Shooting the Breeze with Cole De Vries 03 Aug 12

Shooting the Breeze With Cole De Vries
Story and Photos by Gordy Jones

Denard Span gets ready to roll the first ball at his Twins and Pins Fundraiser.

We all know how the original 2012 Twins pitching staff failed miserably, especially the Jason Marquis experiment. Always looking for a positive, I recently wrote about how the pitching disaster has allowed Scott Diamond to succeed. Another positive element that emerged from the rotation mess was the opportunity for Eden Prairie native Cole De Vries to replace Jason Marquis upon Jason’s exit on May 22. Cole is a bright, fit, stable, and nice young man who looks almost a little nerdish, but in a hip way. I asked Cole what he enjoyed more — his major-league debut, which was on the road, or his first start here at Target Field? He answered: “I have to say, pitching at Target Field. Being a hometown kid and watching the Twins growing up, what could be better than throwing at home — in front of my friends, in front of my parents, and in front of all of the Twins fans?”

I recalled several friends who grew up here and played for the Twins; Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, Dave Winfield, and Joe Mauer, who, by the way, all grew up within two miles of one another. There were times when they couldn’t keep up with ticket requests from long-lost friends and family. I asked Cole if he’s experienced that. He laughed out loud (really), and said: “Initially, it was over the top! But it’s calmed down quite a bit.”

He’s a great guy, and I wondered if he worries about hurting feelings of friends when he can’t come through. “That’s a great question. I try to be polite to them, and I let them know that I’m still paying for these tickets. I tell them I’m so sorry, and most of my friends are quite accommodating with that. They know the situation and don’t expect anything unreasonable from me.”

Hondo the Magician uses his cell phone as a tool in one of his illusions. Fans, as well as Brian Dozier (left top), Drew Butera (left bottom), and Denard Span (right), gather around Hondo as they listen to audio on the phone which is part of the illusion.

Cole watches his diet closely, but calls Sunday his “Sunday Funday,” when he can eat anything he desires. He arrives at the ballpark quite early everyday and works out, except for his start days. On those days he relaxes at home, goes out for a light lunch, then goes to the ballpark and starts throwing 45 minutes before game time.

 

Near the end of our conversation he said: “You know, sometimes I think this thing is more exciting for my friends and family than it is for me. Whenever I’m going to start, they all get pretty pumped up. Then if I have a good start, they’re really excited!”

We shook hands and the smiling young man walked away. As he did I thought, “There goes a happy guy.”

The Twins and Their Fans Come Through

At the Twins Celebrity Waiter event, FSN's Robby Incmikoski and Twins pitchers P.J. Walters and Cole De Vries posed for my photo after I found them hanging out and planning their strategy.

When a team loses like the Twins have this year, typically everything connected with the team suffers. This goes for ticket sales, concessions, novelties, and unfortunately charity events supported by pro teams and their players. The Twins, however, continue to do better in sales than many teams that have superior records. But much of that is because of Target Field; it’s still a new experience to many. As for the charity events, I can attest to their success because I have attended many this season, and a couple in the last few weeks. At times there may be fewer attendees, but overall, there are still great numbers of fans coming out, and no one seems disappointed. And the players are still bringing funds and notoriety to their causes.

 

Less than two weeks ago, Denard Span hosted a bowling event called Twins and Pins at Brunswick Bowl in Lakeville. Attending fans had the opportunity to rub elbows over a cold brew, munch on appetizers, and bowl with Twins players and other local celebrities.

Brian Dozier has been very generous with his time, as he attends nearly every charity event since coming to the "Bigs."

An added bonus was the strolling magician “Hondo,” who amazed fans and players one-on-one — right at their lane or on their cocktail table — with mind-boggling tricks. Hondo played amateur ball with St. Paul natives Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor years before they turned pro, and he often entertains at charitable baseball venues, as well as PGA Tour events.

 

Twins and Pins was successful, and the proceeds were donated to the Twins Community Fund, Friends of St. Paul, and the Jeremiah Foundation. Every face in the house had a smile on it – the fans love this event — and it’s obvious Denard does, too. He talks to everyone there, volunteers and fans, and he shows his appreciation for their involvement.

Another fan favorite event is the Celebrity Waiter Event, formerly hosted by Michael and Claudia Cuddyer and benefitting the Boys and Girls Club. This year there was a different spin on the dinner. As I entered the Capitol Grille in Minneapolis, I had to do a double-take – there were representatives from not only the Twins, but Fox Sports North, the Wild, and the Vikings, even former Gopher hockey coach Doug Woog, and they were bartending and serving steaks to generous fans, who loved this night as well.

Both events offered silent and live auctions, which were very successful. It shows the kindness and generosity of Minnesota athletes and their fans, even during a lost season.