The Closer Leads Off! 16 May 14

Story and Photos by Gordy Jones

The Closer Leads Off!

A group shot of the fishing crew!

Every year, the Twins dedicate one week, known as Hope Week, when they make special things happen every day. Throughout the year, many of the players’ charity events raise money for various organizations. Hope Week is more of a time when the players can spend time with fans, many of whom have had tough times lately. The players host fun events, and they help the fans forget their troubles for a little while.

The Twin’s press release describes the week like this:  “During each day of Hope Week, different Twins players will lead groups of teammates in participating in various volunteer activities. These activities will often be a surprise to the recipients. Hope Week is an effort by the Twins to reach into the community and make a difference in people’s lives.”

A little boy who had never seen a fish up close is about to release one.

Closer Glen Perkins was the leadoff man for this year’s Hope Week. Glen led several

Glen Perkins keeping warm in a hoody as he signs a ball for a young boy.

teammates on a fishing trip to Lake Harriet with a group of children from the Boys and Girls Club and the Hope Kids. The kids were provided fishing gear, bait, lunch, and plenty of smiles.   

Kyle Gibson fishing after showing kids how to cast.

Perkins, along with Caleb Thielbar, Kyle Gibson, Michael Tonkin, Brian Duensing, and Anthony Swarzak, helped the kids bait their hooks, cast, and even helped a few lucky children remove fish from their hooks. Many kids had never fished, or even seen a live fish up close, before this day.

I asked Glen, who grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota, about his fishing history. He replied: “I grew up fishing on the St. Croix River. We’d fish down at a boat landing in Lakeland — off of a dock just like this. I would bike down there with my friends. Once we got older, we’d start taking family trips out West to Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado — trout fishing. But most of the fishing I did was biking down to the St. Croix as a kid, and fishing off of docks.” I asked Glen, who grew up a Twins fan, if he ever had a brush with one of his heroes like the kids were having that day. “No, not really.” he said. “The first thing I ever did was when I was in college.” He chuckled, then he continued. “I went and met A.J. Pierzynski at a mattress store. He was there signing autographs. I’m glad these kids could come out to fish today, though. I never got a chance to do anything like this. I’m glad they’re having fun!”     

Anthony Swarzak checks his bait as Perk watches.


Brian Duensing assisting a youngster on the dock.

Brian Duensing, who grew up in Kansas, would fish at little lakes with his Grandpa and his Dad. But this was more than just a fishing day for him.  He told me: “Hope Week is important! The community always comes out to support us. It’s great to be able to come out and help the community, especially the kids. We’re fortunate enough to be on a platform to help people, and I’m excited to be able to do it.”

Michael Tonkin was showing the kids hot to bait a hook.

Michael Tonkin fished with his family as well, but that was in California. That’s probably why when he learned that they would be taking kids fishing, he wore his normal fishing attire: shorts and flip-flops. He soon learned that on a Minnesota springtime fishing trip, one might need long pants, boots, and a parka. The weather that day was cold, with gray skies, and strong, gusty winds. The following day, I ran into him at another event that was being held indoors, and he was dressed more appropriately. He laughed and said he had learned his lesson.

I asked Kyle Gibson if he fished as a child, and he said: “Yes! I was lucky!” His father was a land developer and actually built a lake for the family to fish at, right across from their house. His Dad and Grandfather would even stock the lake. He, too, told me how lucky he is to be in the position to help people, and how much fun he has with the kids, trying to make their day. Because of all the media and cameras at the event, he added sincerely: “We’re not here trying to boost ourselves; we’re just trying to help these kids to have a good day.” 

I’ll be back with more from Hope Week, photos, and Twins news next week.