On the second day of All-Star week, baseball gave to us: 30 top-notch teachers, countless fans a-waitin', three jam-packed ballrooms and a photo op for every taste. Here's the skinny from Monday's scene.
Hunting for truth, silly answers, in a crowd
The Hyatt Regency on Nicollet Mall was no place for the claustrophobic on Monday. Most of the 1,500 credentialed media members, including large contingents from Japan and Latin America, crammed into a trio of ballrooms for interview sessions with the All-Star rosters. At one point, the crowd around Yankees captain Derek Jeter — the most popular guy of the day — ran 12 deep.
The seamhead media were joined by a few other outlets such as MTV and Extra. The "Late Show with David Letterman" also was represented by intern Todd Seda, whose stupid human trick is to pop up at big events and pepper athletes with wacky questions.
Baltimore's Matt Wieters and Cincinnati's Devin Mesoraco were among those asked: What team has the worst visitors' clubhouse? Are you an All-Star at anything else besides baseball? How drunk are you getting if the American/National League wins? The segment is expected to air later this week.
When it pays to get cute
Plenty of the autograph seekers choking the Hyatt lobby struck out Monday, but give them credit for patience. More than 100 people showed up with jerseys, posters, boxes of baseballs and photo albums stuffed with player cards, hoping to score the signature of their favorite star.
Most of them hovered about the front doors, while the players slipped out the back. Each sighting of a potential catch — such as a Suburban with blacked-out windows, pulling into the valet area — prompted a mad scramble through the hotel doors with pens and paraphernalia in hand. Alec Weissman of Minnetonka was among the lucky hunters; he spent about 90 minutes in the lobby and collected the autographs of Detroit's Miguel Cabrera and Chris Sale of the White Sox.
Weissman, 18, had played this game before at spring training. "Sometimes you have to ask a couple of times, but you can't be abusive,'' he said. He also shared a trick of the trade: Get a cute little kid to do the asking for you.
Shakopee math teacher overcomes the odds
After 39 years as a math instructor at Shakopee High School, Neil Johnson understood the slim odds of being chosen to represent Minnesota on a team of all-star teachers. Monday, the only things he was counting were his lucky stars.
Johnson and 29 other teachers — one for each major league team — are being honored as VIPs during All-Star week, with seats in a private suite, a reception with Cal Ripken Jr. and cool swag including personalized jerseys. A lifelong Twins fan, Johnson was nominated by his wife, Ann, and won the spot in a contest sponsored by Target and People Magazine. "This is something a teacher wouldn't usually be able to afford,'' Johnson said of the red-carpet treatment. "We just saw two guys [player ambassadors Carlos Beltran and Adrian Gonzalez] who make about $70 million. That's about what it costs to build a school.''
Do you speak bear?
Before the rain started falling, fans with and without tickets flocked downtown to eat, drink, walk Nicollet Mall and visit the plaza at Target Field. The Local, the News Room and Brit's Pub — soccer-only zones during the World Cup final Sunday — shifted to the baseball crowd. The many statues around the area were popular, too, with crowds of photo-snappers congregating around Mary Tyler Moore, Rod Carew and the giant baseball mitt.
Those big bronzes spoke a universal language. One middle-aged couple walking the plaza conversed in Mandarin, until the man shouted, "TC Bear!'' and ran to the statue of the Twins mascot to pose for a portrait.