Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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Fort Myers, Fla.
Gophers baseball coach John Anderson said he got ``emotional'' on Wednesday afternoon, when talking with old Gopher teammate Paul Molitor about managing each other in the Twins' first game of spring training.
Molitor said, ``It was fun, especially once I got into the flow of the game.''
It was Molitor's first game as a manager. ``I was out there flashing signs the whole game, which is different,'' he said. ``Once I settled in, it was really enjoyable.''
The Twins used to open play against local Edison College. Then, because of the relationship between Ron Gardenhire and the Concordia staff, Concordia visited, even it for a scrimmage on the back fields.
Playing the Gophers is an upgrade in all sorts of ways. It gives more Minnesotans reason to visit Fort Myers. It pairs two famous Gophers - Molitor and Twins closer Glen Perkins - against their old school and their friend Anderson. It gives them a college opponent with high-end talent.
Some observations on the game, a 3-1 Twins victory:
-Perkins was fired up, saying he had more adrenaline than he's ever had in early March before. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
-MIguel Sano has tremendous bat speed. But we knew that. What was impressive was his foot speed. He stole a base and looked a little like a defensive end running a stunt when he steamed around second base.
-Byron Buxton hit doubles in his first two at-bats. The first was a hustle double on sinking liner to right-center. The left was a pulled shot down the leftfield line.
Molitor did address a mistake Buxton made, pulling Buxton aside after he scored on Kennys Vargas' two-out double in the first. Buxton coasted home, creating the possibility that if Vargas had been thrown out at second, Buxton may have crossed the plate too late for the run to count. ``He broke down a little early,'' Molitor said. ``You can't do that in that situation.''
-I felt sorry for the kids who had to face Michael Tonkin in the ninth. Tonkin has very good stuff, and it's time for him to be on the big-league staff.
-Watching Vargas take batting practice before the game, he responded well when asked to react to situations. Asked to foil an imaginary shift, he hit line drives the other way. Asked to advance runners, he produced ground balls to the right side.
-The Twins wil run something close to their ``A'' lineup out tomorrow in the true home opener against Boston at Hammond Stadium.
-My last 3 podcasts from spring training: Dave St. Peter, Eddie Guardado, Torii Hunter, all at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
Fort Myers, Fla.
I use my column to delve into meaty topics. Here, I'll hit you with quick observations after a few days in Fort Myers:
1. Torii Hunter, as I wrote this morning, loves being a leader. He spends lots of time talking to Byron Buxton and Aaron Hicks at their adjacent lockers, and pulls hitters out of the cage on the back field to offer tips. One thing he emphasizes is ``loading'' weight onto the back leg to generate power.
2. With Hunter and Guardado back as full-time employees, the clubhouse, deathly quiet for most of the last four springs, is suddenly loud. You hear lots of laughter. Both go out of their way to engage young players.
3. Twins manager Paul Molitor said of pitching prospect Jose Berrios, ``He's 20 going on 35.'' Berrios is remarkably fit and polished. He has great stuff. He could rise quickly in the organization.
4. This might mean nothing, but Mike Pelfrey looks like he's throwing hard in bullpen sessions. He could fit into the staff as a fifth starter, long man or short reliever. Twins general manager Terry Ryan calls him ``a wonderful guy,'' and appreciates that Pelfrey wants to make good on his contract.
5. When Ricky Nolasco arrived as the Twins' primary free-agent signing last year, he quickly gave the impression that he didn't want to do a lot of extracurricalars. He didn't like giving interviews. He didn't seem to work out hard. He didn't seem to connect with teammates.
Ervin Santana is the opposite. He gets to the clubhouse early, stays late, is friendly to all. His reputation as a likeable professional is holding true so far.
6. In the old days (when I was a beat writer), Latin American players were known for either having visa difficulty or inventing visa difficulty, and often weren't around at the beginning of spring training.
The Twins' Latin American players blow apart that stereotype. They're all in camp, and they're among the most avid and enthusiastic workers. Danny Santana in particular has impressed the Twins with his professionalism and attitude.
7. Torii Hunter spent part of the morning laying flat on his back in the clubhouse, trying to catch his breath. He took Buxton to the Twins' training hill by the minor-league fields for sprint-hill work. Buxton, an exceptional athlete, said the workout was draining.
8. I thought I was being clever, asking second baseman Brian Dozier about Paul Molitor's attention to detail. Turns out he's been asked that ``a dozen times.'' But he still gave me a great answer, which I'll use in an upcoming column.
Today at 2:30 I'm doing a live podcast with Star Tribune hockey writer Michael Russo at SouhanUnfiltered.com (or Souhan-Unfiltered on IHeartradio). You can listen live or later.
On Friday, I'll begin a series of podcasts with key Twins figures.
Thanks for reading, and listening.
Had Twins general manager Terry Ryan on my podcast last night, and, when he wasn't talking about his long red hair or his rambunctious days as a failed Twins prospect, he offered a final perspective on his managerial search.
Molitor was always a top, and perhaps the top, candidate, but he wanted to do due diligence with outside candidates, and was highly impressed with Torey Lovullo.
Ryan said Gene Glynn, who managed Triple-A Rochester last year and will be the Twins' third-base coach this year, finished second in the search. He ranked Lovullo third and Doug Mientkiewicz fourth.
On Mientkiewicz, Ryan said, ``I just didn't think he was quite ready. I do believe that Doug Mientkiewicz is going to be a very good major league manager in the very near future.''
As for Glynn, Ryan said, ``Gene was in the final three and it wasn't because it was just a charitable situation. Gene was very impressive. He's got a good feel for everything we do and believe in.''
Ryan told some great stories and talked about his upbringing and his battle with cancer, as well.
That and all of my other podcasts can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
If the United States does indeed open the gateway to Cuba, the sports world could change dramatically and for the better.
Cuba produces tremendous baseball players, and would become a new, open, hotbed for talent.
Cuba possesses more than 11 million people, almost all of them baseball fans. If baseball can expand to Canada, surely it can expand to Cuba ,which would probably offer more support to a big-league baseball team than Miami does.
The NFL is eyeing London as a franchise destination, hoping to carve a niche in a market dominated by soccer and even cricket. Cuba offers 11 million people who don't have a lot of other entertainment options.
Cuba could work for basketball. Hockey wouldn't seem to be a likely export, but if you can put a team in South Florida, you might be silly enough to put one in Latin America.
I've traveled extensively in Latin America and the Caribbean. I've always been told that if Cuba were open and economically vibrant noone would ever bother going to Hawaii. Cuba is supposed to be that beautiful.
I hope that in my lifetime, we see American professional sports, even if only baseball, taking residence in Cuba.
Today I asked Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater what quarterback he wanted to emulate when he was young. ``Brett Favre,'' he said.
He loved Favre's toughness and production.
Now we just need to get Bridgewater to give Favrian press conferences.
I'll be at The Local in Minneapolis tonight at 5 for a podcast with Twins great Roy Smalley, who is a great storyteller. Come by, or listen live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
Ok, let's call this more of an infant working theory than any kind of proclamation.
Our local teams are not exactly pinning championship banners on top of championship banners, but this year of seemingly perpetual losing feels different. Doesn't it?
There is no David Kahn, hopelessly overmatched and somehow oddly entertaining.
There is no Tim Brewster talking about hot chili or scoring last.
For a bunch of struggling teams, suddenly our towns have a lot of leaders you can believe in.
The Vikings are 4-5. But...
Mike Zimmer has already made players like Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Sharrif Floyd better. Harrison Smith is playing better than he was a year ago. Xavier Rhodes has improved. Josh Robinson ,when healthy, has been better.
Norv Turner is missing the two most important pieces of his offense, Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph (who I thought would be the biggest beneficiary of Turner's arrival), yet has squeked out four victories while breaking in a rookie quarterback behind a surprisingly horrid offensive line.
If you can set aside his personal views, you'd have to admit that Mike Priefer is very good at his job. (Although Chris Kluwe is better than Jeff Locke. No contest.)
Rick Spielman has made a dozen shrewd moves the last couple of years, including trading Percy Harvin at the right time for the right value, and, along with Zimmer, identifying Barr as a worthy use of the ninth pick in the draft.
The Wolves are 2-5. But...
I love the enthusiasm Flip Saunders has brought to the job, and the way he has used his young players.
I picked this team to win 25 games this year. Maybe they're better than that. What really matters is that Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett develop into quality NBA players. LaVine has acquitted himself far better in Ricky Rubio's absence than I would have expected, and Saunders seems to have a good working relationship with Rubio. This is a team worth watchng, if only because Wiggins is going to make more and more astounding moves as the season wears on.
The Wild is 7-7. But...
I don't fault Mike Yeo or Chuck Fletcher. I like this roster. Maybe they overestimated Thomas Vanek, but if Zach Parise had stayed healthy, Vanek's struggles might not have been as costly.
When Parise was healthy, I thought this team was continuing the play like it did down the stretch and in the playoffs last season.
The Twins are...never mind.
It's been four terrible years, and I know people are tired of my saying that Terry Ryan is one of the best GMs in the business, but that's what I believe. I also will continue to say that if Byron Buxton, MIguel Sano and Alex Meyer can stay healthy and get to the big leagues, they'll lead a resurgence that will have the Twins contending in short order.
I loved the hiring of Paul Molitor, the smartest player I ever covered. So far, I like the staff - Tom Brunansky did good work last year, Gene Glynn has always been one of my favorites, and Rudy Hernandez, born in Venezuela, could provide an important language link to Sano and other young players from Latin America.
I'd love to see Eddie Guardado hired as the bullpen coach.
The Gopher football team lost to Illinois, and Richard Pitino didn't make it to the NCAA tourney his first season, but...
Both were well down the original list of candidates. The Gophers chose wisely/lucked out with both. Kill has put the football team in position to play big games in November two years in a row. Pitino has brought energy and an entertaining style to the Gopher hoops program.
I don't know how successful any of the current cadre of coaches and managers is going to be. But there is a wealth of intelligence and expertise around town these days. That's a start.
I'll be doing my first podcast for @aliveandsocial network today at 3:30 from O'Gara's in St. Paul. Molitor will be my first guest, and I"ll also speak with local author Ross Bernstein about the ways we researched stories about Randy Moss in the past. We have different stories to tell than ESPN.
Planning on doing the second podcast at The Devil's Advocate on Friday night at 7. May even break out the guitars after that one.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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