Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Liam Hendriks, the baseball card detective

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: February 18, 2013 - 8:25 AM

     Most Twins players underwent complete physical exams when they were in Minneapolis for TwinsFest last month, but there are roughly two dozen additional players in camp who didn't attend. Those guys saw the team doctors over the weekend, then got in line today to have blood drawn and have an EKG test. The exams went quickly, though, and the Twins' workout will begin only 20 minutes or so later than normal.
     Too bad they can't wait a little longer, because it's roughly 50 degrees now, but headed into the high 60s this afternoon. The temperature dropped into the 30s overnight, and when I work up this morning, it was only nine degrees warmer here than in Minneapolis. At least the unstable weather has moved through, so the strong winds of yesterday have calmed down.
     The players are still in the clubhouse, but they'll emerge soon for a notable day in camp. Live batting practice is scheduled for the end of the workout, the first time pitchers and catchers have faced each other all spring. Hitters normally hate this day, because they haven't seen 90-mph pitching in weeks or months, and the pitchers tend to be a little wild. Should be fun.
     I watched Liam Hendriks tackle his mail in the clubhouse, a good reminder that even players who haven't established themselves get lots of attention. He had somewhere between 50 and 70 letters, he estimated, waiting for him when he arrived in camp. "Took me over an hour to get to them all," Hendriks said, "but it's a good way to pass the time."
     Most fans send baseball cards for him to sign -- if you're writing to a player, don't forget to enclose a stamped, addressed return envelope, because you've got no shot with most players if you don't -- and several enclose an extra card or two for him to keep. He was showing me a few of them, and was particularly proud of a Bowman card with the Australian flag printed on it. He's from Perth, of course.


     The cards were especially interesting. As Hendriks showed me his cards, he was able to tell me exactly when the picture was taken, in one case the exact game. Little things like what sleeves he was wearing, the state of his beard, or especially which glove he was using give it away, he said. In 2011, the manufacturer's logo on his new glove had the wrong color stitching, so he blacked it out. The leather was lighter on another glove that he didn't use long. "You can usually find something that helps you figure it out," the budding detective said.

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