Sunday, December 29, 2013

Farewell Metrodome

In its 31 years the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (the Dome) has been host to a Super Bowl (1992), two World Series (1987 & 1991), two NCAA Basketball Final Fours (1992 & 2001), a MLB All-Star Game (1985), countless major concerts, monster truck pulls, and most of the home games of the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, and the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher football team. Now with the Twins, Gophers, and Vikings having got or getting new stadiums, the Metrodome’s time is at an end.

I saw many Twins games in the 27 years the Twins played at the Dome, but was able to only attend one post season game game. It was Game 2 of the 1987 ALCS. I was a young college student who heard on the radio that some single seat tickets were still available. I walked from the U of M campus over to the Dome to buy a ticket. I sat in the upper deck of center field next to two middle aged women who were really into the game. It was very loud, and great experience as the Twins won 6-3.

I got to see Kirby Puckett’s first career home run on 4/25/85. I saw Carlos Silva set the record for fewest pitches thrown in a complete game (74) on 5/20/2005. I was there to see Joe Mauer go 5 for 5 on 6/27/06. I was also nearly thrown out of the Dome for smoking (no smoking in the Dome!). Except I have never smoked in my life, and still have no idea why I was accused of smoking, though it should be noted that the eight or so buddies of mine there that night roared with laughter and joked about it for years afterward.

In the 2000’s when friends weren’t as available to go to games as they use to be, I would go by myself. I found it a great way to spend an evening. I would talk to people around me, and be able to concentrate on the game itself without people trying telling me the latest gossip, and if I wanted to leave early or stay longer I did.

Along with all the Twins games, I have attended many TwinsFests, Twins Autograph Parties, Vikings games, Timberwolves games (their first season was played at the Dome), and Golden Gopher football games. I loved Dome even others mostly disliked it. Maybe it was because it easy for me to get to. Maybe because there were usually decent tickets available. Or maybe it was simply all memories I have from my time spent there. The people who I went with and good times we had. The memories outweigh the lack of great sightlines and food. The Dome did not have any fancy restaurants or clubs that today’s game attendees demand, but it has great memories for me.

I will miss the Dome not because it was a great stadium, but because part of me is there and always will be there.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Look to 2014 While Reviewing 2013

Here is an early look at 2014 Minnesota Twins while reviewing 2013 season.
Catcher – Joe Mauer continues to show himself as a future Hall of Famer, but  concussion issues could force him to move to 1st soon. Youngster Josmil Pinto (age 24) has showed himself as the likey catcher of the future. Chris Herrmann meanwhile has not had the best of years, but his versatility (he can play in the OF and 1st as well) could help him make the team as the 3rd catcher. Veteran Ryan Doumit entered the year as Mauer’s primary backup, but his offense is down, and his defense has never been good. Doumit has one more year on his contract, but likely will be traded in the off-season.

1st Base – Upon trading Justin Morneau, the Twins are now in a time of uncertainty at 1st. In house candidates Chris Colabello and Chris Parmelle have been unimpressive. Trevor Plouffe might find his way over here as might Joe Mauer. For now the position is unsettled.

2nd Base – Brian Dozier is one of the few bright spots for the Twins this year. He looks to have secured the starting job here for the next few years with his great defensive play and solid offense. Dozier is also a class human being who represents the Twins well when dealing with fans.

SS – Pedro Florimon is great defensively, but sub par offensively. Daniel Santana is equally talented on the defensive side, and better hitter. Santana (age 22) will be starting 2014 at Triple A, but likely will find his way up to the Twins in 2014, and could displace Florimon by 2015.

3rd Base - Miguel Sano is the #3 minor league prospect in all of baseball. He is considered to have 30-40 HR a season power, and is already being hailed and the next great power hitter in baseball. Sano will be 21 next year, and the pressure from fans on the Twins to bring him up to Minnesota will be unrelenting. By the end of the 2014 Sano, barring injury, will be the starting 3rd basemen for the Twins. Current starter Trevor Plouffe has been disappointing on both offense and defense. Plouffe could be traded, released, or moved to 1st base. Whatever happens to him, his time at 3rd is short.

RF – Oswald Arcia (age 22) was hailed as one of the Twins top prospects, and upon promotion to the Twins he showed himself to be a potential star player. Arcia has great power to all fields, and seems to a player the Twins can have in the middle of the batting order. Arcia’s defense needs work, but he has been forced to play left field when right field is his more natural position. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that both Sano and Arica could hit 30 HR’s a year of the Twins while hitting 4th and 5th in the batting order.

CF – Highly regarded prospect Aaron Hicks (age 23) was given the starting CF job after the Twins traded away starter Denard Span and backup Ben Revere. Hicks had a terrible offensive year with the Twins, and upon being demoted to the minors, he got hurt and his offensive struggles continued. Hicks is a great defensive player, but he needs to hit at least .250 with some power to stick with the Twins.

Alex Presley, Darin Mastroianni, and Clete Thomas were given chances to take the starting job, with only Presley showing any signs of life. Presley will likely start in 2014, but the #1 prospect in all of minor league baseball one Bryon Buxton (age 19) is looming. Buxton has been hailed as the next Mike Trout (high praise indeed), and the Twins are already telling fans he is the team’s next mega-star. By the end of 2014 fans will be demanding to see him in Minnesota.

LF – Josh Willingham is owed $7 million dollars next year, so he is likely back in LF after and injury riddled and mostly unsuccessful 2013. Willingham can still hit HR’s, and draw some walks, but he will never hit for average, and he is a terrible fielder. If Willingham is traded, Eddie Rosario (age 21) could get a job. Hailed as a top prospect, Rosario has been playing mostly 2nd base where he has shown himself to be a good hitter and solid fielder. Rosario has played some outfield, and could find himself in LF for the Twins in 2014.

Starting Pitching – The Twins 2013 starting rotation is the worse in all of baseball. Kevin Correia is owed $5 million next year, so he will likely be back. Andrew Albers, Samuel Deduno, Vance Worley, Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson will get chances with Gibson and Deduno having the best chances of making the starting rotation along side Correia.

Top pitching prospects Alex Meyer (age 23) and Trevor May (age 23) will also get chances. Meyer has a high 90’s fastball, and is viewed as #1 starter which the Twins have not had since Johan Santana was traded prior to the 2008 season. Other top Twins prospects Felix Jorge (age 19), Kohl Stewart (age 18), and Jose Berrios (age 19) are a few years away.

The Twins will likely try to sign some starting pitching via the free agent market, but the Twins have never been willing spenders in free agency. If they were, I would look into Phil Hughes, Dan Harren, Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, and maybe Josh Johnson.

Trades are another possibly, but the Twins have only Willingham, Doumit, and Plouffe available and they won’t bring much back. The Twins could trade some prospects, but Buxton, Sano, and Arcia are too valuable to trade. Rosario, Hicks, and Daniel Santana are probably the prospects who could get traded, but they may not be enough to bring in the need top-flight starting pitching.

I hope I am wrong, but my guess is the starting pitching staff will not be noticeably better till youngster Meyer, May, Jorge, Stewart, and Berrios get to the majors which may happen in 2015-2016.

Bullpen – Closer Glen Perkins has had an All-Star year, and it set for next year. Jared Burton, Caleb Theilbar, Casey Fien, Anthony Swarzak, Brain Duensing, Ryan Pressley and prospects Michael Tonkin, A. J. Achter, and Zack Jones give the Twins plenty of options for an area that was a strong area in 2013.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Reflecting on Justin Morneau

With the news that the Minnesota Twins have traded Justin Morneau a few things crossed my mind. One was reflecting on my personal interactions with Justin. I first meet him in 2005 at the Twins Autograph Party. He grabbed a black ink pen to sign my ball; I promptly grabbed a blue ink pen off the table and stuck in his face and asked him to use it instead. He could have been a jerk about it, but graciously took the blue ink pen and used it.

Over the years I would get his autograph on 2 baseballs, a photo, and five baseball cards. He had married a woman from a town my mother used to and my uncle and aunt still do live in. We got a chance to talk about that, and he always was nice to me.

Another thought I had was what could have been. In 2005 Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were dubbed the M & M boys. Mauer was 22 and Morneau 24. They were going to rival other legendary Twins duos like Harmon Killebrew - Tony Oliva or Kirby Puckett - Kent Hrbek.

Morneau won the 2006 MVP and finished second in 2008. He was a 4x All-Star, and 2x Silver Slugger. Morneau was one of only 3 players in Twins history to have back to back 30 HR and 100 RBI’s seasons (Killebrew and Gary Gaetti were the other two). Morneau is 3rd all-time for the Twins in HR’s and 5th all-time in RBI’s.

Mauer and Morneau’s lead teams made playoffs in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010, but never won a playoff series. Morneau actually did not play in 08 or 10, and Mauer did not play in 04. Morneau downfall began in 2010 in the midst of a brilliant season during the prime of his career; Morneau suffered serious concussion in Toronto. He was never the same.

When I think of the greatest Twins of all-time I put Rod Carew, Joe Mauer, Harmon Killerbrew, Kirby Puckett, and Bert Blyleven in the top group. Then I would say Johan Santana, Justin Morneau, Tony Oliva, and few others in the next group. Had he not suffered that concussion in Toronto, I believe Morneau would have been in the top group. A player who could hit .300 with 30 HR’s and 100 RBI’s year after year instead ended up being traded for a reverse outfielder and low level minor league prospect.

Mauer and Morneau were together for 10 years - one year less than Killebrew - Olivia and Puckett - Hrbek were together. It should have been a longer and more successful time together, but injuries to both men, especially Monreau made that not possible. I will remember the great time Justin Morneau produced on the field for the Twins and off the field when I had chance to interact with him.

Best of luck in Pittsburgh Justin as you deserve a chance to at least be in if not win a World Series.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Look Back at the 1991 CMA Awards

TV screen shot of President & Mrs George H W Bush with Reba McEntire at the 1991 CMA Awards.

The 1991 CMA Awards marked the 25th Anniversary of the awards which was a big enough reason to celebrate. However, a bigger reason came when noted country music fans President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush announced they would be attending the show.

President Bush was the first president to attend a music award show, so it made all the national news shows, and generated incredible amount of free publicity for the show and country music.

Hosted by Reba McEntire, the show is significant for another reason. It signaled a new era of country music an era that would propel country to a new huge level of popularity, and alter America and world’s perception of country music.

As you read on remember the show was only two hours in length, and all the awards were given during the show. Also Female Vocalist of Year Kathy Maetta and Lorrie Morgan did not get to perform while fellow nominee Patty Loveless only got to sing on a Vince Gill song. Think that is bad? No one of the vocal group or duo of the year nominees got to perform. Tanya Tucker won the Female Vocalist of the Year, but was not there to accept for perform because she was in the hospital having just given birth.

To open the show Ricky Skaggs, Steve Warnier, Vince Gill sang “That’s Where I’ll Be Found” with an all-star band featuring amongst others Mark O’ Connor, Carl Perkins, Bill Monroe, Marty Stuart, and Earl & Randy Scruggs.

President and Mrs Bush arrived after the first song, introduced by host Reba McEntire. Roy Rogers was the first artist to shake the President’s hand, Alan Jackson was the second. Country legend Roy Acuff sat next to Barbra while Crystal Gayle sat next to President Bush. Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Kenny Rogers, and George Strait sat in front of President who for security reasons was sat in the second row.

It should be noted the seating assignment of Crystal Gayle next to President Bush was intentional. Not only did President Bush love her music, she and her elder sister Loretta Lynn were major supporters of his. It also should be noted that the show as held at the Grand Ole Opry House where there are not seats, but pew benches, so people were literally rubbing elbows with each other.

12 minutes into the show the 2nd musical performance. Yes, I said 12 minutes. Today award shows probably would have had four performances in the first 12 minutes. George Strait performed “You Know Me Better That”. Strait was a good friend of President Bush who loved his music. Strait was also the two-time reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year.

In a fashion statement worthy of a country music act, The Kentucky Hunters accepted their Group of the Year award wearing their FFA (Future Farmers of American) jackets. I suspect several viewers that night were former or current members of the FFA.

Trisha Yearwood sang “She’s in Love the Boy”. Alan Jackson performed “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” Vince Gill & Patty Loveless did “Pocket Full of Gold”, and Clint Black & Roy Rogers sang “Hold on Partner”. Jackson and Gill were exploding on the scene in 1991, and both would go on to significant success. Black on the other hand would begin to decent from lofty success he had achieved in 1989 – 90.

Namoni and Wynonna Judd appeared to introduce the nominees for the Horizon Award which is given to the best new artist. Each of the nominees was given a performance slot which showed how committed the CMA at the time was to promoting new artists. Travis Tritt “Here’s a Quarter”, Doug Stone “In Different Light”, Pam Tillis “Put Yourself in My Place,” Mark Chesutt “Brother Jukebox” and Mary Chapin Carpenter “Down at the Twist and Shout,” were the performers. Tritt won the award, but Carpenter won the most praise for her performance. I, on the other hand, love “Brother Jukebox” and have always thought Chesnutt was an under appreciated artist though he would be nominated for the award again the next year and win.

Former pro football player and accomplished song writer Mike Reid – did a melody of songs he had written for others and Walk on Faith a song he had recorded in 1990 and became a #1 hit for him. He was followed by one Garth Brooks doing “Shameless.”

Dolly Parton simply walked out on stage with no introduction to perform “She’s an Eagle” which dedicated to Mrs. Bush. Reba McEntire finished the performances with “For My Broken Heart."

As he accepted the Entertainer of the Year Award Garth Brooks said “no body is anything without his heroes. I love my George’s – George Strait, George Jones - thank you guys.” (pause) “No offense Mr. President. Sorry.” Everyone roared with laughter including the Bushes.

Roy Acuff, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Ray Price, Barbara Mandrell, the Judds, Eddy Arnold, Anne Murray, Buck Owens, Kathy Maetta, Rickey Van Shelton, Larry Gatlin, Alabama, Roy Rogers and Sweethearts of the Rodeo were all in attendance that night. Still 9 and the 15 performance slots went to Brooks, Jackson, Gill, Yearwood, Tritt, Black, Stone, Chesnutt, and Carpenter all artists who charted the first country single in 1989 or later. The show opening number was a great way to get a lot of older artists like Ricky Skaggs and Bill Monroe involved, but it was obvious which generation the night belonged too. A new generation of country artists was about to take Country Music to heights it had never seen before.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Just Like 1982

In 1982 four of the best prospects in baseball - 1st baseman Kent Hrbek, 3rd basemen Gary Gaetti, right fielder Tom Brunansky, and starting pitcher Fran Viola - played their rookie season for the Minnesota Twins. The players had varying levels of success and the team lost 102 games, but the seeds for future successful Twins teams were sown.

When another star prospect – Kirby Puckett - joined them in 1984, the Twins had the foundation that would bring them a World Series title in 1987. Brunansky is now considered to be amongst the top 30 Twins of all-time while Gaetti and Viola among the top 20, and Puckett and Hrbek among the top 10. Puckett is a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Hrbek, Gaetti, and Viola are members along with Puckett in the Twins Hall of Fame.

31 years later the Twins have, are, and will be summoning some of the best prospects in baseball just as they did in 1982. Right fielder Oswaldo Arcia, starting pitcher Kyle Gibson and center fielder Aaron Hicks are already here, with 3rd baseman Miguel Sano, 2nd baseman Eddie Rosario, and starting pitchers Alex Meyer and Trevor May expected in 2014. While center fielder Bryon Buxton and starting pitcher Jose Berrios expected in 2015.

Buxton and Sano are already being hailed as Hall of Fame talents. Arcia and Rosario are expected to be All-Stars. Meyer and Gibson are supposed to be top of the rotation starters with Berrios and May being solid pitchers. If Joe Mauer can stay healthy and productive, a Twins lineup of Buxton, Mauer, Arcia, Sano, Rosario, Hicks, and others could make this a Twins team which could be amongst the greatest Twins teams of all-time. Of course history is filled with failed “can’t miss” prospects, so time will tell.

What can’t be missed with this new wave of young Twins players is the excitement they have generated. Certified autographs of Buxton and Sano are going for well over $100 a piece, and demand for items tied to them is in great demand. Meanwhile this year I gone to separate free public autograph signings with Glen Perkins, Chris Parmelee, Josh Willingham, and Pedro Florimon, and was able to go through the line multiple times. That use to not to be the case as Twins players use to draw huge crowds. Fans are not excited about the current players; they want to see the good, young prospects, and soon they shall.

Just like in 1982, the Twins are sowing the seeds of future success. We can only hope this time it will turn out as well as it did then.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Minnesota Twins and TTM (Autographs Through the Mail)

I went to the Twins game on Wed. April 17th via my employer. We were up on the Budweiser Roof Deck. Free Twins baseball, free food, and interesting people. I thought it would be a good time. Instead it was cold, raining, and the game was postponed at 7 just minutes before it was supposed to start.

The Twins themselves are about where I thought they would be. Joe Mauer is a superstar, but the rest of the team is ordinary.

I am more intrigued with minor prospects Bryon Buxton, Miguel Sano, Oswaldo Arcia, Kyle Gibson, Alex Meyer, Eddie Rosario, Trevor May, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, and Jose Berrios. All have the look of stars with Buxton, Sano, Arcia, Rosario, and Meyer looking like potential superstars.

I now have signed baseball cards from 466 current and former Minnesota Twins. I also have signed cards from all the top prospects except for Buxton. I have signed cards from all 25 current Twins including Aaron Hicks, Pedro Hernandez, and Eduardo Escobar all of three which I got as minor leaguers.

Since my last post here is what I have gotten via TTM (names highlighted in bold are first-time successes).

Current Twins

Wilkin Ramirez

Ryan Pressly

Samuel Deduno

Liam Hendriks

Oswaldo Arcia – Please to get a response for the first time in 3 years from this future All-Star

Twins Minor Leaguers

Michael Tonkin

Caleb Theilbar

Kyle Gibson

Alex Meyer

Trevor May

Mason Melotakis

Daniel Santana

Former Twins

Al Worthington

Matt Guerrier

Ron Washington

George Mittewald

Eric Soderholm

Bob Gorinski

Orlando Merced

Damian Miller

Gary Serum

Paul Thormosgard

Jeff Cirillo

John Smiley

Tom Burgmeier

Kevin Campbell  

Riccardo Ingram

Steve Brye

Pat Neshek

Phil Nevin

John Butcher – It only 4 years, 1 month, and 12 days

Private Signings via Chris Potter Sports

Steve Bedrosian

Bill Singer

In – Person signing at the show

Willie Banks – Willie was really friendly, and talked with people for several minutes which made spending the money to get his autograph more worthwhile.

My thanks for all the players who responded via TTM!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Twinsfest 2013

On Friday the 25th I went to Twinsfest for the 10th straight year. This is the last year Twinsfest will be held at the Metrodome as the dome will be demolished after the end of the 2013 Vikings season, so they can build a new Vikings stadium there. I was planning on going on Friday and Sunday, but made only Friday as the weather and the health of my parents dog prevented me from getting there on Sunday.

Despite only getting to go one day, I got different 34 guys which is my best one day total at Twinsfest and only second all-time behind the 36 guys I got last year over a span of two days.

I had hoped to get Twins Minor League Player of the Year Oswaldo Arcia, but he was a late scratch because he got hit in the head with a baseball while playing in his native Venezuela. Instead I got to meet long-time local sportscaster Mark Rosen who was there hawking his new book.

A wrist band drawing was held again this year to determine who got Joe Mauer and / or Justin Morneau autographs, and for the second year in the row I won the Morneau and lost the Mauer drawing.

I have never had a lot of success getting Mauer at Twinsfest. I got him on ball in 2006 and a card in 2008. I got cutoff in his line in 2009, 2010, and 2011 (despite waiting 3 hours line BEFORE the event even opened in 2010 & 2011). However, I did see Joe walking in the concourse with Rod Carew later in the night and shouted a “Hi Joe, Hi Rod” and got a wave and a greeting back from Joe.

Despite missing out of Mauer and Arcia, I consider my visit to Twinsfest a success. Here is a list of all the players I got with a few notes attached.

Current Twins

Justin Morneau

Vance Worley – told me about how he got his nickname “Vanimal”

Ryan Doumit – has changed uniform number to 18, and is signing all items with #18

Kevin Correia

Jamey Carroll

Mike Pelfrey – seemed very happy to be here, very engaging with fans

Josh Roenicke

Alex Burnett

Joe Benson – was not friendly last year, very engaging this year

Brian Dozier – great looking autograph

Scott Diamond

Jared Burton – lousy looking autograph

Darin Mastroianni

Ron Gardenhire (2 cards) - fearing he will fired soon, I got signed all his cards I wanted

Glen Perkins (card, photo) - was signing with Gardy, so I got 2 autos from him

Anthony Swarzak

Tim Wood – no-one seem to know who he was, but I knew

Casey Fien - praised the look of the card I had made of him

P.J. Walters

Drew Butera - also praised the look of the card I had made of him, very friendly

Liam Hendriks – very friendly and engaging with everyone loving his Aussie accent

Tyler Robertson

Cole DeVries – He liked the homemade card I had him, except the picture was from a game he gotten shelled in. He thought that funny. Very friendly guy.

Bobby Cuellar

Future Twins

(The free minor league station was continuously busy, but I got 4 guys)

Alex Meyer – the Twins top pitching prospect seemed pretty friendly.

Trevor May

Nate Hanson

Austin Malinowski

Former Twins

(This year’s list of former Twins was pretty weak, but I got 5 guys)

Ron Coomer

Brian Raabe

Tom Quinlan – played only 4 games as Twins, never got a hit with them, and would not sign a card for me through the mail. The only reason he was there is that he is from Minnesota and he was a big-time high school hockey and baseball player.

Bert Blyleven & Dan Gladden – I found them as I was leaving the event. They were just sitting there with no line. I decided to have them sign some cards. Blyleven look up at me and said “What took you so long?” I said “I was getting Alex Meyer’s autograph” Bert responded “Alex Meyer!?” We then had a nice conversation about Alex and his future with the Twins. Bert even signed my card in blue and did personalize it, two things he rarely does.

The General Manager

I ran into Twins General Manager Terry Ryan the field, and he signed a card I had made of him. Nice man. Hopefully he can get the Twins back to their winning ways soon.

Update on my current and former Twins autograph baseball card collection.

I got returns from former Twins Adam Everett, Kevin Campbell, and John Butcher in January. Add them in with the guy got at Twinsfest that I did not have (Jared Burton, P.J. Walters, Tom Quinlan, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, and Vance Worley), and I am up to signed cards from 451 different Twins.

Final Thoughts

I always loved going to Twinsfest at the Metrodome, and will take away a lot of good memories. I hope the find somewhere nice to host Twinsfest 2014 which I am already looking forward too.