Twins Talk Photos and Stories by Gordy Jones
Rooting for a Potential Hero!
I met 23-year-old Aaron Hicks this year at spring training, and he seemed like a hard-working, happy-go-lucky guy – a little like his friend and childhood baseball hero, Torii Hunter. I saw Hicks train endlessly and confidently through February and March. While playing in the exhibition games at Fort Myers, he had fun and did well — well enough to skip Triple-A and join the “big” club. Although he was confident, he didn’t seem cocky; he just smiled a lot and tended to his business.
Opening week in Minneapolis, I was talking to him, telling him about the many charity events that have been hosted by his colleagues over the past few years. Then I asked him if he’d consider attending any of the events scheduled this year. He looked a bit panicked by that question and said: “Oh no! I’m new up here, and I would never just show up to my teammates’ events without being invited. If they invited me I would consider it. But I’ll wait and see what happens.”
Then he told me he was involved in his own charity program, which may one day turn into a major foundation. He didn’t say that; that is me predicting it. In Sacramento and Rancho Cucamonga, California, Aaron occasionally hosts an event based around basketball. The youngsters not only play basketball and get exercise, but they get to hang out and have a social event. Aaron said a friend of his helps run the event, and then continued: “It’s all about kids coming out to enjoy basketball. Being out there and having fun! Kids these days really need something to do — something to take them away from video games. It’s pretty much just a social thing. I want them to have fun and play, and be around kids their age – and have a little competition, too. It’s really just for fun. They have fun, and for me, I just enjoy everyone being there. I just want to see kids happy. It’s kind of a small thing right now, but if it begins to get larger, I’d consider trying it in Minnesota.”
While Aaron talked about his community youth program, I saw the easy-going smile that he wore at spring training break through for a minute. That’s because the first six weeks of this season, Aaron hasn’t smiled much. He’s struggled at the plate, and you can tell the pressure sometimes gets to him. He hasn’t looked happy at all, in the dugout or at the plate. Then last week he hit two homers and robbed Adam Dunn of a home run, all in the same game. Aaron wore that ear-to-ear grin for the rest of the night. I’m paraphrasing what Gardy said, but it was something like this: “Tomorrow is a new day and a new game. What you did yesterday doesn’t help much today,” meaning Aaron needs to keep it up.
Aaron is a great athlete, a great guy, and, if he hadn’t picked baseball, probably could’ve gone PGA, as he has played golf all of his life, and I’ve heard he’s great at it. The fans are behind Aaron, and so are the Twins. Everyone has shown a lot of patience, and they’ve cheered for him all of the way. I hope this talented kid can get his baseball game going, relax, and have fun. If he does, he will become a fan favorite like Torii and Kirby were. If and when this happens, I’ll bet you anything that Aaron uses his fame to be a positive influence on our youth –maybe through a foundation that bears his name.
He’s No Elvis, but He’s a Pretty Good Pitcher and Bearer of Treats!
Every season it’s tradition for the Twins’ bullpen to choose a rookie who must wear a silly backpack as he walks across the field to the bullpen and is in public view. The backpack is filled with midgame snacks for the boys. When Brian Duensing was a rookie, he wore a Tinkerbell backpack filled with gum, licorice, sunflower seeds, and more. Last year it was a kid’s tool box instead of the backpack, and because of the troubled bullpen and all of the demoting and promoting, it was carried by a different guy each week. This year, the lucky rookie is: Ryan Pressly, with his fancy pink polka dot Minnie Mouse special.
Justin Time for Poker
There are still tickets available for Justin Morneau’s Casino Night June 2, at International Market Square in Minneapolis. If you have $150 that you can spare for a great cause, the Arthritis Foundation, and specifically targeted towards children with arthritis, you won’t want to miss this event. This is one event that brings you up close to your favorite Twin players and other local celebrities as you use your chips to play various card games. The players randomly walk around to different game tables, pose for photos, and and put down a few libations with their fans. The drinks are offered at a cash bar, but a variety of appetizers are included in the admission price. If you want the opportunity to just “hang out” with Justin and his pals and raise money for some kids who are suffering from arthritis, this is the ticket. For information on purchasing $150 early bird tickets, callLiz Atchison at 651-229-5371 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are $175 after May 25.