TwinsFest time

Jan. 21, 2008

by Matt Kane

TwinsFest begins Friday, and, for me, that means the Major League Baseball season is just around the corner.

There is nothing that warms the baseball soul more during these sub-zero days than a nice steaming mug of Twins baseball, fresh from the hot stove.

Initially it seems that brew for this coming season seems to have lost some of its steam, compared to seasons from the recent past. But it is still hot.

I guess the main man that will be missing from this year’s TwinsFest is Torii Hunter. Hunter always had one of the bigger lines of autograph seekers at the event, and that shows how popular a player and person he was. But I guess there is no point to wishing Hunter was still hear anymore, since he will be playing center field in sunny Southern California for the Angels this summer.

Hunter will definitely be missed this weekend during the three-day TwinsFest, but, in looking at the roster of over 50 current, former and future Twins players who are scheduled to appear, there seems to be a good contingent of fan favorites to make up for the loss of Hunter.

I think all Twins fans hope Hunter’s replacement in center field, Delmon Young, will quickly become a fan-favorite. So far, Young is known most for throwing a bat at an umpire while playing in the minor leagues, but last season with the Devil Rays, Young showed he has some baseball skills. Young is scheduled to sign autographs this weekend, and it will be interesting to see what kind of draw his autograph line will get.

Twins fans will also have a chance to get reacquainted with left-handed pitching sensation Francisco Liriano. With all the talk surrounding the trade of Johan Santana, we can only hope Liriano can live up to the brilliant debut he had in 2006 before injuring his arm. Of course, Liriano missed all of last season because of Tommy John surgery, so we shouldn’t expect much from him too soon, but, if Santana is, indeed, dealt, Liriano will be looked upon to fill Santana’s shoes. No matter how big they are.

TwinsFest always brings the current superstars back to Minnesota to meet and greet fans before the start of spring training — Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer will all be there at least one of the three days this weekend — but one of the neat things about the event is that the Twins organization always invites players from the past and future.

The likes of Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Paul Molitor, John Castino and Scott Leius are among the class of former Twins who are scheduled to appear. I already have autographs from most of the old-timers on the list, but there is nothing wrong with having more than one Carew-, Killebrew- or Molitor-signed pieces of memorabilia in my collection.

At the other end of the Twins baseball spectrum are the prospects. Some of them were on the Twins roster for parts of last season, while others are future hopefuls.

Brian Bass, Mark Hamberger, Korey Feiner and David Shinske are names we might not know yet, but they may someday become household names around Twins territory. Bringing these young guys to TwinsFest is a great idea for no other reason than to familiarize Twins fans with their names before they are called up to the big squad. That’s what happened with guys like Hunter and Morneau. Before they were gold glove winners and most valuable players, they were future prospects signing autographs at TwinsFest.

While I enjoy collecting autographs of the players I watch, have watched or will watch, its almost just as fun to see these players face-to-face, even if it is for just a few seconds.