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Monday evening, after determining that we wouldn’t drive to Rochester in the wee early hours of Tuesday morning, we ventured out into the cold and snow to the Kato Ballroom, to participate in the Twins Caravan along with some six hundred other baseball fans. It was the usual weather for the Caravan; it’s either a snowstorm or it’s bitterly cold. Well, this time it was technically a blizzard. We only got about an inch or so of snow, but the high winds, sometimes gusting as high as fifty mph brought visibility down nearly to zero.

That Sunday our Minnesota Vikings had lost a big playoff game to the New Orleans Saints, and the loyal Vikings fans were feeling pretty low, but that all was forgotten as we all crowded into the Kato Ballroom for a fun evening of talking baseball with current and former players and broadcasters.

We were fortunate to have with us two current Minnesota Twins players, pitcher Jeff Manship, and center fielder Denard Span. Also joining us for the evening were radio broadcaster John Gordon and former Twins pitcher and future Hall-of-Famer Bert Blyleven.

There were lots of stories, jokes, and fun, along with autographs and photographs!

And you have to hand it to these guys, too, being brave and coming out in some of the most inclement weather Minnesota has. Jeff is from Texas, and both Bert and Denard live in Florida (I don’t know where John lives). There were some good-natured jabs at Denard for keeping his coat on even in the warmth of the Kato Ballroom. Jeff apparently took a nasty fall on the ice earlier in the day at another town up north of here, but he was doing all right in spite of it.

We always enjoy when Bert come to town, too. If you’re familiar with him, you know he was always known as a real prankster when he was a player, and he hasn’t lost any of his sense of humor. He made light of his lack of enough votes to make it into the Hall of Fame this year by noting that his name (Blyleven) rhymes with eleven, and saying maybe that’s a sign that next year (2011) will be his year to be elected.

We happened to get our hands on some VIP tickets to this year’s Caravan, so we were allowed to go to the back room and eat supper with the players and get our autographs early instead of waiting in line with the other fans. There were probably about fifty of us in that room. We got the tickets because my company sponsors the Twins broadcasts on the local radio station. It’s a nice perk that I never knew was available to us, even though we’ve been sponsors for quite a number of years, and have been going to the Twins Caravan for about 25 years, but have always just sat in the big ballroom with all the other fans, not knowing that we could have gone and met the players personally like we did this time.

I think it’s a real testimony to the baseball fans of this town, that even on such a horrible night we still packed the Ballroom with over 600 fans. And it’s just as great a testimony to the greatness of the Twins organization that they are always willing to come, no matter the weather, and the show always goes on no matter what!

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