Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Twinsfest 2009

I attended Twinsfest last weekend. I go every year to this celebration of all things Minnesota Twins, but this was the first time I went all three days.

Friday night was bitterly cold out. A lot of people were waiting outside the Dome before the doors opened because they wanted to run the Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau autograph lines. I tried waiting outside, but it was to cold. I retreated inside a parking ramp where it was warmer.
I return to stand in line, but only for a short period before they let everyone in.

Once inside I got Rod Carew to autograph a 1970 card of him. I even brought a fine point sharpie for him to use. After that I headed down the field where I got Scott Baker, Mike Redmond, Alexi Casilla, and Matt Guerrier. Casilla is a favorite of mine. I got him to sign a ball. It was the only ball I would have signed all weekend.

I spotted former Viking All-Pro RB Chuck Foreman at a sports memorabilia collectors table. For $10 he was signing pictures of himself. I asked if he would sign my football card of him. He said he would, but he did not have a blue or black sharpie to sign it with. Luckily I had one which he used. The lesson here is that you should always bring a sharpie to these events as you never know when you might need one.

With Foreman’s sign card I now have signed cards from ten Vikings from their Super Bowl teams including Tarkenton and Page.

I happened upon a friend who told me Al Newman was on the field signing for charity. I have cards signed by all the living members of the 1987 World Champion Twins team except for Al and Dan Schatzader. For a $5 donation Al not only signed my card, but graciously humored me in conversation. Al is a real nice guy.

I found out that Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, and Nick Punto were not there. Cuddyer and Young were both sick while Punto missed his flight to Minnesota. This altered by plans as I was going to get into the Delmon Young autograph line.

Instead I went and got Paul Molitor to sign a card of him as a Twin. I recently received a sign card of him as a Brewer in the mail. I noted the one in the mail and the one I got signed in person were different. The one in person has an “m” which looks like an “m” while the on in the mail has an “m” that looks like an “n”. He dotted the “I” in Molitor on the one in person, but on the one in the mail. I am wondering if he signs differently for one in the mail in order to save time, or where the one in the mail ghost signed (i.e. signed by someone other than Paul)?

Paul seems like to nice of a guy to have someone else sign his stuff. He may alter the way he signs stuff in the mail to save time. I would have like to ask him that whether that was the case, but you are not encourage to hold up the line at Twinsfest, so I had to move on.

I headed by to the field ran into a big surprise. I spotted Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins. He was there signing for a cancer charity he supports. He told me for $10 he would sign a card for me. I did not have a card of him with me. He offered to let me choose from some he had along. I asked him how much for the card and he said the card was free. Wow! For $10 I got a 1979 Topps card of Mr. Jenkins and he signed it adding his HOF year. Great deal!

I was about to leave for the night when I decided to check out the Twins Pro Shop area. I was amazed to find they were selling Torii Hunter replica Twins jersey that once cost $100 for only $25. Granted Hunter does not play here anymore, but it is still a nice jersey for cheap. I bought one for myself.

Saturday was even colder than Friday. I refused to go early and stand outside the Dome in that frigid weather. This cost me a chance to get autographs from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau as those line were filled by the time I got there. People are obsessed with these two guys. It is amazing. Luckily I have signed balls and cards for these men already.

I settled for signed cards from Nick Blackburn, Mike Redmond (again), and Denard Span. Then I was able to get Jason Kubel and Glen Perkins. I added Ron Gardenhire and Jesse Crain. Gardenhire was especially friendly to everyone including me. He is a class guy. Perkins was signing in place of Delmon Young who was still sick. I needed Perkins for my collection so that worked out great. I had Kubel sign a picture of him getting Gatorade dumped on him by Michael Cuddyer after hitting a game winning home run in 2006. I had Cuddyer sign it last year, but Kubel was not at Twinsfest last year, so I got him this year. He thought the picture was great.

I head down to the field to get Jim Mudcat Grant, Tom Johnson, Joe Morales (the younger), and Scott Leuis. Sadly Mr. Grant decided to skip his appointed signing time and fly to AZ to attend a card show where he was paid to sign items. While he has the right to make his own decisions, I thought it was a classless move. He had said he would be at Twinsfest. Several people came just to get him, and they left disappointed. I stayed because I wanted the other three, but was disappointed as well that Mr. Grant was not there.

I always meet interesting people at Twinsfest. Men, women, and young people who are great fans of the Twins are there. Lots of folks from outstate and the Dakotas. I always enjoy the conservations. I meet one guy who said he was the second person in line Saturday morning. He had arrived at 6 a.m. When did the first person arrive? He said it was 3 a.m. 3 in the morning in -10 degree weather. Doors opened at 9. Why would someone stand outside the Dome in -10 degree weather for 6 hours? I don’t know.

Saturday ended on a high note. I found a collector who has a certified autograph card of Johan Santana. A Donruss Playoff, number 47/100. I normally don’t buy the autograph cards that the card companies produce, but the only Santana signed item I have is a ball he signed for me. I wanted an autograph card of him. The collector had card for only $40 which is cheaper than I have seen such cards go for around here. The collector let me check it out, and after some thought I bought it. It is a beautiful card.

Sunday was as cold as Saturday, so I went in late again. I got Corey Koskie and Phillip Humber. Good to see Mr. Koskie again after all the health problems he has had. I hope that he becomes more a part of the Twins organization now that it looks like his playing days are over.

Delmon Young was feeling better and in attendance on Sunday signing with Jason Kubel. I got them each to sign a card for me. I wanted to get Michael Cuddyer to sign a card for me, but the word was after he had gotten over the flu his wife got it, and he had to stay home and care for there child. Cuddyer has always been generous to fans with his time, so I will cut him some slack.

Exhausted after three days of standing in line and running up and down the stairs of the Metrodome, I called it a day, but not before making one more purchase. Some years ago I bought a grab bag from the Twins. For $15 you get whatever is inside. That year my big items were a Twins Media Guide (which was great reading) and a Torii Hunter mini-bobblehead.
This year I decided to buy another grab bag. I got a Michael Cuddyer kid’s bat that they had given away last season to kids 14 and younger. Nice bat which I may get him to sign for me. I also got a red baseball hat with Twins on the front that looked nice, and a mystery bobblehead. I say mystery bobblehead because it was in a bigger box and that box was tapped shut. I did not get a chance to open it till I got home. Who was it? Of course it was Torii Hunter! It was the official one they gave away in 2006 of him holding the gold glove trophy. I put it up on my shelf next to my mini Torii Hunter bobblehead had gotten years early.

I really had a good time at Twinsfest and look forward to next year. First though we have a baseball season to play. Win Twins!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Great Miranda Lambert Video

Kevin over at Country Universe is asking readers to post their favorite video of a live perfomerance by a Country Music artist. Here is the video I posted and what a said about it:

I like this video because it seems like you are actually there watching the performance in person. At about the 1:50 mark Miranda comes up right in front of videographer, drops down on her knees and as she is singing “to a hammer everything looks like a nail” she starts slapping the floor with her hand. Like a hammer beating down a nail. You can actually hear her hand slap the floor. You can then hear her stomping her boot on the floor once she gets back up.

Whoever took this video did a fantastic job. Not many live concert videos on YouTube are this good in quality. Of course not many country artists are as good as Miranda Lambert.

I posted this video in an entry I made here last year. I still think it is one of the best concert videos I have seen on YouTube.

Friday, January 2, 2009

These Pictures Spoke to Me

I love to look at photographs of people. I like wondering who they are or were and what they were thinking at the time of the photo. Did they have dreams, hopes, fears, joys, and what were they?

I decided to pick out some of my favorite country photos I have found over the last few years, and talk about what I see in them.
“The Proud Father” is what I call this photo. I have come to believe there are two eras in country music – the pre-George Strait debut era and the post-George Strait debut era. In essence every male country music artist who has debuted after George Strait is really a descendant of his. Don’t believe me? Check out who every country male artist from Garth Brooks to Kenny Chesney lists as a significant influence. It will be George Strait.

This photo was taken at the 2008 CMT Giant special honoring Alan Jackson. While you never see this moment on the actual televised show, it spoke to me. It is right before Alan steps to the microphone to offer a thank you speech for the night’s honor. George Strait (far right of the photo) has a satisfied grin on this face and is gesturing to Alan to step forward. I feel like George is saying “Well done my son, I am proud of you”.

It is well known George thinks a lot of Alan, and Alan a lot of George. Alan also seems quite happy as though he is proud to have made his music father (George Strait) proud of him.

You can even make the case that George Jones (the other man in the photo) is a proud grandfather.

In a way this is a picture of three generations of country music men - all legends, all proud to know one another, and definitely proud of each others achievements.
I call this one “Country Woman”. I love Miranda Lambert. Here ballads like “Bring Me Down” and “More Like Her” are so tender and vulnerable while here up-tempo songs like “Kerosene” and “Gunpowder and Lead” are so empowering and tough.

I love this picture because it is such a country photo of her. The boots, the big belt buckle, the denim skirt, the t-shirt, the numerous necklaces one of which is a cross. It says to me that Miranda is country and country she will always be.

I love that Miranda’s music is traditional country. I wish there were more female artists who were making traditional country music.

Sadly female on Miranda’s left (Gretchen Wilson) is probably done as a significant country artist. Only Deana Carter has fallen faster and harder than Gretchen. In fact in this photo Gretchen seems to be a withering presence. It looks as though she is literally getting ready to fall out of the picture. To bad, I loved Gretchen’s music.

Meanwhile I think Miranda is bright, young artists on the rise. Go Miranda! We need more “Country Women” in country music

“Youthful Enthusiasm” is what I named this photo. It is Taylor Swift whose youthful enthusiasm and seemingly boundless energy has won her armies of loyal, young fans. Say what you want about Taylor’s singing voice and her writing, but you cannot argue her “presence”.

In the photo she is taking a photo of Alan Jackson and her backstage at CMT Giant special honoring Alan Jackson. I can just see her taking the photo then e-mail or texting it to all her family and friends saying – “Look! It’s me with my hero Alan Jackson! Cool huh!”

As we get older it seems we lose some of that youthful enthusiasm. Hopefully Taylor will be able to hang on it hers for some time to come.
“Getting High on Performing” is what I call this one. I love Pam Tillis. Her music is great, I think she is really good looking, and I know having seen her in concert, she loves to perform live. Not only can Pam sing, she can tell some great jokes too.

Pam has long since stop charting songs and selling albums, but she is still out performing. She recently did a Christmas tour with her dad Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis, her brother, one of her sisters. They called it the Tillis Family Christmas tour. What a great time she must have had. Few people get to work with their families doing the things they love.

This picture of her is at the Grand Ole Opry a few years back. Look at that smile on her face as she looks out onto the crowd. She seems to be saying – “Wow, I am still able to perform before a live audience even after all these years. I love it!”
Contemplative Superstar Woman”

This is the album cover for Reba McEntire’s 1994 album “Read My Mind”. It was Reba’s last massive selling album. What I love about this shot is it shows what Reba was all about in her commercial glory years.
Reba had big hair, so almost every other female artists had big hair, many of them were had red hair too. Reba wore big, over glamorous outfits, so did most other female artists. Reba always seemed to try to show herself as a contemplative woman.

In this photo she has the big red hair, and seems to be contemplating something. What? I am not sure. I do know this was the last of her five straight 3 million or better selling albums. She never sold at that level again, and soon cut her hair, and lost her place as country music top female artist to Shania Twain.

This though will be the Reba I will always visualize when I hear music, or talk someone or write about her. Reba you ruled as country music queen – a contemplative queen at that.