FORT MYERS, Fla. – Byron Buxton doubled twice and Kennys Vargas once, Jorge Polanco homered, and the Twins pitching staff gave up only one hit. Yet the Gophers are going to count Wednesday night’s appearance in Hammond Stadium as a victory.
“We’ve already won, just by being invited,” Gophers coach John Anderson said before the Twins opened exhibition play with a 3-1 victory.
The Twins had not faced their Twin Cities neighbors since a 1987 exhibition at the Metrodome. So Anderson and his Twins counterpart Paul Molitor — Gophers teammates some four decades ago — had nothing but warm feelings about the chance to renew the friendly rivalry.
“I [told him], ‘Wow, this is pretty surreal. We came to the university together in the fall of 1974, and here we are 40 years later, the dots are reconnected. We’re going to have a chance to exchange lineup cards in his first game,” said Anderson, the Gophers coach for 34 years.
Molitor, an All-America in 1977, summoned former Gophers star Glen Perkins to pitch the third inning. Facing his alma mater while wearing a big-league uniform was a great memory, Perkins said, one he will treasure for a long time.
A very, very brief memory.
“That was by design,” he said of his eight-pitch, 1-2-3 inning. “I didn’t want anybody to be able to go home and say, ‘I did this against him.’ ”
Michael Handel, the Gophers senior shortstop, will be able to say he drove in a run with a first-inning single off Jose Berrios. And seven Gophers pitchers can say they held a major league team (albeit one made up almost entirely of players who will be in the minors this year) to six hits.
But mostly, both sides can say they helped christen the renovated Hammond Stadium — the crowd of 6,700 included 1,300 construction workers and their families — and benefit the state’s top collegiate program.
“John’s a good friend, [and] he’s run an incredible program. High integrity,” Molitor said. “I’m glad he’s had the success he’s had. He has stabilized the program.”
Said Anderson: “This is a special, special day for all of us. For myself, for our staff, for all these kids, this is a lifelong memory they’ll never forget. This is a special treat.”