Monday, January 30, 2012

A three day adventure at TwinsFest

The annual fan gathering known as TwinsFest was held over the weekend at the Metrodome. This meant thousands of fans headed back to the Twins old stomping grounds to get warmed up for the 2012 season. There are tons of autographs to obtain, any piece of memorabilia a fan could want, and a multitude of other activities for the whole family.

I attended all three days of TwinsFest and I was able to experience everything I wanted to over the weekend. It was a blessing to be back at the Metrodome after being in the cramped quarters of the National Sports Center in Blaine last year. Fans were able to spread out across the floor and there was no waiting out in the cold for autographs.

Here is a look at how I spent my three days at TwinsFest with some of the stories and experiences I had along the way.

Day 1- Friday, January 27
On Friday night, I usually try to get the lay of land when it comes to TwinsFest. I spend time seeing where things are set-up, what kind of booths are new, where the autograph lines are, etc. There is usually not too much change from one year to the next but it is still fun to explore on the first night of the festivities. There is a lot less people roaming about on a Friday after work so this makes it easy to accomplish things.

One of the coolest experiences I had on Friday was finding out the Twins had used a photo of mine in the Target Field showcase area. Fans were asked to send in their best shots of Target Field from the last couple of seasons. Then the organization blew up the pictures and had them on display.
I went through the minor league line once on Friday night to get some of the players to sign next to their profile in the 2012 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. I was ready for a full day on Saturday at the Dome. 

Day 2- Saturday, January 28
The second day of TwinsFest was full of a variety of events for die-hard fans of the organization. There were plenty of more attendees on Saturday afternoon as fans looked for a fun activity for the weekend. It is a little tougher to navigate through the throngs of strollers, autograph hawks with suitcases of bats, and the other casual fans.

Around lunchtime on Saturday, I heard an interview with Justin Morneau at the 1500 ESPN radio stage. Many fans gave him a standing ovation for all of the hard work he had done over to try and get back for the coming season. Morneau didn't reveal anything big in the interview but he did say all the right things about being prepared for 2012. He has changed his diet and he focused a lot on his core this offseason. Hopefully that translates to better production on the field but his concussion issues are still scary.

Another cool event on Day 2 of TwinsFest was a social media event the Twins call a "Tweet and Greet." Fans who follow the Twins on Twitter were given the location of a secret meeting with current members of the team who are on Twitter. Once the location was announced, fans rushed to the upper levels of the Dome to try and get a good spot for the event. I was one of the first half dozen people to reach the destination so I was able to score a seat at the front of the fans.
The Twins who attended the Saturday version of the "Tweet and Greet" were Danny Valencia, Denard Span, Ben Revere, Brian Duensing, and Drew Butera. Fans who attended the event were able to ask the players and questions they wanted to over the course of the 30-40 minute event. There were not a whole lot of people willing to ask questions so I was able to get two questions answered by the players (Span gave me some grief when I asked my second question because he thought it was the eighth one I had asked).

The first question I asked was about minor league players and who the guys thought could be an impact player this year out of the minor leagues. Revere's first response was a joking response that the outfield is full so there was no room for minor leaguers. He mentioned names like Joe Benson and Brian Dozier. Before the next question was asked, Danny Valencia made sure to tell the crowd to be on the look out for Carlos Gutierrez as an option for the bullpen.

My second question was directly for Brian Duensing and I asked him about his role on the team for next season. He said he would prefer to be a starter but he knows he has had success out of the bullpen in the past. He knew the 2011 season didn't go as planned but he is ready for what ever role he will play on the team for 2012. The goal is to get back to the playoffs and all of the guys had this as their focus for next season. (I know it is sideways but here is a QuickTime video of Butera dancing with a fan who was at the event.)
I was able to score a few more autographs from the minor league players in my prospect handbook before Saturday at the Dome was done. Later in the evening a group of Twins bloggers and fans met at the Old Chicago in Roseville for food and for a lot of nerdy baseball talk about the Twins.

Day 3- Sunday, January 29
A buddy of mine came with me on Sunday for the event and he had the goal of getting a bat signed by Joe MauerMauer signing but after it got started it seemed to go very smooth. I would say I enjoyed the wristband system much more than standing in line for seven hours for a possible chance at getting an autograph.
The only real autograph I was searching for over the weekend was Jack Morris. He is so close to getting into the Hall of Fame and I wanted to snag an autograph from him before he goes up in price for the coming years. I was able to get a nice 11x14 picture of Morris from Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. It is a fun piece of memorabilia to have and it will be fun to tell my kids about the story of Game 7 in the future.

Through out the course of the day, I picked up a few other pictures and minor league signatures to put into my prospect handbook. I listened to a Fan Forum with Terry Ryan, Dave St. Peter, and Jim Pohlad that was full of some tough questions for the leaders of the franchise. There was a variety of questions about the true ages of players from Latin America, making improvements to the batters eye, the use of the designated hitter in NL parks, and some of the impacts of the new CBA. Overall, the three men were very honest and forth coming with their answers to the fans. It was one of the most interesting and informative parts of the weekend.

It was a fun three days back in the Dome and it was exciting to know the players will be reporting to Fort Myers in a couple of weeks. The players, front office, and fans are ready to put last year behind them. It is one step closer to Opening Day of the 2012 season.

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