Stories and Photos by Gordy Jones
Pedro Really Loves Baseball!
Whether the Twins win or lose, there is one player who always has fun. Not that he enjoys losing – far from it! It’s just that Pedro Florimon has such a passion for baseball, he is happy whenever he is at the ballpark. That is why I wanted to talk to him; I could see that passion in his eyes. I introduced myself and asked him when he began playing ball. He asked, “Do you mean professionally?” “No,” I replied, “I meant as a youngster in the Dominican.” His eyes lit up! He had a child-like smile as he said: “Seven or eight. And I only played second base or shortstop. I liked to play second base when I was a child, but my father told me I have to play shortstop, it would be better for me. I told him, ‘No! I like second base.’ But he said that I should learn shortstop. I finally said, ‘Okay, let me try and we’ll see what happens.’ “
I asked Pedro if he played high school ball. He smirked as he said, “No, no, no. In the Dominican it is not the same as here. You don’t play for your school. You go to school, and then after school you go to practice and play baseball, but not at school. Then when I was 17 I signed with the Orioles. I came here (to the United States) when I was 19. Yeah! That was my favorite time in America: when I was 19.”
I asked the smiling kid-man if he had ever heard of Minnesota as a child. “No,” he said. “But I was excited once I got here. Minneapolis is a very nice city. It’s my favorite American city. If anyone asks me, I always say my favorite city is Minneapolis. I like the fans – I love those people! It’s good here, but I’ll never forget how cold it was early this year. I never played in the cold like that. Ha, ha! I don’t like to play in cold weather. Then it got hot! I liked that! But this is my job, and it doesn’t matter what happens, I will always play. This is the only job I’ve had. I don’t know anything else. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t play baseball. When I’m away from it I have nothing else on my mind.” Then I pressed him for an answer to what he would do if he didn’t play ball. “If I didn’t play, I’d coach.”
Pedro offered some advice for young ballplayers. He said, “Play baseball whenever you can. My father played baseball, and my uncle did, too. That is why I love to play baseball.” I mentioned that many players tell kids to be well rounded and play all sports. He smiled and said: “No, just baseball, and then more baseball. They should keep playing and learning baseball! It is very good for them.”
Hanging with the Pros
“Hanging with the Pros” is a great social event for Twins fans. They can help raise funds for a great cause (children and families of deployed military), eat dinner with the team, and then enjoy cocktails mixed by the players themselves. The 3rdannual event was held last week at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar in St. Louis Park, and was not only successful, but a lot of fun. Other than Joe Mauer, who was tending to his wife and newborn babies, nearly all of the players were in attendance.
Everyone knows what Justin Morneau looks like. But with all of the newer Twins on board, fans politely and timidly asked some of the guys who they were. Even Kyle Gibson; with all of the publicity he has received, fans still asked who he was. One guy was stunned. “You’re Kyle Gibson. Wow! I’m sorry, I didn’t know. It’s nice to meet you. I’m a big fan!” Kyle smiled, shook the gent’s hand, and poured him a beer.
The players’ wives and girlfriends played a big hand in the night. Not only did they work the door, seat and greet guests, and put together items for the auctions, they planned the entire event. I talked to Lisa Duensing, pitcher Brian’s wife. She told me how the planning begins early: “The planning really started at the beginning of the season. We have a meeting at spring training, and we start to finalize dates and meals, and things like that. It continues through the season as we have a meeting every month. There are so many things we have to cover; between the live auction, the silent auction, the dinner, the bar stools, it takes quite a lot of planning. The silent auction baskets were made by the players. They each used some of their favorite things. We have some hunting, fishing, popcorn and movies, rock & roll. We gave the guys instructions: to include an autographed item and a basket full of their favorite things and they took it from there.”
The wives plan several other events during the season, but this is the biggest. They also attend fundraisers as a group, including the Morneaus’ casino night. They also stuff bags with school supplies and birthday presents for those who can’t afford them, and there are many other worthwhile things they do all year long.