Twins Talk – April 4 04 Apr 16
Twins Talk
March in Paradise
Story and Photos by Gordy Jones

Baseball spring training is a wonderful time of the year, especially if you are coming from a northern state. You leave a frozen tundra to visit a tropical paradise where you watch grown men as they laugh, and play a kid’s game. Some of them are trying desperately to make the team, some are trying to keep their job, and others are just sharpening their skills. 

At first, training camp is great, as everyone renews old friendships and make new friends in a land of green grass, flowers, and palm trees. There are thousands of Twins fans who make this pilgrimage annually, and they seem to have a special bond with each other. 
A great example of Twins fans bonding can be seen on Minnesota Day. On Minnesota Day, fans begin arriving at the park at 8 a.m. to begin tailgate festivities. Fans stakeout their piece of turf and proudly erect signs with the name of their Minnesota home town. And the word for the day is “share”. People set of free Bloody Mary bars, hand out cans of beer and soft drinks. One guy grills 400 hot dogs and hand them out free. There is entertainment and music. Retired Director of Minor League Baseball for the Twins, Jim Rantz, drives his buddy Tony Oliva through the party where they stop every few minutes for Tony to sign autographs and to pose with fans for photos. The staple of Minnesota Day is sponsor Mauer Chev’s area where they give away 1000 t-shirts annually. Joe’s brother Bill, owner of Mauer Chevrolet, is always on hand greeting friends as he passes out free shirts. In fact, the entire Mauer family takes part in this ritual, including Grandpa Jake, Dad Jake and Mom Teresa, Joe’s wife and kids, Bill’s wife Stephanie and their kids, among others. Hundreds of passersby stop and visit, because it seems like nearly every Minnesotan knows a Mauer.
But March is already gone, and after a month of meaningless games that seem to go on forever, both fans and players are ready for the real thing. Don’t get me wrong, that late inning appearance by a kid wearing a high number four hours into the game, and whose name you can’t find on the program, could be the most important thing that has happened in that young man’s life. It is also important to the coaches as they evaluate the player, and determine if he can be of help to the team later in the year. But the fans, and the players who are assured spots on the squad, are ready to go and see what this team can do.
The Twins have played with enthusiasm and aggressiveness this March. They looked good last year, but are even more in tune this year — and knock on a wooden bat — have been injury free. 
As you read Twins Talk, I’ll take you on a weekly journey as we talk Twins baseball. But if you have read my column, you know that it’s more than that. It’s about the man inside the uniform. Who is he? What is his workout regiment and what does he eat? What are his hobbies and what charity does he support. That’s the great thing about the Twins players. They all have a cause that they support and most devote some of their little free time to it. But I’ll also tell you about some of the unique baseball jobs as we talk to Andy the team barber and Kate the team dietitian…and you never know who else we might runinto. But for now: PLAY BALL!