TwinsFest 2015 coverage presented by
United Airlines - United.com
The Hotel Minneapolis, Autograph Collection - TheHotelMinneapolis.com
TWINSFEST 2015 Jan. 23-25 at Target Field
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 $3.6 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 Hotel Minneapolis in downtown Minneapolis. The Hotel Minneapolis offers a special rate for Red Wings fans attending TwinsFest 2015; please call 612-215-5423 for more information
Sunday January 25
After checking out of The Hotel Minneapolis and enjoying one last breakfast buffet at Restaurant Max (Dear Max apple french toast: I love you. I will miss you.), we headed to Target Field. It was another beautiful sunny day in Twins Territory, and a busy, hectic day three of TwinsFest. It's the day that fans are typically looking for last day bargains, and vendors looking to make deals to minimize packing and shipping. So the Wings booth was prepared, and some of the best sellers for us today included the last of our Tom Kelly pics (TK as a Wing in 1976, with the bright red road uniforms) and the last of our Red Wings knitted winter caps. We had to walk the balance between packing up our items for return shipment to Rochester, and talking to every last possible customer interested in a Wings thing. But it all worked out, and we caught the Metro Transit Blue Line ($1.75) for the 25-minute ride to the airport.
Seen and heard on Sunday: Twins historian Clyde Doepner telling us a couple of father and son stories. One about former Wings catcher Drew Butera and his dad, former Twins catcher Sal - did you know Drew and Sal are the only father/son combo to play for the Twins?....And at last year's All-Star Game at Target Field, Clyde added to the Twins' archive this goodie: the All-Star jersey of NL second baseman Dee Gordon, autographed by Dee, his father Tom "Flash Gordon, and Dee's younger brother Nick - the Twins' first round pick in 2014...Ran into Trevor Plouffe on his way to a radio interview, and took the obligatory selfie (you can see it if you must on our Twitter page). Trevor made sure to say hi to everyone in Rochester, and specifically asked about the Third Base Fan Club...Another Trevor, Wings pitcher Trevor May, started a free dance music website in the off-season and has a dope selection of downloads available with two more songs added over the weekend. A couple of Trevor's own pieces are also available, check it out and keep the beats going at freedm.me. ...A.J. Achter was another radio guest Sunday, and when the subject of the Super Bowl and the NFL came up, A.J. proudly stated he has been a Bills fan since he was a kid.
Look for photos of Byron Buxton, Caleb Thielbar, Nick Gordon, Logan Darnell, Trevor Plouffe, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, A.J. Achter and more in our Sunday photo gallery.
Sunday photo gallery at Facebook.com/RocRedWings
Saturday Jan. 24
Sunny skies and 41° temperature today, which would have been great Opening Day weather here at Target Field - and at Frontier Field. Twins Territory fans converged on TwinsFest for the longest (9 a.m.-6 p.m.) day of the event. We've often told our fans and marketing partners how much we value our affiliation with the Twins, because of the people we're fortunate enough to deal with on a regular basis. Twins President Dave St. Peter (one of our Twitter role models, follow him @TwinsPrez), General Manager Terry Ryan and Assistant General Manager Rob Antony had each stopped by our booth and the booths of our fellow minor league affiliates here before lunchtime today. We always enjoy having the chance to talk with them for a few minutes.
We must mention the bountiful breakfast buffet we enjoyed at Restaurant Max. Oatmeal with toppings like fresh fruit, honey, brown sugar and granola, warm and comforting. Apple French toast, with real maple syrup and butter, indulgent.
Popular Saturday morning items at our booth: Jose Berrios and Caleb Thielbar photos, and our 2014 team card sets. Caleb is a local lad and his photo has been a top seller of ours in our last two visits. Caleb is sporting a super tight haircut these days, and he is one of our fave former Wings - truly grateful for the opportunity to re-establish himself in affiliated baseball with the Twins, after playing independent league ball. He turned in another outstanding season out of the Twins bullpen in 2014... Left-handed pitching prospect Jason Wheeler was matched with Logan Darnell at the kids' bowling game. Jason later joined us at our booth for a 90-Second Egg interview; look for it in the next few weeks on our official YouTube page...We expect the tall lefty from California to play a role for the Wings this summer...Jason's family picked up some new Wings gear later in the day.
Former Twins farm director Jim Rantz and current farm director Brad Steil stopped by to visit the affiliates. Jim is enjoying his retirement with his wife Pearl and their many grandchildren, and he's looking forward to heading down to spring training in a few weeks...Left-handed pitcher Taylor Rogers was the top starter at Double-A New Britain last season and he's a leading candidate for a spot in the Red Wings' rotation this season. Taylor teamed up with Trevor May to run the TwinsFest speed pitch game, then they stopped by our booth. Taylor calmly answered our questions for an upcoming 90-Second Egg segment; Trevor gave us a memorable Egg two years ago at TwinsFest. Coincidentally, bacon is involved in both interviews...The Photo Booth station at Club level was very popular, with a long line waiting for an afternoon session with returning Twins star Torii Hunter. Hey, who was that at the front of the line? Wings season seat holder Mike Murray and his son, Wings clubhouse attendant Michael. Both got a pic with Torii, and you can see proof in our Saturday photo gallery.
The end of the day brought one fun encounter to our booth: phenom RHP Jose Berrios stopped by after joining young fans in a bowling game. We discussed Jose's amazing 2014 season, how hard he trains in the offseason with his theme "working for a big season," and how he balances his roles as a young husband and father with his job as a pro baseball player. Jose added some words for the Rochester Puerto Rican community, which will be part of a special interview we'll be posting soon at YouTube.com/RochesterRedWings. We also met Jose's wife Jannieliz and adorable eight-month-old daughter Valentina. Check out the pic of Jose with our crew in the Saturday photo gallery on Facebook.
After a busy day at TwinsFest, with one more long day ahead Sunday plus packing up and travelling back to Rochester, it was great to enjoy dinner with our other Twins affiliates in downtown Minneapolis. Director of Minor League Operations Brad Steil and Senior Manager of Minor League Administration Kate Townley were our hosts, and Mission Kitchen the location for a funny, fun, and delicious evening. Did you know: Pro baseball dates back to 1885 in both Rochester and Chattanooga, and 1890 in Cedar Rapids. That totals over .... .....umm....err....that's a LOT of years of history and pro baseball fun among three of the Twins' current affiliates.
Speaking of "a lot": one member of our group provided the after dinner highlight when he dove headfirst in a piece of red velvet cake, with the the serving size resembling more of a quarter-cake than a slice. Long, laborious forkfuls, chewing, pausing, the drama equalling anything ever seen on the "Man vs. Food" challenge show.....and finally, Man won - but we think there's a price to be paid somewhere down the line.
Saturday photo gallery at Facebook.com/RocRedWings
We really enjoy the level of service provided by MSP Transport, with car and cab service from The Hotel Minneapolis to downtown. Our driver, Abdullah, got us quickly and safely from Target Field to the hotel after TwinsFest, then waited for us and took us to our regular Friday night hangout: Lee's Liquor Lounge, just a home run away from Target Field. The entertainment at Lee's was provided by The Dollys, a country band with three female lead vocalists. The band had the dance floor packed with two-steppers and multi-steppers....hey - was that Mark Hamburger letting his hair down on the dance floor? Hard to tell, but we can tell you that owner Louie Sirian was behind the bar as usual. The 78-year-old is an important part of the bar's charm and history, and has been behind the bar each time we've visited. With a full 9 am-6 pm day of TwinsFest ahead of us on Saturday, one set of The Dollys was a perfect end to a fun Friday in Minneapolis.
Friday Jan. 23
After a delicious breakfast at restaurant Max (the potatoes were amazing, the perfect side for our omelettes) we arrived at Target Field to unpack the nine packages of Wings stuff we shipped. We found our new booth location thanks to some important directional assistence from Kate Townley of the Twins' Minor League Department, and Twins Team Curator and good friend of the Wings, Clyde Doepner. We were happy to hear Clyde's new book project, "The Minnesota Twins Through Memorabilia," has been completed, with his collaborators historian Stew Thornley and photographer Jerry Stebbins. The book is available at TwinsFest and also online....and even happier that Clyde decided to add a Paul Molitor Red Wings BP top, the Jose Berrios road grey top worn by "La Machina" in his first and only Triple-A start for the Wings, and the black Alex Meyer Wings BP/alternate home top. Clyde has over 7,000 items in his personal collection, and will lead selected TwinsFest fans on a white glove tour of the private archives during this weekend's activities.
Our booth is located on the Club level of Target Field, in the Legends Club near the Carew Atrium. The 96.3 Go Zone is just a few feet away from us, and gives fans a living room-like atmosphere to see and hear interviews with Twins players and staff during TwinsFest. Friday guests include Joe Mauer, Phil Hughes, Alex Meyer and top prospect Byron Buxton. The new Go 96.3 is the radio home of the Twins, and just switched to an alternative music format at the beginning of this month.
Everyone knows the song, "Surfin' Bird," right? The 1963 novelty/garage rocker has been covered by the Ramones and Peter Griffin, and the Trashmen - the Minnesota band who made the song a hit - will reunite to perform at the legendary First Avenue club Saturday night. Here's a link to the Star-Tribune piece "After 50 years, still digging the Trashmen."
Hot country music artist Canaan Smith teamed up with former Wing Brian Dozier for a music set Friday night...Wings pitchers Logan Darnell and A.J. Achter stopped by the Wings booth to say hello. Logan, who somehow avoided the critical lens of our 90-Second Egg interview series, could do so no longer and faced our camera in the Herb Carneal Press Box. Watch for the interview, along with a few more new Eggs, in the weeks leading up to spring training....Local boy Mark Hamburger, stylin' and profilin' with his long locks up in a back bun and holding a purple-frosted cupcake, stopped by our booth...Surprise sellers: the official commemorative photos from our MiLBY Award-nominated Batman and Robin Night last June. Seems like there are plenty of Bat-fans in Twins Territory...A Frontier Field tree ornament was snatched up by a baseball ornament collector, happy to add to his collection...Power-hitting prospect Miguel Sano was interacting with fans at one of the many fan fun game booths; Sano missed last season after elbow surgery, but is ready for spring training and it will be fun to watch him launch homers onto Plymouth Avenue this summer...Caught up with hard-throwing reliever Michael Tonkin, who told us his chocolate lab Kevin Brown is doing great...Members of Gene Glynn's family came by to visit, and later on we caught up to our former skipper and new Twins coach during his autograph session with Trevor May, Jason Wheeler and Eddie Rosario. Gene wanted us to make sure we passed along his wish to thank Red Wings fans and front office for their support and friendship during his seasons as our manager. Gene's son Chris, who handled video duties for the Wings last summer, was ice fishing this weekend but while we didn't see him or his new shaved head look, we learned he will handle video duties for our Class A Cedar Rapids club in 2015...saw a bearded Trevor Plouffe and a clean-cut Nate Hanson headed out of Target Field on their way to a team-only event...Another nice Rochester touch Friday: seeing season seatholders Mike and Jean Murray, and their son Michael, enjoying their first TwinsFest.
Friday photo gallery at Facebook.com/RocRedWings
Thursday Jan. 22
A smooth travel day with United Airlines from the ROC airport, with our first flight arriving early at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. We'd highly recommend United's Economy Plus class, with more legroom and a padded head rest that one member of our group found to be remarkable. United was the first airline to introduce mobile boarding passes, and their mobile app is on the screens of more than 15 million phones and tablets. You can even watch hundreds of hours of movies and TV shows in flight. United Mileage Plus members will soon be able to use the Mileage Plus X app to redeem award miles to make in-store purchases. Talk about making that smart phone even smarter!
Our well-read Wings staffers' on-board reading choices were "One Pitch Away: The Players' Stories of the 1986 League Championships and World Series" by Mike Sowell, with former Wings Doug DeCinces, Bobby Grich and Don Baylor key characters in the stories. Former Wings pitching coach Stu Cliburn, a member of the Angels' bullpen during the mid-80's, is listed in the "acknowledgements" section in the front of the book.."Zero Regrets: Be Greater Than Yesterday" by Apolo Ohno with Alan Abrahamson, the 2010 book by the U.S. Olympic speed skater...."True Grit" by Charles Portis, the classic American Western story made more famous with the 1969 film starring John Wayne (Oscar winner), Glen Campbell (also performed the title track), Dennis Hopper, Robert Duvall and Kim Darby and the more recent 2010 remake with Jeff Bridges.
The January issue of United's "Hemispheres" magazine was the perfect complement to our books. The current issue has a Rochester "touch" we found most interesting: a pic of our hometown soccer star Abby Wambach on page 77, as one of the players to watch in this summer's Women's World Cup in Canada. On a more personal level, we paused to reflect on the photo of the Ramones on page 24, in the "Icons" section. New author Marky Ramone listed some favorite NYC spots for United travelers heading to the Big Apple; the current issue also has a feature on "Three Perfect Days in Louisville." The Voice of the Wings™, Josh Whetzel, has been known to have three days' worth of fun in one night in Louisville
Walking by the Vienna Beef Chicago-style hot dog stand after landing at O'Hare, we thought of our former co-worker and TwinsFest travel team member Jeff Coltoniak. Jeff is busy this weekend in his role as Senior Production Manager for the Columbus Blue Jackets, as they host NHL All-Star Weekend activities. Early morning or not, Jeff would have likely grabbed a couple of fresh Chicago-style hot dogs from the Vienna Beef vending cart; we however showed a tad more restraint today. In a related note, it looks like the Minnesota Wild will host the Chicago Blackhawks in an outdoor game in the Twin Cities next February, with the game to be held either at Target Field or TCF Bank Stadium.
Another on time United flight from Chicago to Minneapolis with the nice Economy Plus seating, and even had access to power outlets under our seats if we needed them. Took the easy and affordable Metro Light Rail service from the airport to the Government Center stop, and a two-block walk to The Hotel Minneapolis. Big league teams, umpires, and Wings players just called up to the Twins stay at The Hotel Minneapolis, a short ride from the Warehouse Entertainment District and Target Field. Lunch at Restaurant Max included the local favorite chicken and wild rice soup, plus some great sandwiches including the Cadillac grilled cheese sandwich (pepper jack, cheddar, bacon and tomato with a side of tomato soup).Had a nice chat with our THM hosts Richard and Terry, who provided some valuable insight into some new entertainment destinations; our Max bartender Ross advised us to avoid Augie's, which is not new advice by any means.
The annual Diamond Awards event kicked off TwinsFest weekend Thursday night at Target Field. The awards are based on voting conducted by the Twin Cities chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The 2014 winners included Danny Santana, Dozier, Pat Neshek, Brian Duensing, Eddie Escobar and Jose Berrios. The event raises money for the University of Minnesota's innovative research and patient care in ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), ataxia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson's disease.
Speaking of Berrios: we're looking forward to talking to the right-handed phenom at TwinsFest. We saw him make his Triple-A debut in a pennant race game for the Wings in Pawtucket, and while he was tagged with the loss, those who saw the game know the PawSox strung together several bloop hits off Berrios to build a lead. His stuff is electric, he seems composed and mature beyond his years (at age 20, a young husband and father of a baby girl) and relentless in both his workout regime and his goal of pitching in the big leagues. His path will run through Frontier Field this summer, and until we see "La Machina" at One Morrie Silver Way, check out this recent workout video posted on YouTube
Twins Notes: happy to hear popular former Wing Trevor Plouffe and his wife Olivia are expecting their first child this summer.....Former Wing Brian Dozier and his wife Renee celebrated their first wedding anniversary during a missionary trip to Nicaragua earlier this month. TwinsBaseball.com's Rhett Bollinger filed this report on the Doziers' the all-star effort off the field.
After a happy hour stop at iconic downtown steakhouse Murray's, our crew took advantage of the very un-Minneapolis January warmth and walked to Black Sheep, a hot pizza place recently lauded by the Food Network's Ted Allen. (As you'll recall, Ted made an appearance at Frontier Field courtesy of Wegmans in 2013.) We ordered the number 4 (lasagna pizza) and a custom pie with artichokes, roasted red peppers and kalamata olives; delish. Confusion reigned on the post-dinner walk back down Washington Avenue, and the less said here the better.
Coming up Friday: all day set-up at the Red Wings booth at TwinsFest, club level at Target Field. TwinsFest opens to fans at 4 p.m. CT.
Previous TwinsFest coverage: blogs, links to photo galleries and videos, and a time capsule of Twins and Wings things - past, present and future.
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