The weather during John Gordon’s final Touch ’Em All golf outing was perfect, and so was the company. Kent Hrbek, Tony Oliva, Bert Blyleven, Frank Quilici, Dave St. Peter, Ron Coomer, Paul Molitor, Dick Stigman, and the Mauer family (minus Joe, who was preparing for a road trip along with the other Twin current players), were among those who turned out for the event, which benefits the Twins Community Fund and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Before the shotgun start, Gordo addressed the entire group from a balcony above the golf cart parking lot. The golfers sat in their carts and looked up toward him as they listened with reverence…kind of a Pope-like experience. Gordo thanked family, friends, and sponsors who supported this event, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for great causes over the last 25 years.
He then asked for manager Ron Gardenhire and his wife, Carol, to stand. He told the crowd of several hundred that he wanted to honor the Gardenhires on their 30th wedding anniversary. He said some kind words about Ron and Carol, and asked for a round of applause for them. Gardy and Carol reluctantly stood up and waved to the crowd, jumped back into their cart, and proceeded to drive to their starting hole. As they drove by Gordo, he said in a still sincere voice, “Hey Ron!” Gardy looked at him, probably thinking more nice things were about to be said. Instead Gordo surprised him and all who were within an earshot of his voice as he fired off (off mike): “No peeing on the course.” He pointed his finger in a scolding fashion and chuckled. The few who heard it roared with laughter, as did Ron and Carol.
Gardy’s son Toby, who played part of the season at Triple A in Rochester, was a member of his dad’s foursome. Toby is a great guy who has a lot of talent as a middle infielder; he plays hard, and is very bright. As I talked to him, he said all the right things — speaking very positively about the Twins organization and his great hopes for the future. If he ever makes the “big club,” I asked Toby what he thought it would be like playing for his dad. He smiled and said, “I think he’d be pretty hard on me…but I’m ready for it. If the opportunity comes, I’ll take it!”
Gardy often jokes and says that he hopes his son will make it to the big leagues so that he can pay Ron back all of the money he owes him.
Also at the event, just back from the Minors, was the Fort Myers Miracle manager, Jake Mauer. He was riding in a golf cart with his brother Bill when I caught up with them. I asked Jake how his season was. He replied, “We ended up okay. We didn’t end up where we wanted to be…in the playoffs. We ended up about 10 games under .500, and we got some guys back and healthy and hopefully they’ll continue to improve.”
I asked Jake if the Twins’ injuries affected the Miracle this year; they did, and it appears the Miracle had bad luck with injuries, too. “Oh yeah,” he said. “We lost about eight or nine guys pitching-wise, and we lost three or four position players. That’s about usual, but this year we lost them earlier than we normally would, mostly because of injuries. We had some bad luck with our starting pitchers going down. We had a lot of new faces, a lot of different faces. Overall, they did okay.” I asked him if he felt really good about any particular prospects. He said, “We had Alex Wimmer, first round pick from two years ago. He threw the ball pretty good the last half of the year. We had center fielder Aaron Hicks who did okay, but didn’t play as well offensively as we had hoped, but he’ll get an opportunity to go to Arizona and play in the fall league, which is quite an honor. All-in-all, it was a pretty good year to get some guys some innings, some at-bats, and some experience.”
Somewhere in our conversation, Jake mentioned that his brother Bill had been a teammate of Luke Hughes while playing in the Twins’ Minor League system. I asked Bill about that and he said, “Oh yeah! I played with him in the Gulf Coast League. He was very young at the time; it was one of his first years in pro baseball. He’s a great guy – not only a great guy, but a good player, he works hard, and he’s going to be really good for them (the Twins).”
I asked Jake if he still had strong aspirations of becoming a major league manager someday. He replied, “I’d like to get to the majors as a hitting coach…or whatever type of coach it might be. That’s nearly everyone’s goal as they are going through the system. We’ll stick with it and see what happens.”
My final question to the competitive brothers was how their golf game was going that day. They both laughed and Jake said, “Not so good, but we’re having fun!”
Story and photo by Gordy Jones, Sepember 16, 2011