the beach watching the US Olympic hockey team lose to Canada, and then fixing cocktails for a bunch of my grandparents' friends at a reception for my grandfather's funeral.

We'll see how hungover I am tomorrow because that will have an impact on when I show up to the Lee County Sports Complex...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quick Florida Update

These entries will not be entirely baseball related. I'm just going to document my Florida trip, because other than my grandfather's funeral, a majority of it will be baseball related...

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27th

I was originally planning on going to Spring Training later in March. Sadly, my grandfather passed away this week, and as he lived with my grandmother in Naples, Florida, it just made sense to bump my trip up earlier and extend my stay around the funeral.

The one kink in my original plans is that I won't really be able to go to many actual games: I have to leave Sunday to return to New York, so the only the games I'll be here for are three against the Red Sox, two at the Red Sox facility and one at the Twins. The one at the Twins facility falls on the same day as the funeral. So, to sum up, all of my blogging about the Twins stadium will be in the next few days when I go to watch workouts, not any of the actual spring games. But I will be at the Red Sox facility on Thursday and Saturday and will be able to cover those games.

Today was my first real day down here. I flew out of New York on Friday night after work and was afraid I wouldn't make it out. For some reason we got around 2 feet of snow dumped on us and flights were being cancelled left and right -- I know 2 feet doesn't sound like much to Minnesotans, but New York tends to shut down with even a dusting. They're wimps. -- On the flight I got to watch some Olympic hockey because JetBlue is genius and has free DirectTV for every seat (not a paid promoter, I swear). I landed in Fort Myers around 11:30PM, got a zippy little burgundy Kia Forte rental car with only 600 miles on it, oh man does it feel good to drive again, even if it's a Kia. It has that new car smell and it's so pristine, I kind of want to kiss it whenever I see it.

Today was rather cold (cold for Florida) and rainy, so I'm glad I didn't head up to the Twins complex. Instead I spent the morning running errands, including going to Target and buying them out of major league baseballs in their protective cases so that I can get all the autographs I want (and the ones I've promised people).

I was put in charge of getting the alcohol together for a family and close friends reception Sunday night for the funeral. I'm not sure why I was put in charge of the alcohol, either they trust my taste enough or they are commenting on my liver functionality. Anyway, I tried going through my grandfather's liquor cabinet which is full of all sorts of random things (including Nut liquor, have you ever heard of that? It tasted disgusting.) The majority of the afternoon was dedicated to emptying down the drain all the $500 bottles of champagne that he had stored poorly and had since turned to vinegar. It was such a waste. Then I took my mom and my aunt to the liquor store to replenish everything.

Topped that off with the best restaurant I've ever been to in my life. If the Twins and my grandparents weren't down in Naples I would have made excuses to fly down just to eat at this place: Fernandez the Bull. Best Cuban food ever. Today I had the lime marinated roast pork with yuca, black beans and rice, plantains, and sangria. It was between that and their famous media noche sandwich (like a Cuban but with sweeter bread).

I need to pick my cousin up from the airport in Ft. Myers tomorrow afternoon so I think on my way out there I'll drop by the Twins facility and do my first walkabout of the trip. Hopefully I'll have some good baseball info for tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Podcast!

Hey! I'm joining Fanatic Jack on our podcast tonight! Louie of Hitting the Eephus will be a special guest. Make sure to check it out!

I'm also heading down to Spring Training Friday night, so stay tuned for some in-camp updates and photos!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Forgotten Acquisition


Ok, slight exaggeration, perhaps he's not quite forgotten, but he's certainly the least hyped of the moves we've made this offseason:


Try to forget this kind of intensity!

Clay Condrey certainly isn't the most exciting name to see on our roster, but let's not forget that even with our bullpen's late-season resurgence, it's still been our Achilles heel for the past couple of years. Condrey's arm gives us a solidly reliable option that might just be the boost we need to return our 'pen to its rightful dominance.

First, let's take obvious upside: Clay Condrey is better than Bobby Keppel.


Don't get mad Bobby. Or should I call you Bob? (Thanks for the picture Betsy...)

Keppel just wasn't good. Despite lighting it up during his stint in Rochester and being met with some early success when he first came up (including not allowing a run in his first 10 innings over 4 games), Keppel had a sinker that just eventually didn't sink -- perhaps we could call it a stinker? If your survival as a pitcher comes from killing worms instead of missing bats, you had better be sure that you keep that ball constantly biting downward, but as soon as his pitches started to flatten out, he certainly didn't have the velocity or the guile to fool anyone in the majors. He became the de facto mop-up guy, and I'm sure when Gardy had to trot him out there in that topsy-turvy Game 163, the fans weren't the only ones praying fervently for him not to blow it.

So, essentially, Condrey not being Bobby Keppel is a plus.


And being buddies with Chris Coste is another plus, right Seth?

Any of the Phillies fans I know would go say that Condrey was a better pitcher out of their bullpen than Brad Lidge. But of course, when your ERA is a full 4.00 points lower than your closer, something's a little screwy. Of course, Lidge really can't pitch his way out of a paper bag with a hole in it, so saying that Condrey is better isn't much of a surprise.

How about if I took it a step further and said that Condrey can be, for all intents-and-purposes, better than Jon Rauch?


Not just because his stare of death scares Rauch's neck tattoos.

Yes, the Jon Rauch that became somewhat of our essential 7th inning, key situation guy. Rauch's WHIP and ERA were both higher than Condrey last year.

I don't want to anoint Condrey as the savior of our bullpen necessarily. And to be fair to Rauch, our tattooed giant's career numbers are certainly better than Condrey's. If you want to play devil's advocate, you could call Condrey's great season last year somewhat of an anomaly in a thoroughly mediocre 4-and-some years in the bigs. But mediocre would be a decided step up from what we saw mop up for us last year. And the Twins have a definite history of taking mediocre bullpen pitchers and turning them into diamonds in the rough.

If the members of the bullpen can play their parts, Condrey is the missing link we were waiting for. With Nathan, Mijares, Rauch, and Guerrier to be our crucial late inning pieces, that leaves Crain, Condrey, and a pitcher TBD (Duensing?) to be our low-leverage guys -- and all of those names certainly instill much more confidence than names like Keppel, Bass, Ayala, Henn, Cali, Humber, etc., etc.

So here's to hoping we've found our next diamond in the rough...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tips of the Hat & Get to Know Me

First off, I'm really thrilled with how many people helped out with my offseason series, "Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em". Not only did it always provide me with something to post but it helped me (and hopefully you) get to know some of our favorite bloggers a little better -- they're not just great writers and analysts but great fans too.

That being said, there are so many people I didn't get to. If you have a Twins blog and you want to help out, please e-mail me at topperanton@gmail.com, or leave a comment. The WGOM, Hitting the Eephus, NoDak Twins Fan, Call to the Pen, Travis Aune, 10 Scoreless, Oh It's THOSE Girls, Lipgloss & Baseball, and so many more are out there. If there's enough interest from them and from people reading these then I think I'll intermittently post special Get to Know 'Ems down the line. But in terms of the regular entries over the offseason those are done. Although I've caved to peer pressure and will subject myself to answering my own questions...

Personal-
NAME: Topper Anton
BIRTHDAY: January 3rd
HOMETOWN: Bloomington, MN -- but I'm stuck in Manhattan for the time being...
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: Film and television production. Currently I work as a visual effects producer on TV commercials.
FAVORITE COLOR: Blue
FAVORITE FOOD: Brunch. Although whenever I'm in town I stop by Cossetta's because nothing beats that.
FAVORITE MOVIE: Depending on the day it's Amelie, Saving Private Ryan, or This is Spinal Tap
FAVORITE BOOK: A Year in Provence
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: Wilco and Dylan are the go-tos. But I stream 89.3 the Current online at work because nothing I've heard out here comes close to being that good of a station.
FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH OTHER THAN BASEBALL: Football.
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY: Does poker count? Baseball.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: Love the Vikings, I go to Bar None all the time to support the team with fellow expats stuck out here. I'm a KG fan, maybe I'll become a Timberwolves fan again someday but that's a little ways off. I'll cheer for the Wild but hockey isn't my sport.

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: The history, the nostalgia, the feeling that I've watched it all my life and it's always new. Watching it in the sunshine, listening to it on the radio, the crack of a bat, the sound of a homerun call. Ken Burns.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: I've always been partial towards the Cubs. I used to watch all the WGN games at home and Andre Dawson and Mark Grace were just awesome. Plus I love blue.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: Personally I loved Frontier Field in Rochester watching the Red Wings. Just being so close the game and people not being there for any star players or to be seen or anything but just because they loved baseball was an awesome experience. I'd say Yankee Stadium but I'm always harassed out there in my Twins apparel.
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: I'm torn. It's a fun breather in the middle of the season but I do think the All-Star Game and World Series lose a little luster because of it.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: Completely justified. We need to win within our division and that means beating up on the White Sox as much as humanly possible.
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Dante Bichette. What an awesome name.
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Nick Swisher.
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: I was a left-handed pitcher with a funky delivery and a nice slider but not enough height or velocity to go anywhere so that's that.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: I grew up watching the '87 and '91 series as a kid and staying up watching baseball with my Mom and Dad was awesome. I kept thinking I'd be out there someday.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: Honestly I was too young to be there during the World Series years and since the Twins in the 2000's I've been in New York. I did happen to be back for a Kubel walk-off against the Tigers which was pretty awesome.
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST, HOW WAS IT: Went for the first time this past year, flew back specifically for it. It's a lot of waiting in lines, but the vibe and the hum of baseball is such a welcome feeling, and it was a great chance to meet up with some of my fellow bloggers and say hi.
EVER BEEN TO SPRING TRAINING, HOW WAS IT: I went last year for the first time and am planning a trip this year as well. It's amazing. I want to go every year. The players are so accessible and laid-back and leaving the cold and snow to go watch baseball in the sun and palm trees is just awesome. And when you're at the complex on an off day strolling around you can randomly run into Killebrew or Blyleven and have a conversation with them and there's nothing like that.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT: Nope
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN BALL AT THE DOME: Nope

Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: Rick Aguilera. I'd say Puckett but I'd be lying. Rick was my boyhood hero.
FAVORITE CURRENT TWINS PLAYER: Denard Span
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: Pedro Munoz
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: JC Romero comes to mind
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER, PLEASE DESCRIBE: Ok, so when I was 9 or 10 I had a neighborhood newspaper that I used to publish to about 300 households in my neighborhood. It was an early business venture. And I had it in my mind that I wanted to interview Rick Aguilera (because I loved him and figured everyone would want to read about him). My Dad found Carl Pohlad's number and called him asking if I could come interview Rick Aguilera for my neighborhood paper and Mr. Pohlad put him in contact with some PR people who invited us there. The Twins were playing the Rangers and I got a press pass to go down on the field, watched Palmeiro take batting practice, and then they took me into the clubhouse pregame to meet Rick. I was just in shock, not prepared for it at all. It didn't help as they sat me down at Rick's locker that Kirby Puckett was standing around in what appeared to be an autographed jock strap asking "Who's that kid? Kid, you're not gonna interview me?" Rick was just the most down-to-earth nicest person and took the time to answer my silly questions and then he took a ball from the clubhouse and signed it for me. I still have it on my Twins mantle, he will always be my hero. I was devastated when they traded him to Boston shortly after that. I swore off the Twins and cried and couldn't take it.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Pat Neshek. He just seems like he's such a great fan of the game I bet he'd be a blast to watch one with.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO GO TO A BAR WITH: Jon Rauch. I bet he has some great bar stories once you get a few in him.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH: Nick Punto. I think he could climb trees to get coconuts or something. And if he were stuck on the island he wouldn't be playing third this year.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: Joe Nathan. I have an affinity to closers. I'd like to pick his brain.
YOU'D WANT TO BE THE FRONT MAN OF YOUR NEW BAND: Trevor Plouffe. He's pretty talented already and they'd be carrying a deadweight musician like me, so...
YOU THINK SHOULD BE A MOVIE STAR: Denard Span. He's got the personality and charisma for it.
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: Kevin Slowey. He just looks so damn smart.
YOU'D LIKE TO START A BUSINESS WITH: Michael Cuddyer. I think he could sell anything he tried.

EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: I think it's going to be very hitter-friendly and we'll have somewhat of an adjustment period, but outdoor baseball during the beautiful months are going to be spectacular there.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR: Anything less than winning the AL Central would be a disappointment with the team we've built. We should be competitive in the postseason, enough to hopefully win the World Series I hope.

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Be sure to check out all my archived Get to Know 'Ems, there's some great bloggers there if you missed them!

Friday, October 9th: KC's Baseball Blog
Friday, October 16th: Seth Stohs
Friday, October 23rd: Fanatic Jack
Friday, October 30th: For the Love of the Game
Friday, November 6th: Josh Johnson
Friday, November 13th: The Tenth Inning Stretch
Friday, November 20th: K-Bro's Baseball Blog
Friday, December 4th: Off the Mark
Friday, December 11th: On the Road With Shawn
Monday, December 21st: Over the Baggy
Wednesday, December 23rd: Nick Nelson
Wednesday, December 30th: Undomed
Friday, January 8th: Twins Target
Friday, January 15th: BP's Baseball Blog
Friday, January 22nd: Twinkie Talk
Friday, January 29th: John Meyer of Twins MVB
Thursday, February 4th: Phil Mackey
Thursday, February 11th: Jesse from Twinkie Town
Monday, February 15th: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson
Tuesday, February 16th: Chatter From the Cheap Seats
Wednesday, February 17th: Twins Geek
Thursday, February 18th: 108 Stitches
Friday, February 19th: Pat Neshek

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em" presents Pat Neshek!

Today I am honored to be able to present Pat Neshek as our Get to Know 'Em finale! Obviously Pat needs no introduction, everyone knows him as a hometown hero playing for our team, a lights out relief pitcher with a funky delivery, and one of the fan-friendliest ballplayers to ever grace a diamond.

But to top it off, Neshek strikes a particular chord with bloggers for his online accessibility: encouraging people to send in for autographs and trade cards, running his own blog, and even launching his own online campaign for the All-Star vote a couple years back. I'm sure everyone has already checked out his website, but if not, make sure to bookmark it. But enough rambling, I'll let Pat speak for himself, just enjoy the survey and revel in the taste of spring training just around the bend! (I've changed around some of my standard questions...)

Personal-
BIRTHDAY: 9/4/80
HOMETOWN: Madison, WI
FAVORITE COLOR: Forest Green
FAVORITE FOOD: Pad Thai
FAVORITE MOVIE: The Pianist
FAVORITE BOOK: All Quiet On The Western Front
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: Metal - Metalcore
FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH OTHER THAN BASEBALL: College Basketball, NHL
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY OTHER THAN BASEBALL: Hockey
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: I don't watch football, No KG no watching for me, went up to Tampa last week and watched the Wild lose & it wasn't fun

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: It's got a little of everything in life and it's a game anyone can relate to or play.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: The Pirates, I liked watching Garrett Jones hit bombs this year
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: 7/7/06, my mlb debut in Arlington, Texas
FAVORITE PLACE TO PLAY ON THE ROAD: I like Oakland & KC
ANY BAD EXPERIENCES ON THE ROAD?: Just being away from home isn't fun
OPINION ON INTERLEAGE PLAY: Like it, they need to switch it up so we play every team in the NL ... seems like we get the same teams back every couple years.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: I like it, I would like to play our division just a little less and play other teams outside the division more.
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Rusty Meacham, he was an autograph machine
LEAST FAVORITE PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Shawn Green, when I was 15 at the dome he was throwing a ball to a kid my age and I jumped in front of him and stole it. He yelled at me. The next inning he threw the kid a ball again and snarled at me. The next day I went for his autograph in the front row and he took my pen, signed for 10 different people and gave me my pen back at the end and smiled ... When I faced him in '07 I wanted to bean him but I didn't do it, I think I went full count on him then he ripped a liner into center ... I wanted the pitch back.
WHAT OTHER POSITIONS DID YOU PLAY GROWING UP: SS
WHAT COACHES/PLAYERS HAVE HAD THE MOST IMPACT ON YOU DEVELOPING: Probably my high school coach Jeff Stoll, my dad, my summer HS coach Pete Lacock and my college coach Steve Farley
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE BUTLER FOR COLLEGE: Offered a Full Scholarship during the 1st signing period, they said I would be a starter and get over 50 innings ... Couldn't turn that down.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: Probably when I went to my 1st game in 1985
WHAT WAS DRAFT DAY LIKE FOR YOU BACK IN '02: I just remember being angry as the rounds went by ... then in the 6th round I said if I didn't get picked I probably will not sign ... lucky for me I was picked. I just couldn't believe some of the names picked ahead of me. I want to find all those scouts now and laugh in their faces, I think the draft is a joke and there are tons of guys that never get a fair shake.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: Too many, I love that place
BEST EXPERIENCE AT TWINS FEST/WINTER CARAVAN: Getting invited in 2002 after the draft ... I wanted to walk out because they had me signing with Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones ... I was like "why did I sign up for this", nobody knows who I am.
WHAT WAS SPRING TRAINING LIKE BEFORE YOU HIT THE MAJORS: Minor league spring training is short but the days go forever. My first mlb spring training was fun because you got a little bit more respect and felt like you deserved to be there. Basically to me it was my chance to show everyone what I had.
HOW HAS IT CHANGED SINCE YOU'VE MADE THE MAJORS: It's a lot more relaxed because people know who you are and what you can do and you don't have to worry about getting cut for the most part.
DO YOU HAVE ANY MOMENTS THAT STILL STICK WITH YOU FROM THE MINORS: Once again too many ... Basically every emotions you can think of you go through. There's lots of self doubt, there's absolute excitement and happiness ... I'll always remember the times getting called up. Probably the biggest memory I will remember is getting sent down in 2004 and how mad it made me feel.

Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: Puckett
DID YOU EVER MEET ANY PLAYERS GROWING UP: I met most of the teams but my favorite was meeting Puckett in 1985 and getting his autograph
PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Tony Gwynn
PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: Carlos Silva because he eats a ton and always pays for the meal!
PLAYERS YOU'D WANT TO BE THE FRONT MEN OF YOUR NEW BAND: All the sidearm guys in the league, Joe Smith, Cla Meredith and submariner Darren O'Day
PLAYER YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: Slowey
DO YOU KEEP IN TOUCH WITH ANY FORMER TWINS PLAYERS WHO'VE MOVED ON: Mostly on facebook

EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: It will be nice having new things like the clubhouse and the weight room but it's going to be too cold for me to like it.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR: Win the division again

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A huge thanks to Pat for closing out our Get to Know 'Em offseason series! What a team we have when players take time like this for their fans!

I will actually have one final Get to Know 'Em post on Monday. I've caved to pressure and will subject myself to answering my own survey...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Twins Bloggers, "Get to Know 'Em!" presents 108 Stitches

Today in the Get to Know 'Em series I'm happy to present Jeffrey over at 108 Stitches, another blog that I discovered on Nick Punto Day! I'm upset that I've never seen 108 Stitches before, because it looks like a great blog with tons of cogent, well-written Twins analysis and discussion (and he even uses the same blog template background so I love it ever more!).

Finding a gem like 108 Stitches via Nick Punto Day just reinforces why I'm doing this series, because blogs like Jeffrey's need to be frequented and supported! So check it out and make sure to return to it and add it to your daily reading lists!

Personal-
NAME: Jeffrey Schwenn
BIRTHDAY: 11/2/1973
HOMETOWN: Bloomington, not far from Metropolitan Stadium
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: Teaching 5th graders from September until June
FAVORITE COLOR: Purple
FAVORITE FOOD: Mexican Food... tacos, nachos, give me something that is spicy.
FAVORITE MOVIE: Shawshank Redemption
FAVORITE BOOK: I have a few. Stephan King's The Stand and underrated is his "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon." Baseball related books: "The Babe, the Legend Comes to Life" by Robert Creamer is the finest biography I've read, "Moneyball" I keep going back to read, "The Year Babe Ruth Hit 105 Home Runs" I found very interesting and the classic "The Glory of Their Times" really tells what old time baseball was like. My favorite baseball author is easily Roger Angell. Anything he writes on baseball I find outstanding to read.
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: I prefer many of the 70s-80s favorites
FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH OTHER THAN BASEBALL: I guess football, but hockey is a close second.
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY: Baseball, but playing floor hockey against the 5th graders as a staff is a lot of fun!
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: After 1998 I lost my luster for the Vikings, however, I was sucked back in this year. The Wolves I pay little attention to and I enjoy going to Wild games, but don't live or die with them.

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: It's a game where the worst team will win at least 25% of the time. As I've grown older I've come to appreciate the statistical nature of the game and the chess match each game can become. At the same time I still love how bench players can decide important games at the least predictable moments. Matt Tolbert's bouncer up the middle in game 163 that avoided Polanco's glove by an inch in extra innings are moments that make the game so great. Too many of the other sports have become me, me, me leagues. Baseball has far too much failure built into it for that to take place on a grand scale.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: Probably the Rockies, love their park, love how they hit and have always liked their uniforms.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: Going to Wrigley Field was amazing. It was such a historic place, unbelievable atmosphere.
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: I'm used to it, but wish the Twins didn't play the Brewers each year. That is a rivalry that means little right now.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: I hate the current schedule. I'd much prefer to go back to the schedule teams played in the 80s.
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: I love reading about Babe Ruth. He is the finest player that ever lived. His off the field behavior combined with his on field play make for endless story telling. Roger Maris is a close second.
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. They have torn down the Maris and Aaron legends in a way that should have never taken place. Baseball must restore Maris and Aaron to their rightful place in baseball history.
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: I started at first base, but moved to shortstop and third base. Good glove/no hit. Very Punto-like.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: I became a Twins fan in 1984 because my dad got me hooked on the Twins. He's been a fan since 1961.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: Simple answer. Game 163 last season. To be there for those up and downs in that game with my dad was an unforgettable experience.
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST? HOW WAS IT: I've been to most since 1989. I remember that first one being super packed in with people. It is always a fun time especially since I'm a baseball card collector.
EVER BEEN TO SPRING TRAINING? HOW WAS IT: No, but I did go to Tinker Field with my family when I was 13 on a trip to Florida. We learned of the Jeff Reardon trade during that trip and were shocked.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT: No
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN BALL AT THE DOME: No, does a batting practice home run count?

Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: Kirby Puckett, he changed the mentality of the team when he joined them in 1984, which resulted in two World Championships.
FAVORITE CURRENT TWINS PLAYER: Don't laugh, Michael Cuddyer. He's been around a long time, team leader, seems like a great teammate.
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: Houston Jimenez, shortstop on the 1984 team. The worst player I've seen put on a Twins uniform. Couldn't hit his weight, which looked like about 140 pounds. He's now in the Mexican League Hall of Fame amazingly.
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: Delmon Young, but Ron Davis from the mid 1980s was as bad a closer as the team has had. He created ways to lose, such as loading up the bases in the 9th and then hitting a batter to bring in the winning run. My 11 year old brain saw that happen. The mind never forgets things like that.
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER, PLEASE DESCRIBE: I went to Shinders in 1984 with my dad and we had a young Kirby Puckett sign a baseball. He seemed shy when my dad congratulated him on hitting triple the night before.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Delmon Young, because that would mean he's not playing.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH: Kevin Slowey, he speaks 4 languages and seems intelligent.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: Jose Mijares, I'd love to see those eating habits up close.
YOU THINK SHOULD BE A MOVIE STAR: JJ Hardy
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: Slowey again
YOU'D LIKE TO START A BUSINESS WITH: Joe Mauer

EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: It will be an outstanding place to watch a game. I'm tired of hearing people complain about it not having a roof. I think it will favor the hitter slightly.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR: I've predicated 93-95 wins, 190-210 home runs and a trip to the World Series. Go big if you're going to make a predication!

-----
A huge thanks again to Jeffrey over at 108 Stitches for taking the time to help out with my offseason series! Be sure to check out his site and become a frequent visitor there!

Also, be sure to stop by again tomorrow, Friday, when none other than Pat Neshek takes the hotseat to answer my Get to Know 'Em questions!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Podcast Tonight!

Hey guys! Thanks for all the site traffic during this last week of Get to Know 'Ems! Be sure to head on over to Fanatic Jack's podcast tonight. I'll be joining him as always to talk Twins baseball, and we've got Thrylos 98 from The Tenth Inning Stretch and DWTheGreat from Twin-Keys joining us as well, should be a good time! Be sure to ask questions in the chat room or call in and join us!

Listen here!

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em!" presents Twins Geek!

A new Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em each day this week. Too good to be true. Today, I'm proud to present none other than the Twins Geek himself, John Bonnes.

John needs absolutely no introduction -- but I'm going to try anyway. Despite being one of the first blogs I ever read, his MN Gameday website is such a must-bookmark for any Twins fan on the internet that it has been my browser's homepage at work and home for over a year now. He has his finger in seemingly every Twins-blogger-generated book or publishing adventure and has done more to raise awareness of all of us other startup blogs than anyone else I can think of. And to top off this he still manages to raise a family and run his own blog supplied with better posts than I could ever hope to replicate.

So, there. But I'm sure you knew most of that already. So let's just get to know him:

Personal-
NAME: John Bonnes
WEBSITE: TwinsGeek.com
BIRTHDAY: May 9th
HOMETOWN: Minneapolis
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: I'm a senior business systems analyst. Good luck figuring out what that means.
FAVORITE COLOR: White
FAVORITE FOOD: All of the above
FAVORITE MOVIE: The Razor's Edge
FAVORITE BOOK: The Fountainhead
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: All over the map
FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH OTHER THAN BASEBALL: Football
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY: Softball or soccer
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD:
Vikings - I'm possibly as big a Vikings fan as a Twins fan, but not as big a football fan as a baseball fan.
Wild - I pull for them and love to go to games. I could see myself becoming a big hockey fan someday.
Wolves - I used to have season tickets for them, so I like them.
Gophers - I love going to all their (football/hockey/basketball) games. Used to be a pretty big Gopher hoops fan.

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: I can't express it. Or rather any attempt to do so has always been incomplete. It's such a part of my life, and the magic in it happens so frequently, it's impossible not to love it.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: Phillies. I lived in Philly for a few years while courting my wife and had season tickets with her in '93 when they went to the World Series. I still hate Joe Carter a little bit for that home run.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: My son's middle name is "Wrigley". My first date with my wife was a double-header there.
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: I like it. If anything, I'd like to expand it. I like seeing those teams.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: I also like that. I like playing teams in our division that often. Usually the team in the division that has the best record in head-to-head matchups wins the division, and that's the way it should be IMHO.
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: It would probably be Lenny Dykstra, Darren Daulton or John Kruk. And believe me, I understand how goofy that is given their post-baseball "careers".
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Drew Pearson. And it matters not a bit to me that he played football, and not baseball. That was the best Vikings team ever.
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: Baseball - I don't remember. Softball, I play wherever I can help the most. I'm a good hitter/fielder, but I have a weak arm.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: There weren't a lot of kids my age on my block, and at some point in the summer when I was driving her crazy, she turned on a day game on the radio for me in the early 70s. That was all it took.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. Game 163 is close to it because my kids were there with me for that one.
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST? HOW WAS IT: I like Twins Fest more in theory than in practice. It's usually a nice time, and I like an oasis of baseball in the middle of January. But I don't often spend too much time there, and I rarely get autographs.
EVER BEEN TO SPRING TRAINING? HOW WAS IT: Yes, a couple of times. I love it. L-O-V-E it. When I retire I will spend spring training in Florida every year, I think. I don't now because kids are in school and don't love going to baseball games.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT?: No. But I gulp hard, get up every morning, and try to make it through the day.
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN AT THE DOME?: Caught? No. Saved the life of a co-worker two rows behind the visitor's dugout from a screaming line drive with my bare hand inches from his face? Yes. Dropped said ball as my hand swelled up in pain? Yes. Watched co-worker WHOSE LIFE I HAD SAVED grab said ball off of ground? Yes. But caught? No.

Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: It's gotta be Kirby. Though it's worth noting that Carew was my boyhood idol. I basically lost interest in the Twins for several years when they traded him.
FAVORITE CURRENT TWINS PLAYER: Probably Mauer, but I like Span an awful lot.
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: Bombo Rivera!
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: Hell yes. Ron Davis tops the list for me, and is probably at the top of the list for all Twins fans from the 80s.
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER, PLEASE DESCRIBE: I honestly can't think of one. I've never had a bad experience with one, but I can't think of one that blew me away either.

EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: I want a ballpark. Not a stadium, not a facility - a ballpark. I want to sit outside for batting practice on a Sunday morning and watch the clouds float by me and feel the sun on my neck and a gentle breeze on my face and sip a beer while the pitchers horse around in the outfield, shagging fly balls.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR: A World Series appearance where the rest of the nation complains about the weather here in late October.

----
I can't thank Twins Geek enough, both for taking the time to help out with this survey and also for all the help he's given this blog since its inception! I highly recommend you make MN Gameday a homepage, it's handy, and it's the very least we can do to recognize all that John's poured out into our blogosphere over the years!

Make sure to stop by again tomorrow! I'll be profiling Jeff over at 108 Stitches tomorrow, one of my lucky finds on Nick Punto Day! If you stop by Friday, you'll be treated to a special Get to Know 'Em from none other than the great Pat Neshek! And I've caved to peer pressure and I'll be answering my own annoying questions and posting that up this next Monday (so no need to stop by for that one...)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em" presents Emily from Chatter From the Cheap Seats!

Thanks for stopping by for another edition of Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em! I've had a great time getting to know some of my favorite bloggers better and also discovering new blogs. One of the great things about this past Nick Punto Day was discovering some voices I hadn't heard yet in the Twins Blogitory (trademarked by Andrew Bryz-Gornia). One such voice was Emily over at Chatter From the Cheap Seats.

At the time of this entry, Emily's written two posts so far, one of which was in honor of Nick Punto Day. But they're quite well thought-out and well written, and her blog's Twitter account is far more prolific than mine will be, so if I'm qualified to post these, she's more than qualified to be represented. If you haven't checked out her site yet, do the Twins blogosphere a favor and follow her blog so that we can help support a great addition to our online reading.

So below, check out Emily's Get To Know 'Em, and then after that go read and follow her site!

Personal-
NAME: Emily Jipp
BIRTHDAY: January 27
HOMETOWN: I grew up in Aurelia, Iowa and moved to the Twin Cities for college in 2001.
FAVORITE COLOR: Green
FAVORITE FOOD: Cheesy tots from Burger King, but they just discontinued them. I should have stocked up. So instead I'll say ... Mexican food.
FAVORITE MOVIE: American Movie. No one has made me laugh as hard as Mike Schank has.
FAVORITE BOOK: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: Americana/Folk Rock
FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH OTHER THAN BASEBALL: Football
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY: Basketball
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: I've recently become a big Vikings fan. Growing up in northwest Iowa the focus was always on the Hawkeyes, Cyclones and Huskers - not so much any NFL teams. A friend talked me into playing fantasy football a few years ago and my competitiveness made me watch as many games as possible which ultimately led me to watching all of the Vikings games. Sadly, I've kind of stopped caring about the Timberwolves. I check their scores occasionally, but that's about as far as my interest level goes. I know nothing about the Wild. I wouldn't even be able to name one player on the team if not for seeing some of their names in people's tweets. I went to my first game last year and it was a ton of fun even though I had no idea what was going on. I also like the Iowa State Cyclones. They've been pretty awful for awhile now, but they had some great years when I was growing up (when I cared the most) so at least I had that.

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: It's complex. There's so many things that are fun to discuss - pitching changes, situational at-bats, defensive positioning ... There will always be something more that you can learn and the more you can learn, the more you love and respect the game.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: The Cubs. I grew up in the country so there were rarely and Twins games televised. My brother and I would often go to our grandparent's house in town so we could watch the Cubs games on WGN. I liked watching Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg, Sammy Sosa and Andrew Dawson.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: Kauffman Stadium. Our family used to plan our summer vacations to any cities where we could see a game. I think we made it to eight or nine stadiums. We went to Kauffman in '89 or '90. There was something special going on that day where they let fans come on to the field to take pictures of the players. We got a lot of good pictures of Bo Jackson. I remember Tom "Flash" Gordon pitched, Mike Macfarlane hit a home run and Kevin Seitzer made an error and was bouncing the ball like a basketball afterwards. (I was only six or seven at the time, so my brother had to refresh me on some of these memories).
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: I like it.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: It'd be nice to play the AL West and AL East more in a season, but I can understand why it is the way it is.
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Ozzie Smith.
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Alex Rodriguez.
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: I played through my sophomore year of high school. I played both pitcher and shortstop but after a pretty nasty concussion (during basketball season), I was nervous about getting hit in the face so my coach moved me to center field which quickly became my favorite position to play.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: I actually didn't start to like the Twins until I was in high school. I liked the Braves when I was younger. When the Braves weren't playing I had a tendency to cheer for whoever my brother was rooting for and any team that had one or more of my favorite players on it (Cubs, A's, Cardinals and Royals). I was cheering for the Braves against the Twins in '91.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: Game 163 last year. I was a nervous wreck. I think there's a video of me going nuts at the game on Facebook.
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST, HOW WAS IT: I just went for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It was pretty fun. I think if I choose to go again it will be more just to see and talk with friends.
EVER BEEN TO SPRING TRAINING, HOW WAS IT: I was vacationing in Florida with my family in 2006 so we went to St. Petersburg to watch a game between the Rays and Red Sox. I was seriously considering going this year, but the timing is kind of bad. I'm going to shoot for next year.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT: I don't think so.
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN AT THE DOME: No way. I'm sure if I tried to catch a foul ball I'd end up taking a tumble and making Sportscenter's Not Top 10 Plays.

Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: Kent Hrbek
FAVORITE CURRENT TWINS PLAYER: Denard Span
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: Luis Tiant. I think he only played eighteen games before he fractured his right scapula. I mostly just like him because he was kind of a weirdo. I always tend to like the eccentric players.
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: Dislike? No. But Nick Punto is probably my least favorite on the team.
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER: I got a picture with Michael Cuddyer a few weeks ago, but he's really the only player I've ever met. He was nice enough.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Jim Thome. I'm guessing he'd have a lot of good stories to tell.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH: Pat Neshek. He'd be entertaining.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: Denard Span. He's pretty funny and he seems to be a really nice guy.
YOU'D WANT TO BE THE FRONT MAN OF YOUR NEW BAND: Michael Cuddyer.
YOU THINK SHOULD BE A MOVIE STAR: Kevin Slowey.
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: Kevin Slowey.
YOU'D LIKE TO START A BUSINESS WITH: Joe Mauer.

EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: Can't wait! I plan on having A LOT of memories there.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR: Division title, 92-70 record. I'll say they clinch the division in Kansas City on September 28th.

-----
Again, a huge thanks to Emily at Chatter From the Cheap Seats! If you haven't seen her blog, acquaint yourself now and check her for updates because she's definitely got good insight (and we also want her to keep from switching her allegiance back to the Braves, right?).

Be sure to stop by tomorrow for another Get To Know 'Em! I'll be featuring one each day this last week. Tomorrow I'm honored to be able to profile the Twins Geek himself, John Bonnes, so be sure to stop back and check that out.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em" presents: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson

Spring Training is right around the corner! Today's example: I was watching the Winter Olympics at a bar in downtown Manhattan, and one of the TVs had on the YES Network. It kept showing shots of Spring Training and bright, sunny Florida, and it was so exciting that I couldn't even focus on the Olympics. Anyway, to celebrate its imminent arrival, I'm going to be unleashing a slew of Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em profiles this week (as it's been my offseason series and this is, kind of, the last week of the offseason).

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing Darren Wolfson. Darren is probably one of the better known sports personalities in the Twin Cities scene and is also one of the people behind some of the best local media coverage of our favorite local teams (via KSTP). In addition to his televised work, he's also one of the bloggers over at Star Tribune's Your Voices, where he provides us with his insights into our local sports world (and the Twins in particular!). So, enough from me...

Personal-
NAME: Darren Wolfson
BIRTHDAY: Jan. 20, 1980
HOMETOWN: Was born in Philadelphia, and have been in the Twin Cities since 1987. Currently reside in Golden Valley.
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: KSTP-TV Sports Producer/Reporter; cbssports.com freelance writer; gopherhole.com writing; St. Paul Saints TV
FAVORITE COLOR: Green
FAVORITE FOOD: Pizza
FAVORITE MOVIE: Office Space/The Hangover
FAVORITE BOOK: no real favorite ... currently reading Bill Simmons' book on the NBA ... thoroughly enjoying
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: Anything but Country
FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH OTHER THAN BASEBALL: Basketball
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY: Basketball
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: Enjoy them all ... have to for my full-time job ... actually most passionate about Gophers basketball and football.

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: Everything can be dissected. In football, we have no idea what truly is going on most of the time. That is not the case in baseball.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: Have been a subscriber to the DirecTV baseball package for seven years ... participate in fantasy leagues ... my best friend has a good gig with the Red Sox, so I pay a lot of attention to them.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: Bachelor party in the Wrigley Field bleachers this past August
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: Love it
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: Don't love it ... instead of 18-games vs. KC, Cle., etc. would rather see 12 ... space out the remaining games vs. the East and West.
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Mike Schmidt
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Mark McGwire
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: Yes ... left-handed pitcher/First baseman

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: 1987 ... moved here in Aug '87 as a 7-year old and instantly gravitated toward the Twins for obvious reasons
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: Game 163
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST? HOW WAS IT: I have ... doesn't do anything for me, but I am jaded ... have been for 14 years working in this business.
EVER BEEN TO SPRING TRAINING? HOW WAS IT: I have ... love the loosey-goosey atmosphere ... guys are very approachable ... I have been 5 or 6 times, most recently last year for the MLB Network. Produced some of their 30 clubs in 30 days series.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT: NO, and never want to ... one of the dumbest bits in all of sports.
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN BALL AT THE DOME: At the Dome = NO ... elsewhere = YES

Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: Tony Batista ... kidding ... Kent Hrbek
FAVORITE CURRENT TWINS PLAYER: Denard Span
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: David Ortiz (people around the country forget that he played here).
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: If I had to cover them everyday, many would irritate me, but overall for what I do = NO
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER, PLEASE DESCRIBE: Torii Hunter is a very good friend of a good friend of mine. We used to have dinner, the three of us, or sometimes a few others as well, after games occasionally.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Joe Nathan
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO GO TO A BAR WITH: Joe Mauer
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH: Pat Neshek
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: Jim Thome
YOU'D WANT TO BE THE FRONT MAN OF YOUR NEW BAND: Joe Mauer (for the groupie hoochie)
YOU THINK SHOULD BE A MOVIE STAR: Michael Cuddyer
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: Scott Baker
YOU'D LIKE TO START A BUSINESS WITH: Kevin Slowey

EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: I took a tour in mid-November. It will be phenomenal.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR: Not needing the last week of the reg. season to clinch a playoff spot. In other words, being able to set-up their postseason rotation heading into the ALDS.

-----
A huge thanks to Darren "Doogie" Wolfson for taking the time to help out in this series! Check him out over at the Star Tribune Your Voices page and be sure to look for his work on KSTP as well his other outlets!

This week is going to be jam-packed with great bloggers for you to get to know so be sure to keep stopping by. Tomorrow (Tuesday), Emily of Chatter From the Cheap Seats will be gracing us with her survey to introduce us to her new blog, so be sure to stop by for that!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Nicky On the Bases (Long-Form Epic poetry)


Ok, so, in my opinion Nick Punto Day should have come a long time ago. Back when I started this blog one of my first real posts was focused on the Nick Punto/Matt Tolbert dynamic duo, and I really wish I hadn't written something like that until today. So, my real contribution came back on September 22, 2009. (I like to be way ahead of the game...)

That being said, rather than exhaust my futile knowledge of advanced statistics and in-depth player analysis only to be shown up by people like Parker Hageman and Andrew Bryz-Gornia and etc. etc. etc., I'm going to break out the epic poetry. Yes, that's right, Little Nicky Punto gets an ode...

Punto On the Bases

The ball game was a must-win for the Minneapolis nine that day;
The score stood two to one, with but two innings left to play,
If they were to lose that night, the post season lived no more,
And so the Yankees took the field and Phil Hughes hit the floor.

Minnesota fans know more than most how to lose a game,
If only the New York Yankees could now just do the same;
They sat in the Dome watching the outs slip further ever down
And fans back in New York waited for triumph and a crown.

To liven up the depressed crowd, the organist did sound
A lively tune to announce that Nicky Punto led off this round.
Punto was a legend, and his speed was non-paralleled,
As he stepped up to the plate the crowd's fears were all dispelled.

His bat was none to speak of but he could play good ball,
And shortly after Punto came Mauer (who will one day reach The Hall).
A ball, a strike, a ball, a strike, the count stood two-and-two,
The fans watched this and held their breath, their faces turning blue.

Hughes bent forward at the waist, his mouth curling to a sneer,
Punto simply tapped his bat and on his face he showed no fear.
Winding up upon the mound, Hughes quickly released a pitch
The fans all prayed silently and prepared themselves to bitch.

But lo, behold, the crazy happened which most can scarce conceive:
Punto's bat connected, the hit deeper than any could believe!
It soared over the Dome's infield, and Jeter turned in awe
As Punto doubled to deep left-center and the fans began to caw.

The Metrodome was in an uproar, everyone in the stands
Had suddenly become the largest gathering of Punto's biggest fans.
Punto shook of faux-dirt and wore a broad smile across his face
And whooped and pumped his fist as he stood gloriously on second base.

Hughes, once proud and confident was now so clearly shaken,
Momentum in the game, by the Twins had now been taken!
He tried to settle in, shake off, for Span was his next fate
But none-the-less he quickly delivered a fastball off the plate.

Span was patient, eying the ball, he had the count all in his favor;
Punto on the other hand was overeager for a win to quickly savor.
Hughes wound up again and flung the ball with a loud snort,
Span connected downward, grounding the ball sharply to short.

It looked the perfect sacrifice, enough to move Punto along;
Span was hustling down the line, the crowd was a hollering throng;
But Jeter saw alertly that Little Nicky Punto had set himself to race
He'd set his eyes towards home while panic creased Gardy's face.

Instead of throwing to first, Jeter released it towards the plate
And in that fateful moment, Little Nicky had sealed his fate.
In all of the excitement he'd gone well off past the bag,
And set himself up for A-Rod to apply a gruesome tag.

Somewhere off in the east, the Empire State could cheer,
And steroid-users like A-Rod could grin from ear-to-ear.
But in the cold depressing realm of 'Sota's Metrodome
Twins fans cried and wept as Little Nicky tried 2nd-to-home.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em!" presents Jesse from Twinkie Town

Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em comes a day early! When a holiday landed on a Friday this past offseason we tried to move up our Get to Know 'Ems a day early, and this Friday is definitely a holiday ... it's Nick Punto Day! Be sure to check back here as well as all across the Twins Blogosphere Universe for all sorts of Little Nicky Punto related goodness!

Next week we are lucky to have pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training! I've decided that that will mark the official end of my offseason blog series. That being said, expect a loaded week next week with several Get to Know 'Ems. After you read Jesse's profile below, be sure to check out our lineup for next week!

Jesse is arguably the most prolific blogger over at Twinkie Town. If you've never checked out Twinkie Town then I don't know what more to say. It is the source for Twins info on the internet. Besides linking to almost every article that other websites publish, it offers some of the most educated and informational analysis on a variety of Twins topics. Even ignoring it's user-generated content from the many frequenters of the website and only focusing on Jesse's contributions, you can find everything from in-depth player analysis, to fun speculation. Without further ado:

Personal-
NAME: Jesse Lund
BIRTHDAY: June 15 (Chant with me! GE-MI-NI, GE-MI-NI, GE-MI-NI...)
HOMETOWN: Breckenridge, MN
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: I'm the marketing and promotions guru for an independent publishing company
FAVORITE COLOR: Blue
FAVORITE FOOD: Meat & mashed potatoes
FAVORITE MOVIE: Just one? The Usual Suspects is great. Casablanca. Happy Gilmore. Bull Durham.
FAVORITE BOOK: Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is great, too.
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: Not country. But again, I can't pick just one! My five favorite songs of this week:
Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More
BRMC: Weapon of Choice
Tiesto: Feel It In My Bones
Living Things: Bom Bom Bom
Muse: [Insert any song here]
FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH OTHER THAN BASEBALL: American football
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY: Basketball
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: Love the Vikings and I will until I die, I'm in so much pain over the quality of play with the Wolves that I haven't watched a game in over a year (although in the big picture I'm in favor of the direction the team has been heading under new leadership), and as much as I try I just can't get into hockey. I'd like to. Going to a game might help, but that might be difficult considering where I live now.

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: The nuances. The fact that the more you know about it, the more beautiful it becomes (a trademarked TwinsGeek phrase). To me, baseball can be a metaphor for life in a lot of ways.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: The Cubs. I'm not sure why. They epitomize baseball to me--in my mind, the Cubs always play under blue skies in Wrigley Field, and the sun reflects off those distinctive blue helmets.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: Watching the F-M Redhawks beats out Yankee Stadium. But only because I hate the Yankees. Also, $1 hotdogs.
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: I like it, it doesn't bother me. But I wouldn't miss it if it went away. It's a fun concept.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: This doesn't bother me either. Playing teams in your division is good, it builds rivalries.
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Ken Griffey, Jr.
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Derek Jeter
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: I did, I played third base and outfield. I struggled to make contact after Pony's, but I could take a walk. I'd probably be better now than I was then. Puberty isn't a good thing for coordination.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: Probably the mid 90's when I was old enough to really start understanding the game. These were dark times indeed, which is how I know I'll be a Twins fan forever.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: Watching Brad Radke's last regular season start. Seeing Johan Santana reach 1000 strikeouts, and watching him strike out 17 Rangers. Shannon Stewart's extra-inning homer on Opening Day, 2004. Jason Kubel's grand slam to beat the Red Sox. Joe Mauer's first game. My very first game in the summer of 1992.
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST? HOW WAS IT?: I have, a couple of times. It's really fun, there's a lot to see and a lot of players to meet. If anyone ever tells you that you're too old to stand in line for an autograph, punch them in the face.
EVER BEEN TO SPRING TRAINING? HOW WAS IT?: I haven't but I'd love to. Maybe when I'm back living Stateside again.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT?: No, but I have been on television. It was a couple of summers ago in the Dome, and the Rangers were in the middle of demolishing the Twins. I was wearing my Torii Hunter jersey, and was shown on television a couple of times, apparently looking totally dejected. Sounds about right.
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN AT THE DOME?: I haven't, but my friend sitting next to me did. The amazing thing was that we actually slid over a couple of seats over to our left the previous inning. Had we not moved, I would have caught it. This was the now-infamous game with the Blue Jays fan who had "GO JAYS" shaved into his back hair. Blegh.

Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: Kirby Puckett. Brad Radke.
FAVORITE CURRENT TWINS PLAYER: Joe Mauer.
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: Alex Cole. Or, if we're talking current Twins, then Rene Tosoni and Alex Burnett. I really want these two prospects to succeed, and I can't explain why it's those two and not, say, David Bromberg and Rob Delaney. I still want those guys to do well, but I'm always watching Tosoni and Burnett.
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: As in an actual dislike? No. Chuck Knoblauch came off as a jerk, but I didn't actually know the guy.
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER: I once ran into Torii Hunter in downtown Minneapolis. He was really nice, and never seemed like he was trying to escape. I didn't say too much anyway, just said I was a fan, asked him how his ankle felt, and wished him good luck.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Justin Morneau. He'd be good to talk to.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO GO TO A BAR WITH: Jon Rauch. He'd be good if I decided to start a fight.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH: Jim Thome. He's probably strong enough to throw me to safety.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: Any of them, because they can pay. I'll pick Denard Span, he's pretty cool.
YOU'D WANT TO BE THE FRONT MAN OF YOUR NEW BAND: Scott Baker. We're starting a boy band.
YOU THINK SHOULD BE A MOVIE STAR: Kevin Slowey. I'll re-release Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and cast him as Cameron.
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: Pat Neshek. Dude's a brain.
YOU'D LIKE TO START A BUSINESS WITH: Joe Mauer, we'd start a lingerie store. That's a self-sustaining business.

EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: It'll be a beautiful sight, and I imagine our left-handed hitters should benefit.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR: Division title, 91-71 record. Win 3 games to 1 over Boston in round one, win 4 games to 3 over Seattle in ALCS. Matchup against Phillies in the World Series. That's right my friends, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid!

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A huge thanks to Jesse over at Twinkie Town for taking the time to help out with this series. As next week marks the official end of the off-season in my mind, I'm going to release a slew of Get to Know 'Ems! On Monday check back for the infamous Darren "Doogie" Wolfson of KSTP and Star Tribune's Your Voices Blog. On Wednesday the unmatchable John Bonnes of Twins Geek will be featured. And to cap off our series with a bang, on Friday be sure to check out Pat Neshek's Get to Know 'Em for his On the Road with Pat Neshek blog! I can't even wait and I've already read all these interviews!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Goodbye Pridie... Welcome back Jacque!

Well, my last post is null and void. Good thing I posted it before he left, it was valid for about a day!

Goodbye Pridie, good luck with the Mets.

Welcome back Jacque Jones! More on this later...


Monday, February 8, 2010

The Pridie of the Twinkies

If you haven't had a chance to listen to Jack Steal's special Friday podcast you should check it out. I made it on about 10 minutes into the show, and we were also lucky to be joined by Seth Stohs. In addition to the great discussion, the show got me thinking about how many tough roster decisions the Twins are going to have ahead of them.

People talk about Perkins and Casilla being on the trading block, and that's very likely, but the most interesting decision I'm looking at now is the outfield.

Currently, the Twins have Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, and Denard Span slated for the outfield, with Jason Kubel as the go-to sub at the corners when he's not DHing. I think everyone still acknowledges that there's no apparent backup center fielder on the Twins roster -- no one, that is, except the mysterious Jason Pridie.

Pridie is in an interesting situation. The Twins seemed to take a shine to him when he was in the Rays' minor league system (but the Twins always seem to take a shine to slap-hitting rangy outfielders...), and after taking him -- and losing him back -- in the Rule 5 draft, the Twins finally got their man as a throw-in in the Garza-Young blockbuster a couple years ago.

Since then, Pridie has been the primary center fielder for the Rochester Red Wings, playing center in over 200 games in 2 seasons, and usually finding himself pencilled into the leadoff spot in the order. He's hit an uninspiring (but not awful) .270/.305/.435 in '08 and .265/.295/.382 in '09, which aren't far off from his career minor league numbers. He's got a little bit of speed (25 stolen bases each year), and Brendan Harris-like pop in his bat.

In the field, Pridie has pretty decent range and supposedly not too much of an arm. He can hold his own though, and other than him, there aren't many immediate options on our roster to fill Span's shoes if some sort of an injury were to occur and lead to prolonged absence. Pridie's Rochester teammate, Dustin Martin, could possibly step in, but he wasn't even shown the courtesy of a major-league invite in Spring Training, so I think Pridie has the upper hand.

Unless the front office goes out and gets someone like an Endy Chavez, it seems as if the 5th outfielder position is essentially going to be handed to Pridie on a silver platter. It's not as if his numbers or his performance indicate that he's banging on the door for this promotion, but they aren't particularly indicating that he couldn't handle the 5th outfielder role either. He's a cusper -- the fates have aligned and fortune has smiled on him.

When I was at Twins Fest, someone actually brought up this issue to Bill Smith -- "Who is our backup center fielder?" Quick on his feet, Smith replied that it was ultimately Gardy's decision, but that the way the Twins organization is constructed, we're built to stress versatility. That Punto and Tolbert are both capable of playing in the outfield if need be because they've taken reps there in the minors. (Don't balk, this was his answer.)

It is true, when I was in Rochester watching some games this past year, Tolbert played some left field (and made an amazing diving catch to essentially save the game once), but I think playing some corner outfield in AAA due to an infield logjam is a little different than being a backup center fielder in the majors. Sure Tolbert played center all of once in the minors, but to think that he's going to step in there except in an emergency pinch indicates someone is wearing rose-tinted glasses.

But at the same time, would it have been very inspiring for Bill Smith to say unequivocally that their backup center fielder is Jason Pridie? I think most fans would release a collective yawn, and others would probably cringe -- his first taste of the bigs came in the post-season drive of '08 when he miffed a simple fly ball as a late inning defensive replacement in Toronto, which ultimately led to us losing the game (and ending up in a one-game playoff with the White Sox, and you remember how that turned out...). In fact, after that miffed ball Pridie really only got pinch running experience because nobody wanted to see him in the field.

Ok, this entry is coming off as much more Pridie-bashing than originally intended. I would love to see him thrive and make it as our backup outfielder. In fact, I think he could do very well -- certainly better than some of our backup outfielders -- that fielding error in Toronto was surely a case of the jitters which has more than likely worn off, and his batting numbers certainly aren't bad for a last option outfielder off the bench. And his speed? Well, we'll need someone pinch running a lot next year.

Let's think of this article as simply venting out all the negativity against Pridie and hoping that he makes the roster out of camp and succeeds. That would be a heartwarming story for a guy who has been so close on the cusp of getting a major league position for a couple years now.

In fact, this could really be a good break for him. When the Twins break camp without any other options backing up Span, well, that day, he might just consider himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth...