We’re Gonna Win, Twins…Eventually 01 Jun 12

We’re Gonna Win, Twins…Eventually

Story and Photos by Gordy Jones

Matt Capps is on a mission; he's trying to make it up to the fans that he felt he let down last season.

Being a “glass-half-full type of guy,” I keep looking for bright spots in what others have called a lost Twins season. I agree: Many things have been disappointing, but that’s part of the game. Lately, we’ve had the luxury of the Twins dominating their division and making frequent appearances in post-season play. Our recent past has been great! Yes, I’ve been extremely frustrated by this year and last. But what really bugs me are the fair-weather fans who constantly criticize individual players when they don’t know what they are talking about, and others who are only fans during winning times. The Twins had some terrible years in the 80’s and 90’s, but they were also world champions in both of those decades. They’ll be back. We have some great fans here, but also some with short memories. Last year Joe Mauer was sick and plagued with injuries, and fans booed him, even though he was league MVP a couple of years earlier. This year he is batting around .300, and still gets a few boos carried over from 2011.

Matt Capps, like Joe, is a great guy who does a lot for the community, yet he was booed after his first blown save this year. The following night he was booed as he entered the game in the ninth, and then received a standing ovation after completing the save. Matt knows he didn’t fare well last year and that he disappointed fans. He said that is why he wanted to come back this season to pitch for the Twins: He wanted to make up for last year. After re-signing with the Twins in the off-season, Matt took the initiative to learn a new pitch. He came up with a nice split-finger fastball that drops right over the plate, and it has made a difference in his end results.

Joe and Justin always prepare for the game together. They run, stretch, and play catch with each other.

In fact, Matt’s new pitch and most of his performances are bright spots. Joe Mauer flirting with .300, and his pal Justin Morneau cracking out home runs and regaining his swing, are a couple more accomplishments so far in 2012. Joe and Justin used to live together and hung out together away from the ball park. Because they both have families now, they don’t get that opportunity too often anymore. But at the ball park, you will find them sitting, running, stretching, lifting, and playing catch with each other. I’ve even seen them applying eye black to each other. It’s only fitting, and a bit ironic they would have physical problems together, and then rebound to good health at the same time.

It’s been fun watching Scott Diamond and P.J. Walters pitch in the majors. I told my pal and former colleague, columnist Charley Walters, who pitched for the Twins in 1969: If this pitching thing doesn’t work out for this Walters kid, he might have a future as a columnist at the Pioneer Press. Charley laughed and said, “Ha Ha, I might tell him that.”

Justin Morneau is applying eye black under Joe Mauer's eyes. It is a black grease, and on a bright day, it reduces the glare when catching a ball, especially a pop-up.

Twin Cole De Vries has had a dream come true already this season: pitching five scoreless innings at his hometown ball park with the team he watched as a child, and playing in front of friends and family. He is a bit rough around the edges, but I think he will smooth out with time and experience.

Another call-up from Rochester who has talent, but is still rough around the edges, is infielder Brian Dozier. I’ve seen him make some great plays in Fort Myers and now at Target Field. That’s where I caught up with the laid-back country boy last week, and I asked him where he lives. “Fulton, Mississippi. I was born and raised there: The home of Elvis.” I asked him what his hobbies are. “I do a little fishing, but I’m big into hunting. I do a lot of deer hunting in the off-season, and duck hunting, too. Those are probably the two things I love to do most,” he said with a happy, Southern twang in his voice. I asked him how he liked Minnesota. “It’s nice! Minneapolis is a beautiful city. Of course I arrived after the cold was gone. But I was here for Twins Fest, and went all around Minnesota on the Caravan with TK (former manager Tom Kelly), and that was a good experience.”

Brian went on to tell me how much he loves playing shortstop, but has played second, third, and will play anywhere the Twins need him. He lives and eats healthfully, but his weakness is a juicy steak and some cheesecake for dessert.

Josh Willingham escorts his Josh Junior of the night around the field. He is shown calling his teammates over to meet the youngster.

Another positive: As I predicted; Josh Willingham is hammering the ball, as his nickname “The Hammer” suggests. He even got the second walk-off home run at Target Field. In his short time here, he has dived into community events. One project he’s involved in is called Josh’s Junior. Before a home game he’ll host a youngster on the field, introducing him or her to the rest of the team, actually taking the child to the outfield, into the dugout, and allowing him or her to collect autographs and souvenirs as they go.

We’re lucky; we’ve got some great guys here, and besides, some teams haven’t been to the playoffs in decades. Let’s just take the rest of the season, try to have some fun, and watch a bunch of hopeful kids, and a few seasoned vets, try to improve a bad situation. And let’s celebrate the fact that we have a Major League team with a colorful and successful past; many cities don’t!