How’s this for Openers? 18 Apr 14

How’s this for Openers?

Stories and Photos by Gordy Jones

Opening day ceremony at Target Field

Although the Twins have lost their last three home openers, it’s always a festive day. This year was no exception; the weather was great, and there was excitement in the air. To the Twins fan who had been plagued by a terrible winter, this was the light at the end of the tunnel. Even though dirty patches of snow were scattered on most people’s home lawns, Target Field was green and pristine, and the smell of food was in the air. For a moment I thought I was back in Florida, except the mercury was hovering at less than 60 degrees — but the sun was shining and the field was so pretty.

Several hours before game time, people from different backgrounds and every walk of life were strolling on the streets surrounding Target Field. Many wore new Twins gear they had gotten for Christmas, and others wore old garments that might have been in the family since the 87 World Series. Some fans saved vacation-time for this day, while others played hooky. There seemed to be fewer revelers this year, though. After three seasons of losing more than 90 games, the fair-weather fans have drifted away. But the true baseball people, who are the heart and soul of the Twins, were all present. The pubs were pretty full, and folks were smiling, joking, toasting, and having just a plain good time. Many fans on the Plaza were enjoying their first outdoor beer of 2014. People were trying to stay in the sunshine and feel its long-awaited warmth — not only because they missed it, but because in the shade, it felt 20 degrees colder.

Two hours before game time, fans began congregating in front of the locked gates of Target Field. You could see the ushers scattering from their daily huddle, and moments later the gates were ceremoniously unlocked by the people whose number the gate represents. In the case of Gate 34, it was opened by Kirby Puckett Jr. and his sister Catherine. I’m sure Kirby was looking down on his children with pride; they have truly grown into fine young adults. I only wish Kirby could’ve let this current Twins team jump on his back, and be carried to an opening-day victory.

Catherine Puckett and brother Kirby, Jr.

Cop of the Clubhouse   

Major-league baseball games are events where typically more than 20,000 fans gather for one game 81 days a year in 30 American cities. It takes many people to provide security for both the fans and the players. There are cameras, police officers, ushers, uniformed security (who are fulltime correctional officers), and many more people that the public doesn’t see. In such a serious type of work, it seems it could be easy for one to become jaded. Not true with the Twins’ clubhouse and spring training security guy, Dan Twaddle.

As those who have been to Hammond Field and have watched the Twins practice might know, Dan accompanies the major league squad at they rove to various fields for various drills. You’d recognize him because he’s the guy with the biggest smile on his face. Dan loves his job. He told me, “I’m a big baseball fan. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here. Many people would love to have this job. I am blessed to have it.”

In Fort Myers, Dan Twaddle watches over the guys as they leave the practice field and head towards the clubhouse.

But don’t let his good nature fool you. Dan is prepared for anything. He was with the Plymouth Police Department for 27 years and retired as a lieutenant who was second in command, and before that he was a paramedic for Hennepin County. After retiring from the police department, Dan was hired as a liaison by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, overseeing security for both the Vikings and the Twins. The Twins hired him as clubhouse security in 2010 for Target Field. He bonded with the players, and as time went on, gained both their trust and friendship, which he takes great pride in.

The players feel comfortable with him in the clubhouse, where they practically live for more than half of every year.  

I asked Dan to tell me more about his job, and he explained, “My biggest responsibility is the players’ security at Target Field, and also the team security at spring training.”

I asked him if he ever encounters problems with overzealous fans.  He said, “Minnesota Twins fans are very well behaved people. We have a good fan base. On occasion you might have one — but mostly overzealous, with no harmful effects on anything. It’s a matter of calming them down a bit. If they’re trying to get an autograph, I might tell them to have patience; the player will get to them, or explain to them not to force themselves upon a player.” 

Brian Dozier clowning around with Dan Twaddle

Dan Twaddle is trained for any emergency, he’s a diplomat, and makes the players feel like a ballplayer wants to feel: SAFE!