OOOOPS! 12 Apr 13

Photos and Story by Gordy Jones

The fans were allowed to get close and personal at practice.

Everyone makes mistakes. When a professional ballplayer goofs, millions of people might witness the blunder. The same holds true for a team’s corporate communications department, known in the old days as a P.R. department. Their job is to break news from within the organization, and to send announcements to various media outlets for broadcast and publication.

That’s why, the other day, when a release was sent inadvertently, announcing a new early-entry program where every day, 60 fans could enter Target Field 45 minutes early to watch the Twins take batting practice for 15 bucks a head, it created quite a stir. Within minutes, radio talk show hosts had a new “hot topic” of the day. Many fans filled the airwaves with protests and whining.

Most fans misunderstood, and thought that something available for free would in the future have a fee. But that was wrong; this would have been an added opportunity for fans to see a portion of the Twins’ game preparation, that isn’t available to the public. The Twins’ batting practice is currently finished when the gates open at 5 p.m. for a 7:10 game. The home team usually goes first, so when the gates open, the opposing team is midway through their BP.

During batting practice, there can be a lot of activity, including: infield practice, stretching, base running and more. Terry Steinbach is shown here hitting infield practice.

I thought this would have been a nice opportunity for a big baseball fan, who might have come from out-of-town to take in a game, to complete his or her “Target Field experience.”

Some fans and radio hosts seemed almost offended by this announcement, while others, like AM-1500’s Patrick Reusse, were completely rational, wondering “What’s the big deal?” The only negative thought I had: It seemed like an awful lot of work to institute this program for the measly $900 daily revenue it would generate.

The executives must have thought that, too. A few hours after the original announcement of the early-entry program was sent, a sincere apology from the Twins retracting the announcement was dispatched. It went on to say: “The early entry program outlined in the release was not fully vetted across the Twins organization.” It then apologized again, for the Twins’ lack of communication.

I hope this has blown over in the Twins’ front office, because their staff is hardworking, honest, and sincere group of people — and some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. Probably the only thing keeping the story alive are stories like the one you’re reading. Sorry, guys!

Johan Santana

Minnesota fans can be the best in the country, but they can also be the most over-reactive spectators. While East Coast fans can be brutal and verbally abusive to the player’s face, Minnesota fans are ready to denounce an idea without knowing all of the facts, but only around the water cooler or on the radio, where they can’t be seen. They are prompt to even criticize a team and their pitching staff because at the beginning of the season they’re not familiar with the names. We have had a couple of bad seasons, but the same thing happened in the early 2000’s when Johan Santana was on the team. Fans didn’t know who he was and said the Twins had no pitching. Soon Johan’s talents blossomed and he was a fan-favorite. Folks didn’t get mad again until 2007 when the Twins didn’t re-sign him, and once again fans were negative towards the Twins. But not re-signing him turned out to be a smart move in the long run, because soon Santana would be injury-plagued.

Tom Kelly greets a couple fans who he invited in to watch the team practice.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the fans in Minnesota are some of the best in the world! It’s just that when you’re close to a situation, you not only see both sides of the story, but you also witness the human emotions, too. I only wish the general public would be a little more understanding, and find out the whole story before they criticize an organization, or even a player. Nobody’s perfect. Except maybe…Tom Kelly.

I like the way Tom Kelly handles practice during spring training. When the bus leaves with Gardy and that day’s starting lineup to play another team in some neighboring town in Florida, T.K. is in charge. He has been known to open the floodgates. If he sees random fans watching from behind a faraway fence and craning their necks to see, he’ll tell security to unlock the gates and let them all in. He might address the crowd, explain what drill they’re working on, and even sometimes call a player over to meet them. He’ll answer questions and sign an autograph or two if time allows. Once I heard him say: “The game belongs to the fans. Without them, there’d be no baseball.”