The local baseball team is headed for the playoffs this week, which means Twins fever is starting to make fans a little crazy. I don't just mean face-paint crazy or even Carl Pavano-fake-moustache crazy. I mean bat[blank] crazy.
Today we offer up as proof a soft-spoken, mild-mannered carpenter from Bloomington and his daughter.
A couple of weeks ago, Rachael Jean Moench received an e-mail from her dad, Lyle, with the headline: "Bloomington Bat Man."
"Uh-oh," she said to herself. "Here we go again."
Even though it has been 19 years, Rachael Jean vividly recalls the excitement around the 1991 Twins. She and her dad were big fans, and watched every game on television. As the regular season drew to a close, Lyle began to think that the team was something special.
"Rachael, I think the Twins are going to win the World Series," he told her. "Do you want to build a bat?"
For the next three weeks, the 10-year-old got up at 5 a.m. and trudged into the garage to help her dad build a huge wooden bat out of cedar strips from salvaged beams. Now 29, Rachael remembers the time spent with her dad fondly.
Rachael said her dad is a humble man "who has nothing and wants nothing."
"He is a man whose smile and inner warmth light up a room," she said. "He is a caring, devoted and loving father and friend."
Said Lyle: "It was the only time I remember her being so excited that she'd skip breakfast" to help him glue and staple the Bloomington Slugger together. It was 16 feet long and 3 feet in diameter.
It wasn't the only thing Lyle did to show support. He also painted an old van to celebrate the Twins. When the team looked like they could win it all, Lyle and Rachael put the bat on top of their van and drove around town. On the side of the bat they wrote: "Honk if you love them Twins."
"Boy, I could light up an intersection," Lyle said. "People went crazy when they saw it. It brought smiles and joy to everyone."
Lyle has always loved baseball. "Shoot, I've been playing since I was a kid on the farm, and used the barn as a backstop," he said.
Rachael became very attached to the bat, but just as sure as the Twins were destined to win, the bat was destined to kindle the spirits of Twins fans, quite literally.
The night the team won the final game, Lyle drove downtown with the bat. He stood on top of his van, leading the crowd in cheers. Soon, the bat was confiscated by the rowdy crowd, which carried the bat over their heads toward Hennepin Avenue.
Rachael recalls seeing flames from the celebration on television that night, but until her dad came home she didn't realize it was her prized bat that was burning.
But Lyle wasn't angry, "I was laughing so hard I cried," he said. When he got home, he told a teary-eyed Rachael that the bat didn't belong to them, it belonged to the fans.
A few weeks ago, Lyle got that feeling again -- this Twins team just seems to have something that he thinks is special. So, "I went off the deep end, just like I did in '91."
He got busy and built a newer, shinier cedar bat with a nice coat of varnish. He rolls it out in front of his house on Chowen every day, and hauls it back into the garage at night. If the Twins go deep into the playoffs, don't be surprised to see Lyle and Rachael driving around town with the giant lumber.
This time, however, he's not sure he wants to see it burned. He'd rather have fans sign the bat. After all, he said, it belongs to them.