In 2010, Target Field became the place to be for Twins fans. The picturesque stadium became more than most Twins fans ever could have hoped for. If you have yet to see Target Field in person, I certainly recommend it and assume most in the chat room would agree.
Right now, as the Twin Cities are shoveling out from yet another snow downfall (and another one coming later this week?), the place to be for Twins fans is Ft. Myers, Florida. If you are reading this site, you know that the Twins spring training facility is located in the southwest Florida community. Along with getting out of the cold, fans are closer to the action in Ft. Myers than you might even believe. You can watch the players on the practice fields and even interact with them between sessions as they walk between fields. You can go to their spring training games or walk the back fields and watch more practice. Minor league fans would really enjoy getting an opportunity to see some of the top prospects working out.
Of course, if you can't travel now, Ft. Myers remains a great destination for Twins fans throughout the season. The Twins High-Class A affiliate plays its games at Hammond Stadium (where the Twins play their spring games). These are the players who have passed through several levels and are just three more promotions from the big leagues. Whenever players are rehabbing from injuries, they most often work in Ft. Myers.
Those minor leaguers that don't travel to one of the team's four full-season affiliates often remain in Ft. Myers, in Extended Spring Training. They play some games and work on skills. After the June amateur draft, those that sign go to Ft. Myers for evaluation, physicals and work outs. Some of those players stay in Ft. Myers and play for the Gulf Coast League Twins. They are generally the youngest players in the organization, players coming over from the Dominican Summer League or high school players from the current year's draft. Their games are played on the back fields at noon, and fans don't have to pay to watch the games. Usually the only fans at these games are family members.
The other players at Extended Spring Training, more advanced that those who will play at the GCL level, will play for the Elizabethton Twins. Elizabethton is found in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee. The E-Twins traditionally have won a lot of games in Appalachian League. They are annually in the league's championship series. This is a place that I definitely would love to visit!
Last year, I had my first opportunity to travel the 5 1/2 hour drive from the Twin Cities to Beloit, Wisconsin, and watch two Beloit Snappers games. Beloit is right on the border of Wisconsin and Illinois. It was great to see the likes of Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales and James Beresford play. Seeing players play can often give a different perspective on a prospect than just looking at box scores or stat lines. I learned a lot from the experience and hope to get there again once or twice in 2011. I definitely recommend a trip, if you are able. In case you were wondering... the weekend when the Twins play in Milwaukee in late June, the Snappers are home as well. Might be a great opportunity to see the Twins and their Low A affiliate in one trip.
If you want to see the Twins AA-affiliate, it is located in New Britain, Connecticut. You can fly in to Hartford. ESPN's studios are in Bristol, Connecticut, just miles from New Britain Stadium. The stadium holds over 6,100 fans and is referred to as the "Emerald of the Eastern League." If you're on a baseball trip, New Britain is about halfway in between Boston and New York City.
Finally, if you want to see the Twins AAA team, it is in Rochester, New York. Frontier Field holds over 12,000 fans. As we have seen in recent years, the Twins are frequently calling the Red Wings and sending players back and forth. Rochester is near Lake Ontario, but also not too far from Buffalo, Lake Erie, and Niagra Falls.
If you're a real, real diehard, you could go to Boca Chica, Dominican Republic and see the Twins Dominican Summer League team.
And this summer, Twins fans can show their support for Bert Blyleven with a trip to Cooperstown, New York. It is within driving distance from Rochester. I made the trek to Cooperstown in 2001 when Kirby Puckett was inducted. What a great little village, and what an incredible baseball atmosphere during induction weekend.
But of course, Twins fans now have Target Field which is always a great spot for a Twins fan to go to see terrific baseball. But if you are looking for a summer vacation, yet still want to get a Twins fix, consider traveling to see one or more of the Twins minor league affiliates.
If any of you have gone to these places, please feel free to comment below with your thoughts.
How many have seen the movie Social Network? It is a terrific story of the man behind Facebook. But Social Networking is much more than Facebook, and if you went to Twins Fest this past weekend, you found out that Twitter appears to be the social network of choice for many Twins people and several players.
I reluctantly joined Facebook about two years ago, completely oblivious to what it was all about. I had just heard that it was a way to interact with friends and family, but in my case, it was also a way to potential drum up some interest in my first book. I like Facebook, and it certainly has a lot of great features, but primarily it is a great way to keep up with your friends. I have also been able to interact with a lot of people who have been reading SethSpeaks.net for several years.
It was about 18 months ago that I reluctantly gave in and set up a Twitter account. I figured, "I have Facebook, why would I need or want Twitter too?" Well, over those 18 months, I have found out just how great Twitter can be. It can be incredibly addictive. The immediacy that it creates can be both positive and negative. Twitter is a tremendous place to find out Twins news fast. Most baseball news is broken on Twitter. It can also be frustrating when you are watching a game and a player strikes out, maybe even in an important situation, and he suddenly becomes a bum.
For me, I use Twitter as a way to gain information quickly. I put many opinions on there in a day. I love Re-Tweeting other baseball people whose opinions I value so that those who read me can hear other opinions. In my mind, being on Twitter is a must for baseball fans.
Before Twins Fest, Danny Valencia signed up for Twitter, and he immediately was looking for followers. Incredibly, in four days, he has accumulated over 4,600 followers to his Twitter account. He has said that he will give a signed bat to his 5,000th follower. He has been showing pictures from the Diamond Awards, Twins Fest, a commercial and the Twins Caravan as well as answering some questions from readers.
Pat Neshek has been the most fan-friendly Twins player for a long time. He has his blog at PatNeshek.com which includes a forum with a great community of participants. He has been on Twitter for a long time and occasionally answers questions.
Denard Span started his Twitter account following the Twins 2010 season. He has already racked up over 16,000 followers already. He shared a lot during Twins Fest, and throughout his offseason. He answers fan questions as well.
Michael Cuddyer has almost 11,000 followers and he just signed on to Twitter in the last two months. He is tremendous at answering many questions from his fans every day.
On Sunday, the Minnesota Twins official Twitter Feed announced that there would be a special Q&A with Span and Cuddyer in a special Twins Fest location to be tweeted at a certain time. Fans would need to show that specific Tweet to get into the room. Many Twins fans attended the event, but the first person in the allowed in the room after showing the Tweet was new-Twitter add, Drew Butera.
Rob Delaney, who was claimed last week by the Tampa Bay Rays, is on Twitter. Craig Breslow is quite active. Another former Twins player, Tommy Watkins, is a frequent Twitter contributor. He is now the hitting coach of the Beloit Snappers whose manager, Nelson Prada, is also on Twitter.
There are also several Twins minor leaguers who have become Twitter people. Top prospect Kyle Gibson is new to Twitter. Carlos Gutierrez is a regular contributor. Outfielder Rene Tosoni is new to Twitter too. Other minor leaguers on Twitter include: Pitcher Chris Province, shortstop and 2010 2nd round pick Niko Goodrum, Hard-throwing pitcher Bruce Pugh, power catching prospect Danny Rams, Netherlands hero and Twins pitchings prospect Tom Stuifbergen, non-roster invite and shortstop Brian Dozier, and 2010 draft pick, pitcher Nick Alloway.
You will also want to follow Dustin Morse, the Twins Manager of Baseball Communications, who does a nice job on Twitter keeping fans updated.
Of course, there are many people on Twitter that you can follow. Many (or most) bloggers are on Twitter at this point. You can follow TwinsCentric, or any of the four TwinsCentric bloggers (John Bonnes, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman, Seth Stohs).
Twitter definitely is becoming more and more popular in baseball. Whether that is good or bad is up to you. In my opinion, it is a terrific vehicle for gaining new information, for interacting with players and to find out information even more quickly.
What are your thoughts on Twitter? Are you a Twitter person, or is there a good reason you're not? I'm always curious what people think of this new phenomenon. Is it something that is here to stay, or should teams crack down on their players? (also, if I'm missing any Twins players on Twitter, be sure to link to them below.)
I thought it was supposed to get cold last night. Reports indicated that temperatures in northern Minnesota could approach 40 below with wind chill factors near 50 below. Well, according to weather.com, the coldest it got in Warroad was -33 degrees. That’s nothing!
I needed to drive from Warroad to Greenbush and then back last night. It was fun watching the outdoor temperature reading in my car fluctuate as I drove. At 6:00, it was -22 at my house (just west of Warroad a few miles). It was -24 in Salol. It was only -18 in Roseau. By the time I got to Badger, it showed -25, so when I got to Greenbush and it was only -20, that wasn’t so bad. OK, it was a little chilly.
Of course, the temperatures were only going down from there. On the return trip which began at about 7:00, it was now -26 in Badger, -20 in Roseau… In Salol, it reached -27. And as I rolled into my driveway a about 7:45, the temperature read -28. I noticed at that time that on weather.com, it said the temperature in Warroad was -20. Is it possible that five miles west of town it could be eight degrees colder? Absolutely.
As I drove east, the Man in the Moon, in full display on this clear, cold night, appeared to be almost mocking and taunting as it stared down at me. It was as bright as I’ve ever seen it, signaling how clear and cold it was outside my car.
I went inside and turned up my backup heat source, just making sure that it was working. As I was hearing that some schools west of the Twin Cities metro area were going two hours late on Friday morning due to cold conditions, I wondered why. Until, that is, I read that diesel fuel can turn into a gel-like form at such cold temperatures. I’m no scientist, but if that’s true that can’t be good.
I flipped on the television. Up in Warroad, with cable, we get two Canadian television stations and their temperatures weren’t too much colder than ours, even way up in Flin Flon.
Around midnight last night is when I saw the -33 temperature in Warroad on weather.com. I wonder if that meant that it could be -40 or so at my house? I do know that the dog had to be coaxed to go outside! At the same time, I checked on International Falls which was sitting at -42 degrees, the coldest in the state. Imagine what some of the more remote areas just outside of I-Falls reached?
People frequently ask how life is different in such extreme cold temperatures. For those that live here in the winter, it really isn’t any different. They get up in the morning, go to work, go home and get the things done that they need to. Cold winters are just part of life up here, and it’s not like the hard-working community will just shut down. People go about their business as always.
Granted, when it’s -25 to -30 below zero, people don’t make snowmen or organize bonfires. Generally they won’t go on their nature walks, at least not until the temperature rises to -10. Let’s be honest, when it’s -33 degrees not a whole bunch of people are out and about. (That said, Warroad was playing Thief River Falls at The Gardens in Warroad last night, so there were a lot of people out, driving home, when the temperatures were in that -25 to -27 range after the game.)
I work with Jeff Siverhus, a Senior Product Planner at Marvin Windows and Doors. Every day, he walks to work, a walk that is a little more than a mile. He walks to work, then home for lunch, back to work and then home at the end of the day. There have been several mornings this winter season in which temperatures have been -10 or colder, and he continues to walk every day. Granted, he bundles up quite well.
His comment, “What? As long as it is not windy, it’s not so bad, and if you’re moving, it’s no biggy.”
He added, “People up in Thompson, Manitoba, get temperatures like this all the time. They probably laugh when they hear us complain about a -30 or -40 degree night. “
Thompson, Manitoba, is 600 miles north of Warroad. (Consider that a drive from Warroad to Rochester is just under 450 miles.)
I asked another co-worker, Bill Boyd, who also is a dog-sled racer and owns many huskies, how the dogs react or respond to the cold weather. He said, “They don’t mind it at all. In fact, they each have their own doghouse, and I’ve found that most of the dogs just sleep out in the snow instead of their houses, even in these extreme temperatures.”
The show must go on, and often sled dog races take place in very cold conditions, temperatures cold enough to make your eyes nearly freeze. One of Bill’s racing friends devised a solution for the cold because his goggles kept freezing. Below is a picture that Bill took of his wife, Shirlee, wearing the special goggles made of sheep skin and rabbit fur.
By morning, cloud-cover had come and the temperatures were already up to -18 below, and we in Warroad have been at that level several times this year already. I moved to Warroad after college in 1997. I move to the Twin Cities in 2007 and lived there for three years until moving back to the northern Minnesota community in August. I remember one year when the temperature did not get above 0 for over a month straight. I remember a time when it didn’t reach -20 for a week straight.
Cold is part of living in northern Minnesota. (But honestly, living in Warroad between April and October is great, weather-wise!)
There’s a little epilogue to this tale of coldness…
This morning, I went out to the garage to start the car (wearing shorts, a sweatshirt, slippers and a stocking cap). I let it run for about 15 minutes while I got dressed and then bundled up my daughter. When we went out to the car, the temperature had warmed up enough to allow it to snow, and blow. Now wind chill becomes a factor, to be sure. We drove to daycare, just across Highway 11, about a half-mile. I dropped my daughter off there. When I came back outside, my car was again full of wet snow. After backing up, I stopped the car and scraped the snow off of the front and back wind shield.
However, once I started driving down the driveway, it didn’t take long before I couldn’t see well. I couldn’t see the right edge of the road, and I hit it. I could not pull the car back onto the driveway, so I was in the ditch, in a steep-incline. There was no way to drive out. Uggh!
I walked back down the long driveway to the daycare’s house. She woke up her husband, who had been out coyote hunting in the full moon until 3:30 this morning. He got up and asked if it had been snowing. He couldn’t believe it was warm enough for snow because, as they were driving around and then setting up outside calling coyotes along the back roads between Warroad and Roseau, they were seeing (and feeling) temperatures below -40. Since it had warmed up to just -15, it was snowing.
Anyway, after several attempts, my car was pulled out of the ditch, and I was able to drive in to work.
By the time I got to the office in town, the temperature read just -13. That’s nothing!
Is there a more inexact science that baseball prospect rankings? Mark Prior was supposed to be as sure of a thing as ever, and injuries derailed his career. Stephen Strasburg has already had Tommy John surgery. Albert Pujols was a mid-round draft pick who flew through the minor leagues like no one could have expected. When the Twins drafted Matt Moses, he was supposed to be a very pure high school hitter. Ryan Mills was such a good college pitcher with perfect mechanics, and he never got above AAA. BJ Garbe? Well, that was probably a bad pick. But for every missed first-round pick, the Twins have had successes later in the draft and with non-draft free agents. Now the efforts internationally are starting to pay dividends as well.
I have been following the Twins minor league system pretty much daily for the last six seasons. I have been trying to figure out patterns and strategies over that time. I made my first real top prospect list following the 2004 minor league season. Early on, the rankings were based mostly on numbers and things I'd read. In recent years, I have been able to gain a lot more contacts, so rankings are based on scouting as much as stats. The funny thing is that no matter how much more information goes into prospect rankings, they remain a completely inexact science.
So why post this blog? It can only make me look dumb! Well, many of you probably agree that I do a decent job of that already, so why not? I think historical prospect lists are fun to look at for a couple of reasons. First, it is fun to see which sleepers you picked. Second, it's fun to see which players you were completely wrong about. And finally, it's just fun to see the names and think back. Do you remember when Deacon Burns was compared to Kirby Puckett? Do you recall when I was excited about "Three Rockcats with Bats." They were Kevin West, Doug Deeds and Luis Maza. The Real Deal? Really?
With that, let's take a look back at the rankings:
2005 Top 20 Twins Prospects:
1.) Jason Kubel, 2a.) JD Durbin, 2b.) Scott Baker, 3.) Jesse Crain, 4.) Francisco Liriano, 5.) Garrett Jones, 6.) Glen Perkins, 7.) Kyle Waldrop, 8.) Adam Harben, 9.) Jason Bartlett, 10.) Matt Moses, 11.) Trevor Plouffe, 12.) Terry Tiffee, 13.) Steven Duguay, 14.) Boof Bonser, 15.) Scott Tyler, 16.) Denard Span, 17.) Alex Romero, 18.) Kevin West, 19.) Luis Maza, 20.) Alexander Smit.
2006 Top 20 Twins Prospects:
1.) Francisco Liriano, 2.) Scott Baker, 3.) Jason Kubel, 4.) Anthony Swarzak, 5.) Matt Moses, 6.) Jay Rainville, 7.) Alex Romero, 8.) Denard Span, 9.) Kevin Slowey, 10.) Adam Harben, 11.) Travis Bower, 12.) Nick Blackburn, 13.) Trevor Plouffe, 14.) Glen Perkins, 15.) Justin Jones, 16.) Kyle Waldrop, 17.) Boof Bonser, 18.) Matt Garza, 19.) Juan Portes, 20.) David Winfree.
2007 Top 20 Twins Prospects:
1.) Matt Garza, 2.) Kevin Slowey, 3.) Alexi Casilla, 4.) Anthony Swarzak, 5.) Glen Perkins, 6.) Eduardo Morlan, 7.) David Winfree, 8.) Alexander Smit, 9.) Trent Oeltjen, 10.) Alex Romero, 11.) Chris Parmelee, 12.) Denard Span, 13.) Brian Duensing, 14.) Brandon Roberts, 15.) Matt Moses, 16.) Kyle Waldrop, 17.) Brock Peterson, 18.) Jay Rainville, 19.) Trevor Plouffe, 20.) Joe Benson.
2008 Top 20 Twins Prospects:
1.) Deolis Guerra, 2.) Tyler Robertson, 3.) Anthony Swarzak, 4.) Kevin Mulvey, 5.) Trevor Plouffe, 6.) Ben Revere, 7.) Philip Humber, 8.) Jeff Manship, 9.) Joe Benson, 10.) Brian Duensing, 11.) Danny Valencia, 12.) Alex Burnett, 13.) Oswaldo Sosa, 14.) Wilson Ramos, 15.) Chris Parmelee, 16.) Jason Pridie, 17.) Erik Lis, 18.) Deibinson Romero, 19.) Nick Blackburn, 20.) Jay Rainville.
2009 Top 20 Twins Prospects:
1.) Aaron Hicks, 2.) Ben Revere, 3.) Angel Morales, 4.) Danny Valencia, 5.) Wilson Ramos, 6.) Anthony Swarzak, 7.) Tyler Robertson, 8.) Kevin Mulvey, 9.) Luke Hughes, 10.) Carlos Gutierrez, 11.) Trevor Plouffe, 12.) Deolis Guerra, 13.) Chris Parmelee, 14.) Jeff Manship, 15.) Rene Tosoni, 16.) Shooter Hunt, 17.) Joe Benson, 18.) Mike McCardell, 19.) Steve Tolleson, 20.) Brian Duensing.
2010 Top 20 Twins Prospects:
1.) Aaron Hicks, 2.) Wilson Ramos, 3.) Miguel Sano, 4.) Angel Morales, 5.) Kyle Gibson, 6.) Ben Revere, 7.) Danny Valencia, 8.) David Bromberg, 9.) Rene Tosoni, 10.) Adrian Salcedo, 11.) Deolis Guerra, 12.) Joe Benson, 13.) BJ Hermsen, 14.) Chris Parmelee, 15.) Carlos Gutierrez, 16.) Jeff Manship, 17.) Tyler Robertson, 18.) Alex Burnett, 19.) Blayne Weller, 20.) Billy Bullock.
Preliminary 2011 Top 20 Twins Prospects:
1.) Kyle Gibson, 2.) Aaron Hicks, 3.) Miguel Sano, 4.) Joe Benson, 5.) Alex Wimmers, 6.) Ben Revere, 7.) Liam Hendriks, 8.) Angel Morales, 9.) Oswaldo Arcia, 10.) David Bromberg, 11.) Adrian Salcedo, 12.) Chris Parmelee, 13.) Eddie Rosario, 14.) Max Kepler, 15.) Manuel Soliman, 16.) Danny Ortiz, 17.) BJ Hermsen, 18.) Trevor Plouffe, 19.) Carlos Gutierrez, 20.) Martire Garcia/Niko Goodrum.