Twins Talk, July 17 17 Jul 15

Twins Talk

Stories and Photos by Gordy Jones

Winning, Giving, All-Star Stuff, and Rookie O’Rourke’s First Day!

The Twins ended the first half of the season with a winning week, a giving week, and an emotional rollercoaster ride for All-Star Brian Dozier. They won six of their last seven games, beating the Tigers, their division rivals three out of four games, and went to the break with a 49-40 overall record – second best in the American League, behind only the division rival Kansas City Royals.

The giving week was the Minnesota Twins Hope Week, in which every player participated in some way. Last week I told you about Joe Mauer’s pizza party for the kids from Gillette Children’s Hospital. Another event from Hope Week was Glen Perkin’s fishing party for children. The event was held on the dock at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, with poles and supplies furnished by Gander Mountain. Instructions and fun were furnished by Twins players Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks, Brian Duensing, J.R. Graham, Shane Robinson, and mascot TC Bear, and of course the host of the event, Glen Perkins.

When Glen was a child, during the summer months, if he wasn’t at the ball field, he’d be on the banks of the St. Croix River, fishing. He told me: “A couple years ago, when Bryan Donaldson of the Twins came to me and asked if I’d like to help out with Hope Week, I looked at the events and saw that there was a fishing one, and said I’d love to do that. Bringing the kids out here and seeing the smiles on their faces, it’s something they don’t get to do very often. Introducing them to something outdoors; a fun hobby I’ve had my whole life. Hopefully some of these kids will remember this day, and start fishing; getting them outside and playing outside, it’s a good activity for kids.”

Glen and his wife, Alicia, are active in the community year-round. On August 2, they will be hosting Fifteen’s 5k run to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. If you sign up in advance at twinsbaseball.com, you’ll get a free ticket to that day’s game against the Mariners.

Another Hope Week event, which the entire team hosted, was an afternoon with children playing a variety of games on the field with their favorite Twins. All-Star closer Glen Perkins pitched a game of wiffle ball; Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe, and Shane Robinson were playing Frisbee, while Torii Hunter and Aaron Hicks played kickball; others roved the field and did a little of everything, and that included the skipper, Paul Molitor. I told Paul how much fun it is watching his team this year, and what a fine manager he has become. He replied, “Yes, it is getting fun. The guys have the drive and are determined to win. As for me being a good manager, my career is young. Let’s hold the judgment on that until later.”

The following day Torii Hunter hosted shoe giveaway, where the children from Mary’s Place, received new shoes, souvenirs, and autographs.  And just as the other events drew many teammates of the host, this one did as well. Torii told me: “I’m just trying to make this world a better place. All of the Twins player are great at doing that. The entire organization is great at doing that. It’s very important to do this kind of thing every day, not just Hope Week. And not just Twins players, but I thinks fans, and people all over should do things like this. You walk away feeling great, man! You sleep better at night. You’re happy, and great things start to happen all day. If you do something great in the morning, it feels great all day. Kids inspire me. I was one of those kids at one time. Just to see a smile on their face is pretty special, because I was one of those kids, and I had a smile on my face.” I replied: “You still have a smile on your face!” He said, “Yes, I do still have that smile, I’m blessed. I wake up on the right side of the bed every day.”

Brian Dozier was on an emotional rollercoaster prior to All-Star week. He didn’t know if he’d be an All-Star: He might be in, he’s not in, he might be in, he’s not in. He’s in! Brian was very appreciative of the support given to him by his teammates, fans, and the campaign driven by the organization. But being a humble man, he felt a bit awkward with all of the attention. He was ready to take the time off and go fishing in northern Minnesota, where he had already rented a cabin. But he said he was honored to be an All-Star. He let his bat do most of the talking with two walk-off home runs the week before, and a solo homer in the 8th inning of the All-Star Game – his first and only (so far) plate appearance as an All-Star. I told him how glad I was that he made it, but either way, he is an All-Star guy in my book.

The week before the break, rookie Ryan O’Rourke had an enchanted couple of days. He had been playing for the Twins’ Triple A club, the Red Wings in Rochester, New York. He explains: “I got called in to manager Mike Quade’s office. He sat me down and closed the door. You really don’t know what to think at that point. He said I’m going to Minnesota and told me the details. I was stunned. He had to tell me again. It was an emotional experience for me. He told me I had a flight at 7 a.m., and it was 11:30 p.m. when he told me. I really didn’t get much sleep. I got here and warmed up. It felt like a dream all day. Then I got into the game and threw pretty well. Since then it’s been great. My brother’s in town, and I have more friends and family coming out. But they say you’ll always remember your first outing in the majors, and that rings true. I had no feeling in my arms or legs.”  

I asked him if the facilities here were a lot better here than in Rochester. He said yes, but he missed the guys there; they are really close to him. Then he praised the Twins for reaching out and giving him a great welcome, saying they made his transition so easy.

Ryan grew up in western Massachusetts and played every sport he could. In the summer, he would play baseball with his brother at a field down the street from his house. They’d play from early in the morning until he heard his dad yelling for them in the evening to come eat dinner. Speaking of his dad, and of being called up to the majors, he said, “It was really emotional telling him…I broke down a little. He knew everything I’ve been through, the struggles getting here, and even getting through college and getting drafted. It’s been a long road, but it’s all worth it.  

Then I took his photo, and he jokingly said, “Be sure to get a good one. I’m single.”