Twins Talk, Aug. 6 06 Aug 15

Twins Talk

Stories and Photos by Gordy Jones

Two Relievers in the Perkins Family!

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe and digest food, and can also affect other organs such as the liver. There is no cure, but there have been some major breakthroughs in the past several years — which makes a cure inevitable.

When a cure is found, Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins and his wife, Alisha, will deserve a big shout-out and maybe even a bit of the credit. For the last four years, they have sponsored a 5K run, and more importantly, they have raised money for research and put a spotlight on the disease, increasing public awareness of it. But Glen will be the first to tell you that Alisha is the heart and soul behind the cause. Glen will lend his famous name to the event, 15’s 5K (15 is Glen’s uniform number), and he will promote it while doing interviews, but Alisha plans and organizes it all year long, and works directly with the cystic fibrosis people. Her finger’s on the pulse.

Alisha has sharpened her media skills as well. You can always find her doing radio shows, TV, social media, and blogging; doing her own promotion for the cause. She is fun and energetic, and has a pleasant radio voice, and she looks great on TV. She is active with the Players’ Wives Organization raising money and doing good things all year long.

I asked Alisha how she became involved with cystic fibrosis. She said, “We have two friends with little ones who have cystic fibrosis. We decided we’d do whatever we could to help. This is our fourth annual run!” Then, with a happy look on her face, she said, “They are really close to a cure, which is exciting!”  

It took only a $40 donation to run 15’s 5K, and the runners received a T-shirt, a Twins ticket, and a medal. Some of the runners weren’t even big baseball fans, but had known someone with the disease. Others were big 5K fans, while others were Glen Perkins fans.  The starting line was near 11th Avenue and Second Street at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, with a Twins game scheduled at 1:10 p.m.. While the runners were lining up, Glen pulled up in a pickup truck being driven by his father-in-law, Curt, and addressed the crowd with a bullhorn, something he has done every year. This year in the bed of the truck with him were teammates Phil Hughes and Brian Duensing. After Glen’s words, and the playing of the National Anthem, Brian and Phil jumped down from the truck and lined up with the runners. They were there to show their support by running in the event with the fans.

The course took the fans through downtown heading toward Target Field, where the finish line was on the infield warning track by the visitors’ dugout. They were greeted by a bubbly and bouncing Alisha Perkins high-fiving them at the finish line. Then the runners proceeded to the Plaza, where they received medals presented to them by the players.

Two of the presenters were rookie relief pitchers J.R. Graham, and Ryan O’Rourke. I realized that since their arrivals to the Twins, they have been to every charity event offered, and there are many this time of year. I thought that was a great gesture, and I asked them both about it. J.R. said, “It’s a lot of fun! I like getting out here, and helping some people out.”

Ryan said: “I like doing this stuff. I like getting out of the clubhouse and interacting with the fans. I’ve done this all the way through the minors, and I’m not going to change now that I’m in the majors. This is the fun stuff; this is the most rewarding part of my job.”

The Champs were Back!

The 1965 American League Champion Minnesota Twins had a grand reunion last week. Most of the guys had been looking forward to this event for a year. Some of the team had been in town for the 2014 All-Star Game last year as former All-Stars, and they were talking about it then. Some of the guys look in great shape, almost like they could still get out there in a senior league and play. Seventy-seven-year-old Tony Oliva still works out with the Twins before every home game, and Jim Perry and Jim Kaat spend their time on the golf course. Rich Rollins who was a vacuum cleaner at third base, walks with a cane now, and the great pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant, who probably made more from his singing career than from his great baseball career, needs some assistance getting around, but the fire and the spirit…and the camaraderie are still with them all. They have a special brotherhood.

The most touching moments came when a video was played that came from their manager, Sam Mele, who is now 93 and lives in Upstate New York. He said that in 1965 he was named manager of the year. Every day of his life, he looks at that award, and wishes he could add the name of every team member to it, because he didn’t do anything to win that — the players were the winners. He said they played their hearts out, and he thinks of them every day. There were many watery eyes.

He Can Make ’em Smile!

Everywhere Tony Oliva goes, he spreads fun! There is laughter and commotion. The other day, he pulled into a parking space near some workers who were putting out cones and warning lights for construction. Tony jumped out of his car and explained he would only be five minutes, and asked if he would be all right where he was parked. Naturally the guys recognized him, and there were high-fives, laughter, handshakes, jokes, and even photos. The man is like a walking party, even in the street. He’s a great ambassador for baseball and the Twins, and I hope someday he is in the Hall of Fame. He deserves to be.