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Kevin Samsel didn’t need an excuse to attend the Twins home opener on Monday. He’s retired from his time as an elementary school principal and was at Gate 34 an hour before first pitch.

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THE VIEW FROM UP ABOVE Kenny Beck of Brooklyn Center held his niece Abbigale Lashuay during the seventh-inning stretch Monday at the Twins home opener against Oakland. Announced attendance was 35,837, well short of the 39,021 capacity.

RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER • reneejones@startribune.com,

True fans makes it to another home opener

  • April 8, 2014 - 7:41 AM

Kevin Samsel didn’t need an excuse to attend the Twins home opener on Monday.

The sun was out, the food was good ... and for Samsel, it was the home opener, so he knew he’d be here.

The retired Apple Valley elementary school principal stood near Gate 34 an hour before first pitch, licking the barbecue sauce off his stained fingers from the rib tips at the new Butcher and the Boar grill. Samsel, 62, said he has been a fan of the Twins since the franchise moved from Washington in 1961, and he has attended almost all of the franchise’s home openers.

“Since they’ve moved into the Metrodome, I think I’ve missed only one home opener,” said Samsel, who missed Joe Mauer’s debut in 2004 because he was in Mexico on vacation.

He plans to attend 30 games this year, but he’s expecting to witness another bad season. Samsel thinks the Twins, losers of 96 games or more for three summers in a row, will finish last in the American League Central with a losing record.

“If the Twins could play .500, I’d be ecstatic,” Samsel said.

Even with the poor home opener outing — the Twins lost to Oakland 8-3 — Samsel was glad to be at Target Field.

“I have no excuse not to be here,” Samsel said.

When reports first surfaced that the Senators would move to the Twin Cities, Samsel said he saved every newspaper article in a scrapbook.

“After two weeks, it was overflowing,” Samsel said.

His passion for baseball developed from his father, and Samsel tried to spread that same affection for the game to his students. When he struggled to get off days from teaching on Opening Day in the 1970s, Samsel said he’d stick a Twins pennant on every student’s desk that was “sick” that day.

As the principal at Greenleaf Elementary School in Apple Valley, Samsel threw a schoolwide Opening Day luncheon. He’d decorate the gym with his own baseball memorabilia and order concession items from the Metrodome — hot dogs, nachos, malts — for the students and faculty to properly celebrate the start of another baseball season.

Samsel held that luncheon for 18 years before he retired in 2008.

“I love baseball. I absolutely love baseball,” Samsel said. “I’ve endured the bad seasons, and I’ve endured the good ones.”

Master Tesfatsion



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