"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
-- Jackie Robinson
Today marks the 67th anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson stood at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball on April 15, 1947. His bravery, determination and talent ended racial segregation in baseball and paved the way for many African-American greats to come.
Each and every Major League Baseball player, manager, and coach will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day today by donning his retired No. 42.
You haven't missed the main event however, as it has been rescheduled due to rain in New York. Before the Yankees take on the Chicago Cubs in the Bronx on Wednesday afternoon, Robinson's wife Rachel, his daughter Sharon, Commissioner Bud Selig and others will honor the American icon's career and life.
Hosting the Toronto Blue Jays at Target Field this evening to kick off a three-game series that will bring their nine-game homestand to a close, the Minnesota Twins will pay tribute to Robinson with "Celebrate Diversity Day". Pregame at the ballpark includes local musical and cultural performances and Jackie Robinson essay winners will be presented with their awards.
Meanwhile, the Twins are back at .500 baseball after being swept by the Oakland Athletics and sweeping the Kansas City Royals. The two series pretty much canceled each other out. Near the top of the American League in runs scored, they continue to hit the crap out of the ball and seriously surprise their fans in that regard. Twins hitters are also showing an immense amount of patience at the plate, drawing an AL-leading 59 walks over their first 12 games. On the other hand, they've also struck out 112 times.
Minnesota pitching is still a little dicey to say the least. They're third-worst in all of baseball with a combined 5.17 ERA and 63 earned runs allowed, just four fewer than they've scored offensively. They do seem to be on a small roll with three consecutive quality starts, though. Let's see if Phil Hughes can last six innings when he takes the mound against fellow right-hander Brandon Morrow at 7:10pm tonight.
You've skipped school, you've called into work. This day only comes once and year and you've been planning it for months, fighting Cabin Fever through blizzards and the flu season. The Minnesota Twins home opener is finally here, and there are so many things to do today you barely know where to begin. One thing is for sure: if you've already started day-drinking, we should probably be friends.
Whether you're driving, biking, or walking to the festivities today, you may have already started by having a free ballpark breakfast (especially all you tailgaters - you'll need some sustenance) on the 7th Street side of the Target Plaza from 6am - 9am. After that, you can either go back home and sleep it off, or hang out with your pals around Target Field until lunch time.
If you can wait until the gates open at 1pm, Target Field is offering some new and even more delicious food in it's fifth season. Bloody Mary enthusiasts will enjoy one to order with a bacon cheeseburger garnish from Hrbek's Pub. If that doesn't make your mouth water, or you're not 21, maybe you'd enjoy a basket of BBQ rib tips with house-made spicy pickles from the new Butcher and the Boar Grill, located inside Gate 34.
The rain should hold off to about a 20 percent chance of it with highs around 55 degrees by game time. The ceremonial first pitch is being tossed by Minneapolis-based actor Barkhad Abdi, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Captain Phillips. If you're interested in meeting Abdi, you will have the opportunity to do so in the Twins Digital Clubhouse in the U.S. Bank Homerun Porch.
At around 2:30, local a cappella group Home Free, who won season four of "The Sing-Off" will perform on the field. If you're into watching people sing sans instruments, this is the pre-game spot for you. If you miss it, they will perform "God Bless America" for you later. Also during the seventh inning stretch, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" will be sung by children from Hope Kids, an organization that provides fun activities for children who are battling cancer.
Be sure to watch for Ethan Nagle, a United States Marine from Prior Lake who was recently awarded a Silver Star, to raise the American flag.
In this age of technology where few young fans even know how to keep score with a pencil anymore, ballparks have incorporated social media to keep those interested in tweeting, instagramming, and facebooking, just as interested in the game. During the third inning, the Twins encourage everyone to be present for the ballpark photo in which you can later tag yourselves and your friends. Please feel free to send me pictures of yourself, your friends, or your mom at the game for our Facebook album. I'd love to see your beautiful faces.
Finally, the first pitch is at 3:10pm, when the Twins put Kevin Correia on the hill against Oakland Athletics left-hander Scott Kazmir. Both teams are headed into today's contest with a 3-3 record. Oswaldo Arcia won't be joining us, and may land on the disabled list if his wrist isn't well enough for him to play by Wednesday. Meanwhile, Josh Willingham was diagnosed with a bruised left wrist after being smoked by a Justin Masterson pitch on Sunday and is considered day-to-day.
Whether you're at the field, at home, or in the office today, enjoy the game!
Ron Gardenhire's job is not all easy-peasy this season, so every win is going to be a big one. The Minnesota Twins' next victory however, will be one of the biggest milestones in his managerial career.
Last season, the Twins had to win just 10 of their final 28 games to give their skipper his 1,000th win, but fell just short due to a number of reasons, ineptitude being a small factor. But it's a brand new year and hope springs eternal in April!
After 12 seasons with the team and a 998-947 record, he was able to extend his contract for an additional two seasons and chase his 1,000th win into 2014. Of course, he'll be the first to say that he doesn't even think about it until the media or his wife Carol, who is along on the road trip through Chicago and Cleveland, reminds him.
The 2010 American League Manager of the Year, who has led the Twins to six AL Central titles, will be the 60th manager in history to hit 1,000 in the win column and the 8th since 1961 to get there with just one ball club, joining the likes of Tom Kelly.
If the rain holds off, Gardy will have a shot at it this afternoon when Mike Pelfrey takes the hill against fellow right-hander Danny Salazar in front of a rowdy, sellout crowd for the 20th anniversary of Progressive Field at the Indians' home opener.
Wednesday's 7-6, extra-inning loss to the Chicago White Sox sucked more than usual, considering the Twins worked hard to rally before Glen Perkins blew the save and Samuel Deduno pretty much imploded. Still, something promising seems to be emerging from this cold and windy series.
Heading into this afternoon's finale, Aaron Hicks is 4-for-7, including 2-for-3 with two runs scored on Monday before going 2-for-4 with two walks in yesterday's loss. It took him 55 at bats to muster four hits last season. Sure, it's a small sample from only two games, but encouraging nonetheless considering his 2013 performance (or lack thereof).
We'll see if the Twins can at least avoid the sweep today before heading to Cleveland this weekend to take on the Indians.
Check out these sites for more Twins news...
Swarzak looks to become latest bullpen weapon [Twinkie Town]
Minor League Opening Day primer [Twins Daily]
Lineups and first impressions [Puckett's Pond]
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(Suzanne "Sooze" Solheim is returning to startribune.com to blog about the Twins. More of the St. Cloud resident's writing about baseball is on the blog Babes Love Baseball.)
The Minnesota Twins have a habit of dishing out second chances. They go to the pound, adopt the oldest, ugliest dog there, and say, "Even though nobody loves you anymore, I think you have the potential to be a pretty sweet dog."
So here we are. It's Spring, love is in the air even though it may or may not be snowing where you are, and we're excited to begin the 2014 season with our brand new... dogs.
The Twins dropped an uncharacteristic $49 million on Ricky Nolasco for four seasons and another $24 million on Phil Hughes for three in an attempt to improve the worst rotation in all of baseball. While Nolasco's debut was less than great in the team's 5-3 Opening Day loss to the Chicago White Sox yesterday, he still has the most potential out of the bunch of not sucking. Hughes had a rough go of it in New York, and I apparently the hope is that a change of scenery and nicer fans will do the trick.
We likely won't see Kyle Gibson, Kevin Correia, or Mike Pelfrey's ERA dipping under 4.00 this year, but since coming off a season where the starting pitchers combined for a 5.26 ERA, it appears things can only get better. Unless, of course, they don't.
With most of the focus zeroed in on the team's craptastic pitching last year, let's not forget about the 13th-ranked AL offense. Not many changes were made in the way of bats, but Joe Mauer moving to first (a prediction since the beginning) is an improvement that hinges on him not hurting himself. It would also be pretty neat if Aaron Hicks bounced back from one the most embarrassing rookie years of all time, especially if he doesn't want Byron Buxton stealing his job.
Fans are also counting on Brian Dozier to be Brian Dozier, Josh Willingham to be healthy, and Oswaldo Arcia to hit bombs or strike out.
Then there's Glen Perkins, who is incredibly fun to watch when the Twins hand him a save situation. He has done nothing but get better and better since moving to the bullpen in 2011, saving 36 games with a respectable 2.30 ERA last year. If you're not following him on Twitter, I think you probably should.
So how do you feel about the Twins this year? Excited, happy, optimistic? Sad, angry, confused? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.
P.S. I missed you too.
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Terry Ryan's first order of business as interim general manager: Jamey Carroll at shortstop for Minnesota in 2012. Seriously?
Pending a physical, the Twins are signing the free agent infielder to fill the ever-present void up the middle to the generous tune of $7 million over two seasons.
One man should be able to do the job that Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Trevor Plouffe, and Alexi Casilla could not accomplish if they all stood at the shortstop position at the same time flailing their arms. I'm not sure Carroll will be that man, but he has to be somewhat of an improvement... or maybe the soon-to-be 38-year-old will be the everyday second baseman, and the yahoos priorly mentioned will continue to be a three-headed fiasco with no clue how to play defense. Upgrade or no, I'm not super impressed.
At the plate, Carroll could create run-scoring opportunities at the top of the order. He batted .290 over two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but (like most Twins) wasn't much help with runners on. He does not hit home runs at all, compiling just a dozen over his decade-long career, and managed to drive in only 17 runs in 146 games last season.
Enough stats though, the apparent cost of this contract is mildly bothering me. The Dodgers signed the utility player for an average amount of $3.85 million for two seasons in 2009, yet somehow his value has nearly doubled after showing scrappy Nick Punto-like ability with some hustle here and some hard-playing there. Plus he's a nice guy, so there's that. Carroll earned the Roy Campanella Award in 2011 for being the player "who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame Brooklyn Dodger catcher."
But I'm a glass half-full type of person, so I guess.. welcome to the team, Jamey Carroll. Don't hurt yourself out there.