Exclusive coverage frome TwinsFest at Target Field Jan. 24-25.
TwinsFest 2020 coverage presented by
United Airlines - United.com
Embassy Suites by Hilton Minneapolis Downtown- EmbassySuites3Hilton.com
TWINSFEST 2020 - Jan. 24-25
TwinsFest, one of the largest team-run fan festivals in professional sports, is an annual fundraiser for the Minnesota Twins Community Fund. Since its inception in 1989, TwinsFest has raised more than $4 million for programs and organizations supported by the Twins Community Fund.
The Red Wings staff fly United Airlines from Rochester to Minneapolis, and stay at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Minneapolis Downtown - a block from the light rail stop, and an easy walk to Target Field through the Skyway.
Twins fans - be sure to check out the Red Wings booth at TwinsFest 2020. Look for us as part of "The Road to The Show"on the Service level of Target Field, next to the Third Base Lounge autograph station.
Check back here each day for our TwinsFest blog and photo galleries, with coverage presented by United Airlines and Embassy Suites by Hilton Minneapolis Downtown.
Saturday Jan. 25
Business was booming from the start Saturday, with Wings caps and tees, logo socks, and card sets the popular item. We spent some time with pitching prospect Jordan Balazovic, the Ontario native who had a breakout season in 2019. Based on his performance and trajectory, we might see the Canadian lad on the Frontier Field mound in the near future.
Speaking of prospects: MLB.com unveils their Top 100 Prospects List for 2020 this Saturday afternoon on MLB Network and, like last year, the Twins figure to have a handful of spots on the list. In the days leading up to the Top 100 (and updated Top 30 for each organization), Top 10's at each position have been posted. Future Wings SS Royce Lewis (#3) and OF Alex Kiriloff (#10) landed in Top 10's so far.
A special thanks to our great friend, Twins curator Clyde Doepner, for helping with a pretty big Mauer-size favor for team photographer Bare Antolos. Bare shot an amazing triple exposure of Joe at bat during a game against the Mets a couple seasons and we gave Clyde a pair of prints to give to Joe. Imagine our surprise when Clyde's assistant Chris Hoag returned one of the prints to us - with a personal inscription from Joe to Bare. #MinnesotaNice.
We also had some hi hello time with Twins President Dave St. Peter, the always stylin' and profilin' Lewis Thorpe, Zack Littell, Tommy Watkins, and Twins Hall of Famer and former farm director Jim Rantz. We also had a hard to categorize encounter with a customer wearing a band shirt for the great LA band X. He talked baseball and music, and sang a bit of his fave X song "See How We Are."
Friday Jan 24 post-script:
Near the end of our shift, one of our fave former Wings came by for a chat. Former outfielder Darin Mastroianni updated us on his almost one-year-old son Ace, and Darin's new career as a representative for Edward Jones. After a busy first night of TwinsFest, our staff gathered at the James Ballantyne Uptown VFW post. The place is now a full-on entertainment complex with a front bar/restaurant, a back bar with karaoke each night, and a large music room. Friday was a celebration of sorts: The 15th anniversary show of ELnO, the premier Electric Light Orchestra tribute band in the Midwest and southern Canadian provinces. There was cake, a spaceship, and two whole sets of ELO hits. But with a sold out Saturday TwinsFest finale plus packing up our merch after the show, we made a wise decision to head back to the Embassy Suites to unwind.
Friday Jan 24
The expansive breakfast bar at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Minneapolis Downtown is included as part of your stay (along with a manager's happy hour for guests each day), and breakfast is perhaps the most important part of our day during the long hours of TwinsFest. Our group took full advantage this morning, enjoying freshly made omelet (special praise to our kitchen artist Donald - he made three different omelets at once, and I can barely make one on my own), plus traditional breakfast faves, cereal and juice bar, coffee, tea and more. Toss in a couple of pancakes with hot syrup, and our morning was complete. Following an afternoon spent setting up our booth, we spent time with Twins curator and now a great friend of ours, Clyde Doepner. Clyde spent many many hours putting together the "Clubhouse of Champions" display, celebrating each decade of the Twins' existence in the Twins Cities. Each room including period decor, TV's, carpets, and plenty of amazing memorabilia of Twins players' accomplishments. Check out photos in our Friday photo gallery.
The Twins made the Road to the Show section part of a MLB Ballpark app check-in experience, with fans rewarded for visiting each of the affiliates' booths.
Seen on the Scene: before the doors opened for fans at 4 p.m., we got some "hi, hello" time with an All-Star lineup of Twins greats: Paul Molitor, exchanging stories with us about our visit to The Nook Thursday night....Jack Morris and Jim Kaat, both former autographs signing guests at Frontier Field....the great "Tony O," Tony Oliva...and of course Wings fan fave Tommy Watkins too. And we almost didn't recognize Randy Dobnak, when he came by, sporting new glasses and a beard instead of his familiar mustache. We had an earlier Skyway encounter with talented lefty Lewis Thorpe, looking stylish as always in a green Wild jersey....Hey, it's Trevor Plouffe - bearded and bundled up against the Minnesota cold, making his first TwinsFest appearance since retiring from the game.
2019 Wings All-Star Brent Rooker did a surprise run-in to the Road to the Show area, one of several unannounced special treats for fans. Brent posed for photos with fans, signed cards and baseballs, and talked baseball. Infield prospect Travis Blankenhorn and outfield prospect Akil Baddoo did similar surprise visits to each affiliate's booth later in the evening.
But it will be hard to top LaMonte Wade, Jr.'s visit to the Wings booth Friday night. LaMonte begged for the mic and the chance to interview one of our staffers, and did so - so be prepared for a raucous yet highly stylized 90-Second Egg™ interview to post soon.
Former Wing Justin Morneau will be inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame this summer. Click here for more on Justin and this honor.
Check out our Friday photo gallery on our official Facebook page.
Thursday Jan. 23
Our day got off to an early start, with a 7 a.m. United flight requiring a 5:30 a.m. car pickup by Johnny "ABC" "UU" "MN"® Bravo, our personal driver and a great friend of the Wings™. Johnny had the Equinox warm, MLB Network Radio playing softly, and always nice to have him help with our bags and navigate the early morning traffic. Our United flight 1845 left on time, our Economy Plus seats provided lots of leg room and landed 24 minutes early at O'Hare despite snowy weather. We've waxed poetic before about the value of the United Clubs located in airports around the country, and it really is a worthy investment based on your layover. The breakfast bar - included with the United Club pass - had a warm, delicious, hash, potatoes and scrambled egg thing which our party all enjoyed. But travelers could also choose from a fresh fruit medley, a yogurt granola fruit mix and match, cereal and toast assortments, plus fresh juices, citrus water, and a coffee/tea/cappuccino bar. Add in the comfy chairs, quiet relaxed vibe, sweeping view of the O'Hare tarmac,and all the power outlets you could need. (Is that a sentence? JRP needed).
Our group are voracious readers, and before digging into our personal reading selections we browsed the January edition of "Hemispheres." The current issue explores Three Days in Curacao - birth place of former Wings (1987-89) OF Sherwin Cijntje. Did you know: flamingos, prevalent all over the island, are born white - and as their mothers feed them, the babies gradually turn pink. An act of love, to be sure. The issue also had a message from United CEO Oscar Munoz, who told of the unique gathering of all 26,000 United flight attendants in Chicago over the course of 2019 for a best tools experience called "Backstage" a program that will continue in 2020. ROC connection: One of the issue's "20 Reasons to Travel in 20" suggests the Washington, DC celebration of the 19th Amendment - which will include the National Museum of American History's unveiling this March of a portrait of Susan B. Anthony.
Our staff's reading selections for the trip: "The Beautiful Ones" by Prince, edited by Dan Piepenbring...."The Lost City of The Monkey God," by Douglas Preston...and "No Ordinary Time" by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
TwinsFest weekend kicked off with the Diamond Awards on Thursday night; all proceeds from the event benefit the University of Minnesota's innovative research and patient care focused on ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), ataxia, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. Several former Red Wings were among those honored, including Taylor Rogers, Luis Arraez, Byron Buxton, and Mitch Garver; Wings pitcher Randy Dobnak was also honored with the Jim Rantz Award as Minor League Pitcher of the Year. OF Trevor Larnach, who we expect to see make his Red Wings debut sometime this season, was honored with the Sherry Robertson Award winner as the Twins Minor League Player of the Year. The 22-year-old Larnach, the Twins' top pick in June 2018, split last season between Single-A Ft. Myers and Double-A Pensacola, combining to hit .309 (147-for-476) with 30 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 66 RBI and an .842 OPS in 127 games. The 6-foot-4, 223-pound outfielder was named Florida State League Most Valuable Player and named to both Florida State League midseason and postseason All-Star teams. Click here for the complete list of award winners and honorees.
Speaking of Dobnak, he joined Wings pitchers Brusdar Graterol and Devin Smeltzer, and future Wing Dakota Chalmers, at MLB's Career Development Program.
More baseball biz: congratulations to popular (especially with the 3BFC) former Wing Eric Farris, named manager of Seattle's West Virginia Class A club this week. E-Roc was a great Wings player, an even better guy (brought the office donuts before every day game), and we know he will be an even better better manager....Left-hander Ryan O'Rourke, who finished the 2019 season with the Wings, was part of the winning Santurce club in the Puerto Rican Winter League.
"Sort of" (in a second or third level way) baseball biz: tickets went on sale Thursday morning for the debut of All Elite Wrestling in Rochester on March 18, for a live "Dynamite on TNT" event. Former Gwinnett Braves/Stripers broadcaster (and a close personal friend of ours) Tony Schiavone is on AEW's announce team, after stepping down from his Stripers role after the season. Rumor has it that The Voice of the Wings™ Josh Whetzel, will attend the show and become an even bigger pro wrestling fan than he already is. Looking forward to catching up with Tony when he's in the ROC.
With merch check-in, initial set up complete, and two new friends made from first time TwinsFest attendees Bryce and Jeremy from our Appy League Elizabethtown Twins affiliate, we set out on the light rail Green Line to St. Paul to have dinner, meet up with old friends, and make new friends. A high end happy hour at the St. Paul Grill provided a nice relaxing experience; our bartender Derrick also provided us with some important recommendations on having fun around town and avoiding a 187 at one of the spots on our list. St Paul is a big Italian-American town, and Cossetta Alimentari was our next stop for lasagna, sangweeches, and amazing desserts at the pasticceria. Our beautiful friend and local gal around town Kit Kat joined us, retelling fun (YK) tales of past TwinsFest dinners at Mancini's.
After dinner, we checked out CHS Field - home of the St. Paul Saints baseball team. This place is cool - so cool, that the city's Destination Winter St. Paul is taking place here. That means a Frozen Frontier-like skating rink on the infield, and a giant two-lane ice slide that drops off daring riders in shallow right field. Yes, we rode it. Yes - our pants got a little wet, and our shoes kicked up some snow in our faces. Yes, one of us may have screamed all the way down, and may be a bit sore today from the ride. But would we do it again? Yes. Wanna see what it was like? Of course you do.....check out this video from the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
And just how did we end up at the ballpark on a snowy night, when the place was closed for a private client and season seat holder appreciation event? Another longtime baseball buddy, Saints Vice President and Director of Broadcasting/Media Relations Sean Aronson (real name Jose O'Shansky) got us in and made it all possible. Sean spent a couple seasons for our Ft. Myers affiliate before getting the great opportunity in St. Paul, and he was honored by Ballpark Digest as their 2016 Broadcaster of the Year (a year after our own Voice of the Wings™ Josh Whetzel was so honored). Sean got his radio start during an internship with the Colorado Springs SkySox in 2000, learning under PCL broadcasting legends Dan Karcher and Dick Chase.
Our final stop immersed us in local St Paul culture - deep, deep down in it. Across from Cretin-Derham Hall High School - boasting both Joe Mauer and Paul Molitor as graduates - sits The Nook. Super local, with a super selection of famed Jucy Lucy burgers, and a bowling alley and bar in the basement! This is a beer, bowling, burger, (also wine and pull tabs) basement, with Michelob Golden Draft bottles cold as can be. Twins players have held parties here, and former Wings/Twins pitcher Glen Perkins ate a Jucy Lucy burger here once - with a guy who ate nine Twins Cities Jucy Lucys in nine hours one day. Watch the dining feat, and see Perk and The Nook in this video.
Off to finish set up and get ready to great fans at the Friday night opener of TwinsFest. Check back all weekend for breathless blogs about what we ate, which players we saw and talked to...plus photo gallery links, weather reports and so much more. Until then, read Betsy Helfand's TwinsFest preview of what fans can expect.
Previous TwinsFest coverage:
Blogs, links to photo galleries and videos, and a time capsule treasure box of Twins and Wings things - past, present and future.
TwinsFest 2019: Mean Joe Greene, Tyler Duffey, ELnO, Royce Lewis, Tony Oliva, Joe Mauer, and more
TwinsFest 2018: Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, Def Leppard, Dr. Randy The Shoe Fixologist, Charlie Kelly, Stephen Gonsalves, and more
TwinsFest 2017: Trevor May, Gene Glynn, Michael Restovich, Glen Perkins, Prince, Kennys Vargas, Vulcan Krewe, and more
TwinsFest 2016: Logan Darnell, Bert Blyleven, Johnny Bravo, Ryan O'Rourke, Tom Kelly, Gene Glynn, and more
TwinsFest 2015: Byron Buxton, Trevor Plouffe, Gene Glynn, Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, and more
TwinsFest 2013: The Rockin' Hollywoods, ELnO, Trevor May, Kyle Gibson, Drew Butera, Caleb Thielbar, Mancini's Char-House, Glen Perkins, and more
TwinsFest 2012: Dave Stewart, Rene Tosoni, Bobby Hull, Brian Dozier, Fergie Jenkins, Neil Dynamite and the Heartlights, and more
TwinsFest 2011: Pat Neshek, Robin Yount, St. Paul Winter Carnival Vulcan Krewe, Matt Tolbert, and more
TwinsFest 2010: Denard Span, Drew Butera, Trevor Plouffe, Aaron Hicks, Rob Delaney, Stan Cliburn, Target Field tour, and more
TwinsFest 2009: Bobby Korecky, Justin Morneau, Denard Span, Phillip Wells "The Kirby Puckett of the Kitchen," Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing and Brian Buscher, and more