The first pitch in the All-Star Game at Target Field is slated to come Tuesday evening from the right arm of the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez. If you work in the media, though, the first of many All-Star Game pitches — from well-meaning public-relations folks promoting parties, television personalities, products or some combination thereof — came months ago.
I sifted through all of them. Time is precious and spread thin during a big event, but one opportunity kept piquing my curiosity: a Monday appearance by Twins broadcaster and Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven at Darby’s Pub and Grill near Target Field, sponsored by 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey.
The hook proved irresistible: Blyleven was throwing whiffle balls to patrons at the bar. If they swung and missed, Blyleven got to hit them with a pie. If the batter made solid contact, they got to hit Blyleven with a pie. And money was going to charity for all the pies thrown.
One by one, batters stepped in to face a former major league pitcher throwing plastic balls incredibly hard from an incredibly close distance. This meant Blyleven was on a roll as the pie distributor and not the pie receiver.
“That one had a lot of late break!” Blyleven exclaimed as a wicked whiffle curve led another patron to the pie station.
“Absolutely,” said Scott Povolny of Minneapolis, when asked if getting pied was worth it. “That was a trip.”
Those who know Blyleven’s penchant for practical jokes understand that this type of event is right in his wheelhouse.
“He has a blast with this stuff,” said Blyleven’s son, Todd, who was in town from California and watching the festivities. “He loves being around people.”
Dylan Blyleven — Todd’s son and Bert’s grandson – also was on hand for the pie-tossing and got to serve as a bat boy during Sunday’s Futures Game. Todd Blyleven knew his dad wasn’t going to take it easy on any of the batters, but it was also clear that those in attendance were mostly interested in seeing Blyleven be on the receiving end of a pie or two.
Brian Sannes of Shakopee made contact fair and square, and Blyleven took his medicine like a champ. But when Lissa Vold of Prior Lake fouled off a pitch, controversy ensued.
The impromptu kangaroo court of the audience lobbied for Blyleven to take a pie. Vold delivered it, and Blyleven took it … but then he gave some back, wiping his face off on her face.
“I did not expect that!” Vold said moments later as she cleaned herself off.
I received a lot of pitches. Blyleven threw a lot of pitches. But only one pitch ended with Blyleven using a human being as a paper towel, so Darby’s was clearly the place to be on Monday.