Twins work both sides of plate

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 18, 2008 - 5:22 AM

After winning Sunday's game, they served up food and chat to fans at a fundraising event at Morton's.

"People are ready for the heavy pour," Mike Redmond bellowed across the bar to Justin Morneau.

"We're ready to take this restaurant down," Nick Punto hollered.

A typical night out on the town for the Twins, unwinding after a tough game? No, an atypical night out with the Twins, working as waiters and bartenders at Morton's Steakhouse in Minneapolis.

The 120 guests who paid $250 apiece for the Sunday night event got a lot more than sliced tenderloin crostini and colossal shrimp Alexander with beurre blanc for their money. More than a dozen Twins players served food, uncorked wine and chatted up wide-eyed fans of all ages. The event, in its second year, was expected to raise more than $30,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities.

Morton's provides the food at cost and staffers donate their time and forgo their tips.

As the night unfolded, infielder Adam Everett wielded a mean pepper mill. Outfielder Michael Cuddyer, ringleader and a progenitor of the event, hobbled around the room, a soft boot on his broken left foot, performing his trademark magic tricks. "I had to bag the one where I drop a knife through my foot," he said. And power-hitting first baseman Morneau, who had homered a few hours earlier to help the Twins beat Seattle 11-8, was back behind the bar with his famously generous pours.

"Justin was pouring very large drinks, and the Morton's bartender was standing behind him going, 'Hmmm,'" said Mary Sorensen of last year's event. "Nick Punto was our waiter, and he kept going, 'Can you believe how bad I'm doing?' He's just a really nice guy. They all are, and they're all just such regular guys, not stuck-up athletes.

"Meeting the players face-to-face is so nice. This was seriously the highlight of my year."

The fun works both ways.

"We have a blast at this," said Redmond. "Anything a guy like Cuddy is behind, you want to get behind. The waiters carry the bulk of the load, because we get to talking with people the whole night. We're not qualified to wait tables."

The players wore Morton's shirts. A waiter or waitress wearing a Twins T-shirt shadowed each player, basically serving as the equivalent of utility infielders filling in behind the stars. "The people are here to see them," said waiter Jon Skarahlid. "We want the guests to have a Morton's experience, but they're here to have fun and to see the Twins."

There was not much of a learning curve last year for the moonlighting servers, most of whom were back Sunday night.

"It was really easy. We told 'em what to do and they took it over; they were rock stars," said waitress Krissy Smida. 'When you walk in the room [from the kitchen], you just feel the vibe, the energy. It's just a wow experience."

'Talk about a class act'

The customers weren't the only ones being wowed, Smida noted. At the end of last year's event, Redmond and Kevin Slowey "came to the back and thanked the staff, the dishwashers, everyone. They talked about that for a long time. Talk about a class act."

The hardest part, said pitcher Boof Bonser, the tallest Twin in the room until mascot TC Bear showed up, was balancing the serving and the socializing.

"It's tough to do pictures and autographs and then they ask you where's the food," Bonser said. "But it's great to have all these people here to see us."

Two of Bonser's customers from last year were back for more. Rae Thompson and her 16-year-old son, Spencer, came down from Brainerd for the game and the dinner. At the auction for last year's event, they were the high bidders for a meet-and-greet with Spencer's favorite player, Cuddyer. Spencer beamed as he talked about that event, but his eyes really lit up when he heard about one of this year's auction items -- a chance to be on the field and watch batting practice with Cuddyer and his mates.

"I'm pretty sure," said Rae Thompson, "that we'll be bidding on that one."

Bill Ward • 612-673-7643


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