Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Twinsfest 2011

This winter it has either been me driving in miserable snow and ice conditions or me being sick. It sounds like it has been a rough winter for many people, so here’s hoping spring will be here soon.

Twinsfest, the annual gathering of Twins fans during the dreary winter months, was held on January 28-30. If you are into the Twins and especially if you are into collecting autographs of Twins players this is the place to me.

Normally Twinsfest is held at the Metrodome, but when the Metrodome roof collapsed this winter they had to move the event to the National Sports Center in Blaine, MN.

The NSC bills itself the largest amateur sport complex in America. Whether it is or not, it is closer to my home than the Metrodome and it has free parking.

I went on Friday the 28th and found the line for Joe Mauer autographs shorter than usual. I assume I would get his autograph, but fate worked against me. It seems they were holding the event in two different buildings on the NSC campus, and the one Mauer was signing in had a strict limit for how many people could be in it at one time. Well, guess who was right at the cut-off line.

At least I was not stuck outside waiting in the cold, wondering why the line was not moving like some folks were. It seems a lot people had assume the Mauer line was also the line to get into the other building, so they stood out there and waited even though they did not want Mauer’s autograph.

I quickly found where the other building was and promptly got the autographs of 20 different current and former Twins.

Delmon Young, Anothony Swarzek, Dusty Hughes, Nick Blackburn, Jason Repko, Jason Kubel, Eric Hacker, Pat Neshek, Alex Burnett, Brian Dunesing, Scott Diamond, Jeff Manship, Antony Slama, Denard Span, Glen Perkins, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Michael Cuddyer, Juan Berenguer and Brian Raabe, may not be as sexy of names as Joe Mauer and Jim Thome, but I collect autographs of all current and former Twins, not just he big stars.

Current players Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Matt Capps, Justin Morneau, Alexi Casilla, Jose Mijares, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka choose not to attend Twinsfest this year. Morneau was ordered to stay home and continue recovering from his concussion. Nishioka choose to remain in Japan and celebrate his former team’s Japanesse World Series win.

I was disappointed that Capps, Pavano, and Liriano were not in attendance. I would think those three should have made the effort to get up here and show the fans some love. Matt Capps especially should have made an effort as he not been with the team long, and has made no effort to appear at any public event in his time with the Twins.

I was going to go Saturday, but the crowds were incredible, and there was no one signing that day that I really wanted to get, so I arrived bright and early on Sunday morning instead.

With no “big” stars signing on Sunday, the crowds were lighter and I was able get Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and former manager Tom Kelly.

I also got former Jim “Mudcat” Grant was singing on behalf of the Fergie Jenkins foundation.

There seems to be a growing trend at Twinsfest of outside groups bringing in former players to sign for money. The Fergie Jenkins Foundation brought in Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins, Phil Niekro, and Rollie Fingers along with former Twin Jim Mudcat Grant. Meanwhile the Bob Feller Museum brought in Hall of Famer Robin Yount, former Dodger great Steve Garvey, and former Twins Jim Kaat and Jeff Reardon. Former Twins icon Frank Viola was also suppose to be there, but became ill.

I expect these outside groups to continue to bring in outside players as the Twins basically bring back only former players who live in the area. Several former Twins have not been back in years. I also think a lot of Twinsfest attendees are into getting good players from other teams

Also on Sunday I visited the Twins minor league autograph corner. The major advantage of this group is the autographs are free! The lines are also shorter, though I noticed the lines for #1 prospect Aaron Hicks and #2 prospect Kyle Gibson were longer than the others. I guess other people were thinking like me – get these guy’s autograph now before they gets up to the big club because then the lines for them will be really long, and it will cost money.

I found out the second time through the line that you could get 2 items signed from each player (normally it is only 1 autograph per player). I wish known this the first time through the line as Hicks was signing, and I would have gotten him on ball as well as a card. As it was I got signed items by Hicks, David Bromberg, Rene Tonsi, Chris Parmelee, Kyle Gibson (card & ball), Kyle Waldrop, Joe Benson, and last year 1st round draft choice Alex Wimmers.

Hopefully some if not all those guys will work their way up to the big leagues. If not, their autograph did not cost me a thing.

Finally, I bought an autographed Kirby Puckett ball. Granted it was signed on the sign panel, not the favored sweet spot, but it was much cheaper then other Puckett signed balls I have seen. I don’t have a ball signed by Puckett, but always wanted one. Since Puckett’s death has created more demand all Puckett signed items are getting more and more expensive, so I think this was a good buy.

Upon getting home on Sunday, I got a bad sore throat which turned into a bad cold from which I am still recovering. Nonetheless I had a real good time, and got to meet several interesting fellow Twins fans. I look forward to next year’s Twinsfest whatever it is held.