Story and Photos by Gordy Jones
Justin and Krista Morneau held their fifth annual Casino Night last Sunday to raise funds and awareness for childhood arthritis. The five annual fundraisers have now taken in more than $1 million.
Justin almost missed his own party. He had been suffering from the stomach flu and had missed two Twins games, but toughed it out to join his wife and co-host their event. As fans entered the International Market Square, where the party was held, they had a chance to meet and have a photo taken with Justin. As a couple of fans walked away after meeting him and shaking his hand, I heard one of them whisper, “Let’s go wash our hands. He’s been sick.”
But it turned out to be a great event, just as the previous four were, and fans got to rub elbows with many of their favorite Twins players. Joe Mauer and his wife, Maddie, who is pregnant with twins, were there granting requests to pose for photos while laughing and talking to fans. Joe is pretty generous with his time at these events. Shortly after arriving and mingling with his mother-and father-in-law, John and Ginny Bisanz, Joe wanted to make his way to the other side of the room to greet the host, his buddy Justin. But as he began to walk, so did everyone else. People were swarming around Joe and Maddie like bees. As they walked, so did the swarm. Joe accommodated EVERYONE who asked to have their photo taken with him, and so did Maddie. He smiled at each fan, looked them in the eye, listened to them, and showed a sincere interest in all of their stories.
It took him more than an hour to travel about 100 feet. I whispered to Joe that there was a back hallway he could cut through to avoid all of the fans. Joe looked at me and said, “No thanks, Gordy. I’ll go straight through here,” he pointed, showing a direct route through the crowd to Morneau. Then he continued on his slow-motion journey as he had fun with the crowd.
More than 15 other Twins were there, including: Josh Willingham, P.J. Walters, Scott Diamond, Jamey Carroll, Ryan Doumit, Brian Duensing, the injured Daren Mastroianni (on crutches), and Aaron Hicks. Many of the guys had their wives or a date with them. There were also a few former and current pro hockey players, including Josh Harding and Stephane Veilleux of the Minnesota Wild.
Speaking of the Wild, some of the guys were on the field at Target Field last week dressed in Twins practice garments, and shagging balls during batting practice. One was Zach Parise, and he told me, “It’s pretty cool to see another sport up close. Baseball has a different atmosphere than we have in a hockey locker room or around a rink. But it’s nice that the Twins allow us to come down here and catch some balls.” I asked Zach if he’d ever let Justin and the Twins come skate on his ice. He laughed and said, “Anytime! Yeah, that would be fun. I think they’d love to do that. It would be a good time.” Zach said he loved playing baseball as a youth, until he changed schools to one that didn’t have baseball, only a hockey program. “It was all hockey, from then on!” he said with a smile.
After catching some fly balls at batting practice, goalie Josh Harding told me that he played on the baseball team while he was a senior in high school. “I love baseball. It’s one of the passions I’ve had in my life. It’s definitely fun being out here and seeing how the guys prepare for games, and how talented they actually are.” Josh said that he and his colleagues are friends with Justin and Joe. “Especially Justin because he’s at a lot of the Wild games. They are two unbelievable guys, class acts on the field and in the community. You can’t say enough about the character that they bring to the Twins.”
Congrats to a Couple Yackety Dads!
Congratulations to Twins radio broadcaster Cory Provus and his wife, Dana, who gave birth to a boy, named Cooper, on Monday. Kris Atteberry has been filling in for Cory, who is off on paternity leave.
Another congratulations goes out to Twins TV play-by-play man, Dick Bremer, whose son Erik graduated from Rogers High School on Thursday. Erik played on Rogers’ baseball team and made it to the finals before getting knocked out of the state tournament. While Bremer attended the graduation ceremony, Anthony LaPanta filled in.