Photos and Stories by Gordy Jones
The Miami Marlins were in town to experience a blizzard-postponed game, followed by a makeup day/night doubleheader. The night of the blizzard, I drove home after 11 p.m. and was barely able to see 10 feet in front of me. It was hard to keep my car on the snow-buried road. I remember thinking, “No way will the Twins be able to play at 1 p.m. tomorrow. Then I remembered that I was to meet Marlins’ manager and former Twin, Mike Redmond, in roughly 12 hours. I thought the roads would still be nearly impassable.
Much to my surprise, I was greeted the following morning with a bright sunshiny day. I remembered how I froze at Target Field the previous week, and although it looked bright out, I took no chances. I dressed in layers, covered by a heavy winter jacket and hat. By the time I hit the road, the freeways and the many morning accidents had been cleared. Soon I was entering Target Field not knowing what to expect. As I walked onto the field, the sun beat down on the beautiful and pristine baseball diamond to radiate the perfect green grass. Not a blade of grass was out of place, and the grass seemed a brighter shade of green than ever before. As you looked at the infield under the bright sun, you could see steam rising from the heated field. There was not one flake of snow remaining, either on the field or in the seats. The magical, hands-on groundskeeper Larry Devito was taking a few final sweeps with his rake around the base paths — smoothing, tapering, and getting ready for the chalk lines to be laid down. It was a miracle! I never thought this park could’ve been ready so soon. Larry and his crew told me they had been there the night before, but simply went home to sleep at 10:30 p.m. because it was snowing too hard. The boys arrived back at the yard around 2:30 a.m. and had been working until the time of my arrival.
Shortly after I arrived, Mike Redmond emerged from the visitors’ clubhouse. It seemed funny to see him in a Marlins practice jersey. I asked him how it felt to be the man in charge. “Oh man! I love it, it’s what I love! It’s what I always wanted to do when I retired — manage. I got a great opportunity to manage a team that I came up with through the minor leagues, and played for in the big leagues, and won a World Series with. It definitely has been a challenge, but I’m not afraid of it and I’m excited to lead this team.” Over the past few years, the Marlins have lost good players, and there are rumors that this has created some turmoil amongst the remaining players. But if anyone can fix the problems, it is Mike Redmond — or as his pals call him, “Red Dog.”
Mike has always been a student of the game, as well as a leader and motivator. I told him that’s how I’ve always seen him, and he said: “I was a backup catcher, so I sat and watched a lot of games. I learned – I sat there and I learned. I learned things from every manager – good things and bad things, of course. But Gardy was great! He showed a lot of faith in his players. I learned a lot from Gardy. I loved my five years that I played here. We had great teams, I learned a lot about the game, and it was a good time.”
I asked him what he thought of the weather and the scheduling. “The weather hasn’t been great, but as long as we get to play! You never know. A couple of years ago it was 70 degrees here. It’s just one of those years where it’s still cold and snowy. That’s all part of baseball. But the good thing is, I don’t have to play in the bad weather anymore.” Then he laughed.
Later, when he returned in his game uniform, he walked up to the top step of the visitors’ dugout, and peered over to the Twins’ dugout. At the very same moment the man he backed up, Joe Mauer, walked up the steps from the Twins’ clubhouse and did the very same thing. Their eyes caught each other’s, and looking almost as it had been rehearsed, they smiled at each other and tipped their hats.
Soon the game was starting, my jacket was off, and I actually took my hat off and tipped it to head groundskeeper Larry Devito, who sat next to me in the photo well. I shook his hand and congratulated him for an amazing job. I should have put my hat back on, though; by the end of the game, my dome was burnt at Target Field. Only in Minnesota!