Carlos Gomez does everything in a hurry -- and that includes his signature. The Twins fans and autograph hounds standing in a sizable line at Saturday's signing session received a couple of circles from Gomez on their baseballs, bats and photos.
"The circles are supposed to be a C and a G, I guess," a veteran autograph seeker said. "It's the worst signature ever."
The 30-year-old man paused, shrugged and said: "That's OK. We still love him."
This was particularly true for the young fans stretched along the west side of the Metrodome in order to get circled by Carlos. The 22-year-old center fielder did not yet command a mob of autograph seekers that matched either Joe Mauer's or Justin Morneau's, but his line was impressive both in length and in its demographic.
Dozens of adolescents were among the perhaps 300 people waiting when Gomez sat down to start signing with third baseman Mike Lamb and pitcher Boof Bonser.
Cody Jennings, 7, made the trip from Sioux Falls, S.D., early Saturday morning with his parents. Once they reached the Dome, the family headed immediately to the Gomez line.
"Go-Go is my favorite player," Cody said. "He's fast. He gets on base fast. He chases the ball fast. I like it when he kisses his bat. He talks to it, too."
Matthew Kruse, 11, from Bloomington was nearby and echoed the same fondness for Gomez. "It's all about speed," he said. "That's why everyone likes him."
Rebecca Anderson, 15, and her brother Philip, 10, were part of a five-hour trip from Kelliher on Friday night. Saturday's first priority after the long journey was a Gomez autograph.
"He's a funny guy," Philip said. "I like it when he kisses the bat. I like it when he sniffs it, too. I was bummed when Torii [Hunter] left ... he was my favorite player. I wish we had both of them -- Go-Go and Torii."
Gunnar Patton is a 7-year-old with flowing red hair. He was in line with friends and his father, Chris.
"He's a good outfielder," Gunnar said. "He can catch any ball. My friends and me ... we all like Go-Go."
Chris Patton said the family already has committed to four season tickets in the club section of the new ballpark. "Days like this are the reason I can't wait for 2010 to get here," he said, looking toward the blue sky marking the beginning of summer.
Travis Maddis and Lindsey Knutson were a pair of fans in their 20s from Rosemount. Knutson's recent birthday present to Maddis was a replica Gomez jersey.
"It took me until about his second game with the Twins to decide that I was going to like this guy," Maddis said. "The sheer speed got everyone interested in him, and you could see the enthusiasm he has for the game.
"I was depressed when we lost Torii. I also realized there was nothing the Twins could do to keep him. Gomez has big shoes to fill, but I think he has a chance to be an amazing player."
There were 2,500 autograph cards available at $30 apiece. Those cards sold out further in advance than they had for previous Twins' autograph parties. The proceeds go to the Twins Community Fund.
Dustin Morse from the baseball communications department was in charge of choosing the signing groups in an attempt to spread out the lines. This did not work in the case of Mauer or Morneau.
The Twins said people were in line at the Mauer station at dawn. His partner was bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek.
"They love me," said Stelly, pointing toward the several hundred people in line.
The losses of Hunter and Johan Santana reinforced the Twins' image as modest spenders. Yet, this remains a team with star power, as demonstrated by Saturday's crowds willing to wait hours for a single autograph from Mauer or Morneau.
There's also a new character with a chance to rival the M&M popularity in the energetic, unpredictable Carlos Gomez -- or simply Go-Go to his young admirers.
"I took a lot of calls from the public about the autograph party," Morse said. "The question I received by far the most was, 'Where will Go-Go be signing?' People are really into him as a player and a personality."
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. firstname.lastname@example.org