Yesterday was the first time I had ever been to TwinsFest, courtesy of an invite by my girlfriend Abby’s older brother Josh and his fiance Ashley. After being there, I’m in disbelief that it took me 20 years of my life to finally go for the first time. It was a blast, I collected more autographs than I had room on one of my baseballs, and I have enough pictures to more than easily fill this post. So, my plan is to give you a rough idea of what my TwinsFest day was like through speech and pictures.
I’m not kidding about the pictures, I took about 33 or so and kept 30 of them. I won’t post all of them, but I’ll damn near come close to it. As for the autographs, here’s the complete listing of who signed my two baseballs. It certainly helps that I wore a path into the Metrodome FieldTurf waiting outside the minor league tables.
When we first arrived, we went to the minor leaguers to get autographs. Unfortunately, Danny Valencia wasn’t there, but we still got to see Drew Butera, B.J. Hermsen, Rene Tosoni, Chris Parmelee, and Steven Tolleson. I learned that my girlfriend found Butera to be very attractive,* so if his one month backup catching gig for the Twins doesn’t work out, it appears that he’ll still have at least one young female in his fan club. After the first round of the minor league players, we went over to the photo booth to get a picture with Crain. I was a bit disappointed to hear that the photos cost $2 this year (I was told that they were supposed to be free) but a) $2 isn’t that much, and b) later that day, I heard the money collected from the photos were going to help out in Haiti. I can’t confirm if that was true, but even if it went to the Twins Community Fund, I’d be ok with it. Besides, my summer ushering job will more than recover the money I spent yesterday!
* Don’t Google Image search him. Trust me, and I’m willing to admit this…compared to all those baseball pictures, he looked MUCH better in person, especially when he was not wearing a uniform and baseball cap. We happened to walk by the tables later as this group was leaving, so Abby was able to get a picture with him. Great…I’ll have competition for eternity now. Oh, and before I forget, Butera also got a little punch in the shoulder from Rene Tosoni after Ashley and Abby told Drew that he was attractive. Nothing like getting crap from a teammate!
I have to say that it was amusing when Abby said she felt short standing next to Crain, even after I told her that he was pretty short himself (about 5’11″, Abby’s about 5’8″). After getting the picture with Crain, we started to wander around the field. I wasn’t quite sure about taking pictures of the players signing autographs, but after seeing several people doing this without any complaints from Twins officials, I decided that I would be fine.
After some more wandering, we headed back to get some more minor league autographs. Honestly, my day was spent walking back and forth from this area, so at least I’m telling you some of my stories with the players rather than just what I did…which actually wasn’t much. The second group here consisted of Joe Benson, Ben Revere, David Bromberg, Alex Burnett, and Rob Delaney.
If you didn’t know, Burnett (like many people his and my age) has a Facebook profile. Also, a very popular game on Facebook is called FarmVille. I happen to be Facebook friends with him, although I doubt he recognized me, but I still am able to see what he does on Facebook…and if you’ve put these three things together, you’d understand that I’m alluding to the fact that I know that Alex Burnett plays FarmVille. So of course, I couldn’t help but ask him, “Hey, how’s FarmVille going for you?” He had a very brief pause, then he started laughing and responded with, “It’s goin’ good!”
While we were in line, Josh pointed out to me that David Bromberg looks awfully similar to Glen Perkins. I’d post my picture of him, but you can only see the top of his head as he’s signing a baseball, so I’ll refrain from posting it. I must say that Ben Revere is probably one of the happiest guys that I’ve ever met. I have three pictures on my camera with him, and every one has him with a huge smile on his face.
When I took this picture, I wasn’t even paying attention to Revere. I was just trying to get all 5 guys in the shot, with most of my focus on Bromberg and Burnett since they were in the center. But when I reviewed this picture later in the day, I looked in the lower right corner and there was Revere, looking right at the camera.
Although this picture was a little blurry, I just had to include it because of the look on Alexi Casilla’s face.
From the “1,000,000 MINNESOTA TWINS FANS!!!” Facebook group, I heard from another guy that went to TwinsFest that Casilla was telling everyone that he’ll be wearing #12 this year instead of #25. This is not surprising to me, since Jim Thome’s jersey number with the White Sox was #25, so I’m willing to bet that he bought the number from Alexi.
* Take her sudden love for Drew Butera and quadruple it. That’s how excited she was to meet Rod Carew.
While listening to the radio interviews, we got to see Jim Rantz and Carl Pavano.
Most of Pavano looked pretty normal, except he has some VERY broad shoulders and some awfully big biceps.
I also got a pretty cool picture of the happenings on the field. By the way, that whole mess down there on the field…that was only about half of the field. If you look towards the opening where the Dodge pickup truck would always drive onto the field, that’s about where the minor league players were signing autographs. Also on the right was a couple wiffleball games. Meanwhile, in the left part of the picture near the middle of the field, you can see the two tables (divided back-to-back by that hanging blue curtain) where most of the major league players were signing autographs. Everywhere else was basically vendors and booths selling just about every collectible item you could think of.
After this, we headed back to see how Abby was doing with Carew. Thankfully we live in Minnesota, so I was able to cut in line free of charge and complaint and join Abby in line.* When it was our turn, Carew swore that he had seen me when he was signing autographs, but I told him that it couldn’t have been me because I was never in his line.
* You paid $2 per picture, not per person, so that’s why I didn’t have to pay anything to join her.
Guess what? More minor leaguers! I believe it was around this time that I saw Seth Stohs from Seth Speaks (a nice guy, by the way).
I was curious, so I asked Slama how to pronounce his name, since I’ve heard both “Sla-muh” and “Slah-muh” used by various people. He told me that he uses the former, but his family uses them interchangeably. How about that? Turns out nobody is wrong! Also, Josh briefly talked to Plouffe about him possibly coming up to the majors sometime this year, especially since he has been in the minors for so long. I could tell that Plouffe agreed with him, considering how fast he responded to that comment.
It appeared that Aaron Hicks was a little cold inside the Metrodome.
I had been using my Dickey/Buscher ball for autographs all day long, so it was filling up quite fast. Surprisingly, no one wanted to sign the sweet spot on the ball, for whatever reason. When Josh’s ball got to Nate Hanson, he mentioned that he was a bit wary of signing on the sweet spot. But once the ball got to Hicks, the first thing out of his mouth was something along the lines of, “I’m not afraid to sign the sweet spot!” He ended up doing the same thing with my ball.
While I had been waiting in line for this group of guys, we had Jon Rauch walk past us with Jason Pridie and a security guard. Rauch must have been only about 10 feet away from me, yet he didn’t appear to be 6’11″ tall. However, I’m 6’2″ myself, but Rauch sure didn’t seem to be 9 inches taller than me. I was really tempted to take a picture of him, but I chose not to for an odd reason. I honestly was intimidated by Jon Rauch. Even if I didn’t think he was much taller than me, he still was definitely a big guy (he weighs 290 lbs!). As I joked with everyone later, Rauch didn’t look like the kind of guy that would slap my camera out of my hands; he looked like the guy that would punch it out of my hands. Yeah, it’s stupid of me to think that he’s honestly going to assault someone for taking a picture, but that didn’t stop me from stealing one of him when I had a few barriers in between us.
I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but it wouldn’t hurt if he would smile once in a while. Maybe he should take lessons from Ben Revere…
Alright, time for the big finish! I’m going to go rapid fire through the remaining 8 pictures.
Ok I lied, time to slow down a bit. It was hard for me to believe that this was actually Kyle Gibson. I know he was just drafted and of course he’s still practically college age, but I was expecting someone that looked a couple years older. If he’s not careful, he’s going to age like Scott Baker…which basically means he won’t age at all.
See that dark wristband on Hanson’s left wrist? That belongs to his watch. Gutierrez’s was huge as well, in fact I told him that he had the largest watch I had ever seen. Then I saw Hanson’s…
The last two autographs I got were from Pat Neshek and Jeff Manship. Anthony Swarzak was supposed to be with them, but for unknown reasons he was not. The only reason this bothered me was that I had to pay $10 to get Neshek and Manship to sign this ball, and if I was going to be shelling out money, I figured I should at least get as many signatures as possible (which is why I was in disbelief when I was told yesterday that people paid who knows how much to get Joe Mauer’s autograph but then skipped over Kevin Slowey who was sitting right next to him). It was pretty interesting overhearing their conversation as they signed my baseball. Both pitchers have had Tommy John surgery, and Manship was telling Neshek about what his recovery was like. Neshek briefly pulled up the cuff of his shirt to reveal which ligament had been removed to fix his elbow (I didn’t see the scar on his left wrist). Turn your palm up. One of those ligaments that are facing up was what Neshek had moved to his elbow.
I didn’t mind that he didn’t do this for me, but I thought it was pretty cool that Manship noticed a couple girls taking his picture, so he actually turned and smiled for them.
I know that Neshek collects autographs, but I was still amused and impressed when he took one look at this…
…and said, “Gomez signed this, didn’t he?” It might have been the 22 on the ball, but Neshek was the first guy I’ve ever had sign a ball and be able to openly recognize someone else’s autograph on that same ball. I don’t know if that supports his case as my favorite current Twins player, but it certainly doesn’t hurt it.
In all, I collected 21 autographs and 3 photos with current or former Twins players (with the additional 30 without myself in the picture). Total cost (excluding ticket to get into TwinsFest)? Only $16. I absolutely loved the whole thing, and I can’t wait for this to come around again next year.
One last thought. I know that some people don’t find TwinsFest appealing, whether it’s because of the lack of interest in autographs or meeting players or having to pay just to get someone that you could probably get for free if you really tried. I disagree completely with this. Yes, I didn’t get Mauer, Morneau, Thome, Nathan, etc. autographs, but they weren’t the reason why I came. I got to meet a whole lot of potential future Twins, with someone of them practically guaranteed of coming up to the majors sometime in the future. I was also impressed by all of the people that were there. Clearly not everyone was a diehard fan. I’m pretty sure I had three girls standing in line in front of me waiting only to get Kyle Gibson’s signature. There are people that had never heard of Fergie Jenkins or Rollie Fingers before today. Some brought their kids because of the wiffleball and kids’ Q & A with the players. Some people looked like they might be playing high school ball, and there were also adults that looked like they were certainly past their prime. You don’t have to be a hardcore fan to love TwinsFest, because there’s already a huge variation of demographics related to baseball that attend the event every year. I feel that you should not skip this event at all. There is so much to do or watch or listen. Why not get involved even more with your favorite baseball team?
I barely knew some of the minor league players, yet I was thrilled to see them. Kyle Gibson is supposed to be a steal in the draft for the Twins. Aaron Hicks and Ben Revere appear to be future MLB outfielders. Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney are likely going to be in the Twins bullpen next year, if not this year, and you know what? Despite all this talent from all of these players, they appreciate the support from the fans. I already showed you the picture of Revere’s smile. I was asked several times by minor leaguers how the day had been going for me. Drew Butera took a picture with my girlfriend (actually, quite a few girls to be honest). You can certainly get all the same things from the major leaguers (well, maybe not an impromptu picture), but it’s going to cost you some additional money just to even get a chance of having these types of encounters. I didn’t get a chance to meet Joe Mauer for the 3rd time in my life or Jim Thome for the 1st, but I didn’t care. I had the time of my life yesterday.