Twins Talk, July 30 30 Jul 15

Twins Talk

Stories and Photos by Gordy Jones

Twins Serve the Fans

After a frustrating loss to the Yankees last Sunday, many of the Twins players left their troubles at the park, put on some smiles, and hurried over to the Capital Grille on 8th and Hennepin. There, they participated in the 9th annual celebrity waiter event for the Boys & Girls Club of the Twin Cities, hosted by former Twins Roy Smalley and Tim Laudner.

Roy has done a nice job of rejuvenating this event, which was big and glamorous when Michael Cuddyer kicked it off in 2006. (Michael continued to host it annually until he left for Colorado in 2012.) That year, the Twins were playing poorly and were a dysfunctional family, leaving little support for this event. But in 2013 Smalley stepped forward and turned this event back into the fun night that it once was. And with Roy at the helm, the players once again started showing their support. Some of the guys who participated this year were Torii Hunter, Brian Dozier, Ryan O’Rourke, J.R. Graham, Casey Fien, Aaron Hicks, Tony Oliva, first base coach Butch Davis, and TC Bear.  

This is a great event for fans who want to donate to a great cause, and to have fun doing it. They can get close and personal with their favorite players. There is a silent auction, a live auction, wine and cocktails, and a fantastic four-course dinner. The chef at the Capital Grille did an incredible job of putting out several hundred meals at once, delivering them with the presentation and flavor as if were made just for you. The menu: Salad, salmon, a bone in-filet over mashed potatoes, and flourless chocolate espresso cake.

The layout of the Capital Grille makes it a great venue for the dinner. There is an adjoining atrium where you begin the evening with a wine reception and silent auction. Tony Oliva holds court here, too, working the crowd as only Tony can do. I asked Tony where his lovely wife, Gordette, was. She usually attends such dinners. The 77-year-old Oliva laughed and said, “She couldn’t come. She said there are too many beautiful women here, and she gets jealous when they talk to me.”  

Once the dinner starts, the real fun begins. It’s a good thing there is a professional wait staff there as backup. The players begin by serving drinks, reaching out to every table in the place, and as they pour the wine, they begin to converse, and are soon sitting in the booths with the guests, laughing and carrying on. That’s about as close as you can get to your favorite Twin, sitting at a table sharing bread and wine. And it’s not just the “big shots” that they cater to, either. I did not see one table left out of the mix.

At the end of the evening, it would be safe to say that the fans had a great time, the players had a great time, the food was excellent — but most importantly, thousands of dollars were raised for the Boys & Girls Club.

Butch

One of the Twins’ new coaches, with whom I have had little contact with until now, is first-base coach Butch Davis. I had a chance to visit with him the other night. Butch was born and raised in North Carolina, and still lives there in the off-season. He was drafted by Kansas City out of East Carolina University in 1980. He played for five major league teams in seven years, and had a 13-year minor league career. He has managed in the minors, and has coached in both the majors and the minors — most recently in 2014, when he was Baltimore’s hitting coach.

I asked Butch why he took this job in Minnesota, when the Twins had played so poorly for the last several years. He said, “I wanted to help this team win. I will do whatever I can to get this team to stay with that winning tradition that they once knew. Besides coaching first, I’m responsible for the outfield, base running, and bunting. But when joining the team, before I could do anything, I had to get acquainted with everyone and get to know them. When I got here, I didn’t know anyone.”

With the Twins going 1-6 the first week of the season, I wondered if Butch thought he might have made a mistake by coming here. “No!” was his reply. “In spring training I got to see what this club is all about, and we never panicked. This is not a sprint; this is a marathon. We’ve got a long way to go, but we are patient. We came together as a team with our leader, Paul Molitor. He is such a professional. I admire him. I love to watch the way he handles the club. Paul was really good at bringing everyone together. When things don’t go well, he can calm everybody down. He lets everybody know that we’ll be all right. We just have to take it one game at a time, and good things will happen.”

I mentioned the characters on the team, from bullpen coach Eddie Guardado to veteran Torii Hunter. “Ha ha, it’s a lot of fun,” he laughed. “Oh Eddie! Eddie is great, a real character. He keeps everybody laughing. Torii is a notch above Eddie. Torii is always making us laugh. But he can bring a calmness to the clubhouse as well as on the field. He keeps everybody loose, and that’s what we need.”

I asked Butch what he brings to the plate. “I bring a little of everything. Some quietness, some laughter, and experience. But I like to laugh, and I’ve got Torii and Eddie there for that; they keep me going.”

“What about Joe Mauer?” I asked. “Joe Mauer! He’s very quiet…I really like Joe. He’s really picked up playing first. He’s got it. Personality and on the field, Joe is a very consistent guy. He’ll be all right. I like Joe.”  

Tony Oliva is very fond of Butch. When the program began at the celebrity waiter event, Butch’s name was accidentally omitted from Dick Bremer’s introduction. Butch didn’t seem too bothered by that, but Tony was. He quietly approached several people because the speech was still going on, and stated how terrible it was that his friend was left out. Word was sent to Dick, and Butch was finally introduced. Butch didn’t know a soul coming to Minnesota, but by the look of concern on Tony’s and the players’ faces when he was left out, I could tell that Butch has made some life-long friends, and may have contributed to some of their winning ways.