So often here and in our individual blogs, we write about the current Twins. We discuss what's going well, what's going poorly, trends and more. Sometimes we are positive. Sometimes we are a little negative.
On occasion, we will discuss the Twins future players, their minor league system. Who are the team's top prospects? How are they doing? When can they help the big league club.
Following the TwinsCentric and Sooze Viewing Party on Saturday afternoon, I drovef over to Joe Faber Field and was able to enjoy a little bit of the Minnesota Twins past, and I wanted to share some of that experience.
The St. Cloud River Bats play in the Northwoods League. This year, the team went 40-28. The Northwoods League is one of the best college summer leagues in the country. I know everyone has heard about the Cape Cod League, but the Northwoods League has fast become the choice for many of college baseball's best players. The League is comprised of 16 teams, a north division and a south division. The north division includes a team in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and seven Minnesota communities. Along with the St. Cloud River Bats, the teams are the Alexandria Beetles, the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers, the Duluth Huskies, the Mankato MoonDogs, the Rochester Honkers and the Willmar Stingers. The league provides players with the opportunity to play essentially a minor league schedule for the summer. They play with wood bats. They take road trips.Of course, they can't be paid, but they are also seen by a lot of scouts. In recent years, over 120 players have been drafted each year in Major League Baseball's draft. Chris Sales of the Chicago White Sox played in the league just two years ago. Juan Pierre led the league in hitting when he played in the league in the late-'90s. Several Twins minor leaguers have spent a summer playing in the Northwoods League. It can be difficult to get tickets to Target Field. The St. Paul Saints continue to sell out game after game. The Northwoods League provides an alternative for baseball fans that is affordable and fun for the family. Prospect hounds will also enjoy the league because so many of the players will wind up with Major League affiliates in the coming years and many will become big leaguers in the future.
Anyway, on Saturday night, the St. Cloud River Bats hosted their third annual Minnesota Twins alumni game. Proceeds from the event went to the Miracle League of Central Minnesota. The former Twins that participated were Corey Koskie, Al Newman, Juan Berenguer, Ron Davis, Jim Eisenrich, Greg Thayer and Brian Raabe. Jarvis Brown was scheduled to participate but was uable to due to a death close to his family. In his place, St. Cloud State alum and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Dana Kiecker played. The rest of the rosters for the two teams were comprised of area writers, radio hosts, River Bats personnel and others including the head baseball coach at Eden Valley-Watkins who led his team to a 27-0 record and a state championship this spring.
For one team, Ron Davis started at 1B, Brian Raabe was at shortstop, Al Newman was on 3B and Jim Eisenrich played in left field. For the other team, Dana Kiecker pitched, Corey Koskie played 3B, and Greg Thayer and Juan Berenguer waited in the dugout for their opportunity.
Early in the game, Al Newman was mic'd up in the dugout, during an at bat and out in the infield. The man is hilarious. He and Kiecker had a nice interaction. On the first pitch to the Twins former utility player, Newman pulled the ball foul. The next pitch was a changeup that Newman rolled down the first base line. Kiecker, who looks like he could still play at a very high level let the ball roll as Newman jogged down the base line. As Newman got close to the bag, he dove head first into the base, and was out. He asked the crowd what he thought of his Nick Punto impersonation. He went out on the field and talked the entire time... "Don't hit it to me. Don't hit it to me." "Come on, don't bunt it to me. OK, bunt it to me, that sounds better than a line shot at me!"
Corey Koskie and Jim Eisenrich both look like they could still play. Eisenrich always was the mirror-image of Paul Molitor. So quiet at the plate and then line drive after line drive. He had and has such a pretty swing. Koskie was there with his sonse, and he took some big swings. He hit a double to the left centerfield gap in his first at bat. He hit one off the top half of the right field wall, just missing a homer and settling for another double. He added a couple more hits later in the game. But in his last at bat, he faced former Gopher and former Twins infielder Brian Raabe, and Raabe was able to strike him out.
The 60 year old Thayer pitched in 20 games out of the Twins bullpen in 1978. He actually played an inning in centerfield before pitching two innings, and recording a couple of strikeouts.
From 1982 to 1986, the now-55 year old Ron Davis went 19-40 with 108 saves and a 4.51 ERA for the Twins. He didn't pitch. Instead, he was taking after his son and playing a "solid" first base. I was sitting behind home plate, and the first time he came to bat, he was warming up and someone saw the "Davis" on the back of his uniform and asked "Is that Chili Davis?" No. No, it isn't. But he did rip a single to left field.
The home plate ump was mic'd the last few innings. The best thing that happened was Corey Koskie's 3-4 year old son was bat boy. He went out to grab a bat and the umpire asked him who his favorite Twins player was... He responded, "Joe Mauer." OK, who is your second favorite Twins player? "Justin Morneau." With some prompting, he finally acknowledged that he at least liked his dad.
From the third inning through the eighth inning, one former Twins player would come out of the game and sign autographs for fans. Throughout the game, there was a silent auction for signed hats and jerseys that the players used in the game. There were other signed items from the Twins as well.
After St. Cloud River Bats Director of Operations, Wes Sharp, struck out to end the game, an impressive firework display ended a terrific night. Hopefully the event will continue for years to come.