In the Land of Beer and Cheese 24 May 12

Photos and Stories by Gordy Jones

In the Land of Beer and Cheese

Mentor Larry Hisle and Bert Blyleven chat with a young Milwaukee man.

Last week, I made my annual trek to Milwaukee. It was time to watch the Twins play the Brewers in interleague play… and to do a little tailgating, and maybe even take a tour of the Miller Brewery. It’s always a fun trip — making new friends, and seeing many old, familiar faces.

It was great seeing former Twins outfielder (and a fan favorite) Carlos Gomez, as he was taken off the Milwaukee disabled list while the Twins were in town. Carlos had fun visiting with his old Minnesota pals and teammates. He also struck out facing Twins catcher Drew Butera, who had an opportunity to pitch a shutout inning.

It was also good to see former outfielder Larry Hisle, who played for the Twins from 1973-77, then played several years with the Brewers before retiring in Milwaukee in 1982. Larry is now employed by the Brewers working in the Milwaukee community with the title Manager of Youth Outreach. He is also the president of a program called Major League Mentoring. He can often be seen on the field before a Brewers game escorting young people around the field, introducing some of them to their baseball heroes, and other kids to baseball itself.

Jonathon Lucroy visits with his pal, Twins announcer Cory Provus. Maybe he's telling Cory how hot his bat has been lately. Lucroy had 7 RBI's in one game against the Twins.

When I encountered Larry on this trip, he was walking onto the field with a youngster by his side. I thought I’d intercept him for a moment before he connected with his friend and former teammate Bert Blyleven, where I know he was heading. As I stopped him, he was telling the young man about the Brewers’ recent woes, and told him, “They might need you. Right now they’re not having fun, so maybe if you smile, you’ll hit three home runs. My goodness, you’re laughing; I better get you into the game. Whose position would you like to take?”

Larry played baseball before the parents of the children he works with were born, so most don’t know of him until they meet him. In fact, some of his protégés don’t even know baseball. But Larry is so kind to them, you can tell they really care about him, and they enjoy their time together. They always have a good time at the ball park. We chatted for a minute, and then they strolled toward Bert. I heard Larry tell the boy as they walked away, “To this day, I’m still thrilled every time I step onto a baseball field.”

Trevor Plouffe before his haircut.

For Twins radio announcer Cory Provus, this was old-home week. He was the number two announcer in Milwaukee for the last three years, working under the legendary Bob Uecker. When John Gordon retired after 2011, Cory accepted the position, making him the lead voice on the Twins Radio Network. Not knowing him real well, it told me something about the man the way people embraced him on his first return to the area. On Friday, when he made his visit to the field before the game, players, local media, and staff rushed to him, shook hands, hugged, and laughed.

Cory later said, “When I came to Milwaukee I made a lot of friends, but now I see they are more like family.”

Plouffe

Trevor Plouffe after donating his hair to Locks of Love.

Several times this season, I have commented (with envy) and made light of Trevor Plouffe’s long hair. I even mentioned that, during spring training, his hair had given him special powers, as he blasted many long balls. But soon the real season began, and Trevor batted a buck something with zero homers. Then I ran into him early Friday in Milwaukee and, quite truthfully, barely recognized him; he had buzzed his hair. I asked him what possessed him to do that, and he replied, “I donated my hair to charity.” I wanted more information, but he said, “I have to do something now, sorry. I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow.” The next day we didn’t cross paths, but a couple of days later, through the Twins media guy, Dustin Morse, I got an email with the scoop. Apparently, Trevor had this idea in the back of his mind all along. He grew his hair with the intention of donating it to “Locks of Love,” an organization that makes wigs and raises money for needy children who have lost their hair due to disease, usually cancer. With Anthony Swarzak setting up a barber shop in the Twins’ clubhouse, Trevor’s hair was soon cut and on its way to Locks of Love. Then suddenly, on the next road trip, Trevor Plouffe found his swing. He hit several homers, drove in some runs, and hopefully made a kid happy on his return to good health. Win or lose on the field (hopefully win), Trevor is a great example of the type of people who come through the Twins organization. Way to go, Trevor!