TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at TwinsDaily.com and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at TwinsCentric@gmail.com.

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Posts about On the road

An Apology to UZR

Posted by: John Bonnes Updated: May 20, 2010 - 10:09 AM

Several times over the last year, I've tried to explore the details of Ultimate Zone Rating(UZR), a defensive metric, in part because I thought it was unfairly rating Twins outfielders. It started back in October, but if you click back, make sure you make it down to the second comment. It was by Parker Hageman of OverTheBaggy.Blogspot.com, whose research suggested that maybe UZR is biased against smaller outfields.

That's because we thought the zones in UZR didn't take into account the particular ballpark they were in. So a 350 ft fly ball down the right field line was judged similarly in park after park - even if that fly ball was a home run in the Metrodome or Target Field, but not in another field. So, somewhat ironically, the larger, more spacious outfields pumped up UZRs because fielders had more chances to make plays, while the smaller ones penalized UZR.

But we were wrong. I'm sorry UZR, I should not have doubted you.

It is apparent I was wrong because FanGraphs.com has now added a "Split" option to their statistics, including UZR. Here is Cuddyer's for last year. Instead of having the Metrodome hurt him, it helped him. Cuddyer's UZR/150 was just -6.6 at home but -22.2 on the road. All in all he cost the team just 2.7 runs at home and 7.3 runs on the road.

The same thing happens as you look at his statistics year to year, and you also see the same thing in other ballparks, like Fenway's left field. Jason Bay's 2009 season shows him having a better UZR in Fenway than on the road. So it appears that somehow, UZR is making the appropriate call for smaller outfields.

There are other weaknesses we can pick apart, but all stats have weaknesses. UZR's method for handling somewhat extreme outfields is not one of them. In fact, it seems to be a strength.

But there is something else going on here, too, I think. Somehow, Cuddyer's defense got a lot better in 2009. This offseason I'm 99% sure it said that his UZR/150 was -22.1 in 2009, but now it's -13.6? That's not an insignificant change. In some ways, that's good news, because I think that's a lot closer to what we're really seen from Cuddyer, and demonstrates his defense hasn't hurt the Twins the way other outfielders, like Jermaine Dye, have hurt their teams.

But it's also very, very bad news, because I don't know why it changed. Was there an error before? Is there an error now? If anyone knows, I'd love to hear it.

Late addition: FanGraphs apparently updated UZR recently to accomodate for extreme ballparks, and that's why Cuddyer's UZR improved, so Parker's research did indeed hold up. So we were right, but now UZR has fixed this. Here are the details: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/uzr-updates/

Time to shave the beard?

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: April 23, 2010 - 9:52 AM

 As the rest of the Twins lineup is busy producing runs like a taco stand serving tainted meat, Jason Kubel has been inauspiciously quiet. Since the home opener the left-handed slugger has had fewer hits than Chumbawamba, going just 3-for-29 (.103) with nine strikeouts.

On Wednesday, I showed that part of the reason for his slump is because pitchers have noted his insatiable appetite for meaty fastballs and have switched his diet to low-fat and tasteless sliders and curves. The results are fewer pitches in the strike zone and ultimately fewer pitches he can feast upon. Kubel has displayed restraint in most cases – drawing more walks and chases after out-of-zone pitches less – by largely ignoring the servings of non-fastballs and off-the-plate appetizers. 

Yet in order to stop his batting average from slinking towards a number typically reserved for describing a Brewers fan’s blood alcohol content, Kubel also needs to stop hitting them directly at people. There are signs that the defense's good fortunes might not last much longer. For one thing, is batting average on balls in play (or BABIP for shorthand) is absurdly low. As a rule of thumb, if this number is well-below or towers above the league average, there is a strong indication that a player is primed for improvement or regression. In Kubel’s case, the lefty is sporting a BABIP (.226) as ugly as his beard – and far below the league average (.291) in addition to his own career mark (.303). 

Meanwhile, considering the method in which he is putting the balls into play, we can easily deduce that he is hitting the ball square. In Kubel’s 56 plate appearances before Thursday’s game, he has hit 27% of his balls in play as line drives. This is an extremely positive total. In general, line drives fall in for hits far more often than grounders or fly balls. Last season, liners became hits 72% of the time while grounders did so 24% of the time and fly balls just 13.4% (with the exception of home runs which are not considered “in play”). The natural conclusion is that if his line drive totals are up, the batting average will eventually correct itself as line drives find vacant real estate. 

But not only is he hitting line drives regularly, he’s hitting everything solid. Behind Inside Edge’s pay wall is a fairly underutilized statistic that may assist in bridging the gap from the “assumed” (i.e. high line drive rate coupled with low BABIP equals bad luck) to the “actual” (i.e. genuinely screaming balls around the field off his bat). Like Baseball Info Solutions, who gathers all of the batted ball data that we find at Fangraphs.com, Inside Edge has added a little extra flavor by denoting if the ball – be it grounder, liner or fly ball - was well-hit. The Well-Hit Average (well-hit balls/at bats) provides us with another metric to gauge the type of contact, regardless if it was hit land, air or sea. While the rest of the league holds a .208 well-hit average, Kubel has exercised a very good .239 well-hit average. 

If he continues to spray shots around the ballyard at the same rate, there is no reason not to expect a full turnaround long before summer begins. 

However, if this decline continues on the road trip, the next step is to shave the beard. 

Observations from Opening Day

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: April 13, 2010 - 12:14 AM

How was your Target Field Opening Day? What did you do? Did you go to the game? Did you play hookie from work or school to watch? I would love to hear your thoughts and observations on what will be a day that Twins fans will remember for years to come. To get things started, here are my observations:

My Monday morning started just like every other Monday morning. I didn't want to wake up, didn't want to open my eyes, just didn't want to do much of anything, but I finally gave in. What causes me to grudgingly roll out of bed? The reminder that Fox Sports North was beginning their live coverage bright and early. I wore a Twins pullover. I dressed my three year old daughter in her Francisco Liriano jersey and took her to daycare. Once I got to work, I tried really, really hard to focus throughout the morning, and I was actually quite successful. But my first observation of the day, as it relates to baseball, was that I needed to take in not only the game, but the pregame festivities. When asked, I said that the historical side of this game made it work taking a few hours off. So that's just what I did. I left work and went home. Here are more observations that I made, and again, I would love to read any others that you had from the day, especially if you were there in person:

  • Observation 1b.) Why didn't I think to get tickets in some way? It would have been an incredible experience to be at Target Field and on Target Plaza throughout the day.
  • Observation 1c.) Even sitting at home on a couch, watching on TV, it was definitely worth taking the afternoon off of work.
  • I could watch Batting Practice all day! The Twins batting practice was on TV, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've always enjoyed it though. Even at Metrodome, if I was going to a game, I wanted to get there as soon as the gates opened to be able to watch how players went about their business, what they were trying to accomplish, and if or how they were trying to overcome their struggles.
  • $545 million can buy a lot of great stuff. As you know, I have been to Target Field three times and absolutely love it. I completely agree with the comment that you will be able to go there for a year and almost always come away having seen something that you hadn't noticed before. The design team deserves a ton of credit for all the nooks and crannies, the views from around the stadium, and all that went into making it the nicest stadium in baseball.
  • The other thing that they did was highlighted an incredible amount of Twins history. It goes beyond the Kirby Puckett, Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew statues. It goes beyond the Gates being named after (and today opened by) the greats of the team's history. The legends club level would be great for every Twins fan to see. Pictures highlight all of the Twins greats. It was evident again on Opening Day. Hrbek, Oliva, Carew and Killebrew presented first pitch baseballs. Jim Kaat, Jim Perry, Bert Blyleven, Frank Viola, Jack Morris, Eddie Guardado, Shannon Stewart, Corey Koskie, Brad Radke and Al Newman were all on hand to raise flags from playoff teams. 
  • Arizona Cardinals wide receiver and Twin Cities native Larry Fitzgerald tweeted shortly before game time that he had just arrived at the stadium. Am I the only one who thought it would have been kind of neat for him to catch a first pitch?
  • FS North has been touting this GB Leighton Twins Territory for the last month. I have this much to say about the song... it is light years better than that song Prince wrote for the Vikings. That doesn't mean it was good.
  • Roy Smalley's hair. I just don't understand it. It's understandable when it is all over the place on a windy day outdoors, but when he is in studio, I just can't help but wonder if that's what he intends. On Monday, it was another fun Smalley hair day.
  • We learned that three of the umpires in town for this series are Minnesota natives, led by Tim Tschida. My first thought was that it didn't quite seem right. But the more I thought about it, those guys all have very high integrity and have been major league umpires for a long time. Once you think of it that way, it has to be a tremendous honor for them.
  • I always think that player introductions are fun. Seeing all the players tip their hats to the crowd is neat to me. Of course, the Red Sox didn't tip their caps. In fact, a couple of their players didn't even move. That was kind of annoying.
  • On the flip side, Minnesota native and Twins reliever Pat Neshek waived to the crowd. I'm certain that the game meant a lot to him as well, that Joe Mauer was not the only Minnesota native that being in that game meant a lot to.
  • How nice was it to see Joe Nathan introduced before the game. It seemed as though he got as loud an ovation as anyone. He clearly appreciated it. When seen later in the game, he had put the brace back on his surgically repaired elbow.
  • I knew it was going to happen, but Scott Ullger getting booed in the pre-game was pretty unfortunate.
  • The four Minnesota groups that sang the National Anthem were incredible. Arguably the most amazing thing about the day was that as they were finishing the song's final note, the F16s that flew down from Duluth flew over the stadium. Again, it happens at other sporting events, but as many times as we have seen that, it was impressive.
  • By the way, how do they make the flags that basically cover the whole outfield??
  • The early inning telecast could be defined by 'firsts.' Everything that happened was highlights as the first of Target Field. The first pitch was thrown by Carl Pavano. It was a ball. It was thrown out. The first hit was by the first batter, Marco Scutaro. It was followed by the first strange play at Target Field, Scutaro getting picked off. Denard Span had the first walk. Orlando Hudson had the first hit. Michael Cuddyer had the first RBI. David Ortiz was the first to strikeout.  The first pork chop on a stick. The first beer sold. It almost got to be too much!
  • By the way, the first broken belt was the belt of Nick Punto, who dove headfirst into second base only to realize that his belt came apart. I should specifically say that it was the first belt broken on the field. With all of the great food and drink around Target Field, it is possible that a belt of three may have already broken in the stands. (On a side Punto note, his defense has been incredible at 3B so far this season. Over the past two or three games, he has made no fewer than three plays that Brendan Harris would not have made.)
  • Jason Kubel made a lot of people, including Yours Truly, look smart when he hit the first home run in Target Field history. Many thought Mauer, Morneau or Cuddyer. There was even a late push for Punto hitting the first long ball. but in the end, it was Jason Kubel, who went 3-4 on the day, by the way.
  • A 13 year old kid caught the first home run ball and got some time on TV to talk about it. The big question became, how did the negotiations with the Twins go? Obviously the Twins really wanted that ball, so what was their initial offer? Maybe some tickets to a game? Here is a question for you. If you had caught that first HR ball, what would you have requested in return? I'm thinking I would start by asking for a bat signed by Span, Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel and Young, along with a baseball signed by Kubel himself, and tickets for six to two games, preferably a Friday night/Saturday afternoon combination. Too much?
  • Carl Pavano got the honor of making the start to open up Target Field. What did he show? He absolutely has ice in his vein. In fact, it visually looks like his calm borders on lethargy. Whatever it is, it has worked so far. He is throwing strikes and getting outs. He is eating innings. Is it possible that he has a little something left after missing all those years in  New York?
  • Delmon Young just looks completely different this year. The 30 pound weight loss is really just part of the story, although a big part because it shows that he had a sustained commitment to getting better. Sure, he'll still swing at some bad pitches or at the first pitch too much, and he's not the most nimble of outfielders. But there is something different this year. The smile is there. When his name was introduced, he had a huge smile. He looks like he's just having some fun, and that is very exciting. By the way, had he caught the ball on the warning track that David Ortiz hit, it would have been one of the best catches ever!
  • Speaking of really good baseball players, I think it is fair to say that Joe Mauer fits into that category. Again today, he had three hits. The first was a double to left field. The last was a double to right field. The second hit was an RBI infield single that snuck past the pitcher and hit second base, altering its course so Scutaro couldn't make a play. My first thought... those are the types of hits that help a guy hit .400!
  • Finally, this Twins team is pretty strong. They are now 6-2 through eight games. With four games against the Angels on the road and three games in Chicago against the White Sox, the schedule has not been easy. This Red Sox team should also be solid in the AL East. Over the course of 162 games, it will be hard to maintain the level of play the team has played at, and there will be a couple of rough patches, but it is also possible that this time might be even better than many thought.
  • After starting the season with four games that started at 9:00 in the central time zone, afternoon games seem so early! That's not a bad thing. What I'm really uncertain about is what I am going to do on Tuesday, the Twins first off day of the year?!

Finally, condolences to John Gordon and his family on the loss of his 95-year old mother. Somehow Gordon was still able to call the game today. 

What are your observations from Target Field's Opener? I would love to hear any an all thoughts whether you watched from home, listened on the radio or were at the game.

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Here are some more TwinsCentric stories, articles and activities for you to peruse:

  • Parker reviewed the Sunday afternoon play when JJ Hardy was easily thrown out at home.
  • Twins rookie relief pitcher Alex Burnett joined Seth on Sunday night's SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. The two discussed how he found out he was heading to the big leagues, and heading to his home as a big leaguer. They discussed his big league debut and goals for the 2010 season.  
  • Seth will be a guest of Paul Allen on KFAN  and KFAN.com at 9:20 on Tuesday morning.
  • At 10:00 on Tuesday night, Seth and Travis Aune will be hosting Twins Minor League Weekly, a new podcast dedicated to the Twins minor league system.
  • Seth continued his preview of the Twins minor league affilates by reviewing the Ft. Myers Miracle.
  • If you are able to go to a Twins game and plan on buying some reading material, check out the 2010 Minnesota Twins Yearbook as the TwinsCentric guys whote some of the content.
  • And you can follow TwinsCentric on Twitter. Click on the name and follow TwinsCentric, John, Nick, Parker and Seth.

Let's take this outside

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: April 12, 2010 - 1:31 AM

Much discussion in the wake of yesterday's loss to the White Sox revolved around the frustrating manner in which the game ended. With the Twins trailing 5-4 in the ninth inning, pinch hitter Jim Thome delivered a scorching two-out double over the head of left fielder Juan Pierre. J.J. Hardy, who had been on first base representing the tying run, came charging into third just as the ball was reaching cut-off man Mark Teahen. Unfortunately, Scott Ullger failed to throw up the stop sign, and as a result Hardy was easily thrown out at home plate to end the game.

It was a disappointing conclusion to the Twins' season-opening road trip, but the overall results in the first seven games have been undeniably positive. The Twins went on the road to face a pair of relatively strong teams and came away with two series victories. The starting pitching has been solid, the bullpen -- with the exception of Jose Mijares -- has been highly effective, and of course the offense has been stellar.

Indeed, the team's play thus far has given fans plenty to be excited about. And that excitement will culminate this afternoon when the Twins officially christen their brand new ballpark. Jon Lester and Carl Pavano will face off in the inaugural regular season contest at Target Field at 3 pm, and the next chapter of Minnesota baseball will get underway.

A 5-2 opening road trip bodes well for a team that went 38-43 in opponents' ballparks last year, but one of the Twins' greatest strengths over the past decade has been their ability to consistently win games at home. Today we'll get our first meaningful glimpse of the Twins in Target Field, a stadium they are at this point mostly unfamiliar with. Acclimating to the quirks and tendencies of this field will be a process for the Twins, so it's unclear how much of an advantage they will hold in their new outdoor stadium, especially in the earlier games when cool weather might suppress the power that is shaping up to be this team's hallmark.

Boston makes for a tough match-up in a home opening series, but if the Twins can keep playing the way they did during the first week of the season they should be up to the challenge. The Angels and White Sox are viewed by many as playoff-caliber teams, and the Twins came out of both teams' stadiums looking like the superior club. If the Twins can get off to a fast start against a quality opponent in their own home park, I think fans will have enough positive signs to make them forget about the missed sign at third base yesterday.

The long wait is over. Outdoor baseball in Minnesota begins today. Let's play ball.

Opening Day... COMING SOON!

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: March 25, 2010 - 9:29 AM

 

It’s getting close, isn’t it? We are less than a dozen days away from Opening Day. The excitement surrounding the Twins this year is more than I can remember in my lifetime, and that includes after those World Series years. The front office continued to say that when revenues increased, payroll would increase, and that has certainly been the case as the Opening Day payroll will be about 45% more than one year ago.
But it isn’t just those numbers. Some of that is pay increases to arbitration-eligible players. What is exciting is that the Twins have added components that they needed, to fill some holes. Fortunately, the Twins are run in such a way that they will continue the model of building from within. Names like Danny Valencia and Anthony Slama will likely roam Target Field before the Twins give up too many good prospects to get guys that may or may not offer improvement.
Orlando Hudson is on this team now. He filled a need at second base, and maybe more important, in the second spot in the lineup. JJ Hardy came over from the Brewers and gives the Twins a presence at shortstop that they haven’t really had for a long time. Speaking of presence, Jim Thome, a future Hall of Famer, is going to be a member of this team, and likely a valuable contributor on and off the field.
With less than two weeks, most of the Twins roster spots have already been determined. I mean, was there really any question about who the Twins starting catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, DH or any of the outfielders would be? Four of the five starting rotation spots were certain, and Francisco Liriano is giving fans more reason to be excited and has (hopefully) cemented himself in to the rotation as well. Even with the Joe Nathan injury, the depth that the Twins have brought into their bullpen should carry them through.
The addition of Ron Mahay yesterday certainly does cloud up the bullpen a little more, but in the name of depth, that is not the worst thing in the world. As the Twins Geek wrote today, there really are only a couple of questions at the back end of the bullpen. The only other roster spot up in the air appears to be between Alexi Casilla (out of options), Matt Tolbert (out of talent?) and Jacque Jones (who has shown in camp that he just might have a little bit left in the tank).
Opening Day is looming, and it is incredibly exciting for baseball fans.
I just want to know… Do any of your have Opening Day traditions? (Or am I the only one?)
For the last about ten years, I have not worked on the Monday afternoon of Opening Day. Instead, I have gone home, set up two TVs side by side, and watched ball games on both of them throughout the afternoon. I would switch which TV had the volume up and which was muted. I would set the “Call Back” or “Previous” button on other games on other stations. I’d usually see if any friends wanted to come over and we’d pick up something to eat, chicken wings, pizza, hot dogs. Basically I would be able to watch about four games in the afternoon. Then, since it is starting to get nice in Minnesota around the beginning of April, I usually go wash my car. I don’t know. It just feels like a good spring thing to do. It also gets me away from the couch and prepared for the evening of ball games. With the Twins not opening up their season until 9:00 central time this year, I will be able to watch evening games up to that point as well.
Do any of you do anything for Opening Day? I know there are some who make a point to go to Twins opening day each year, home or on the road. I’m always looking for new ideas, so please share yours with mine.
And then a week later, the Twins will open up Target Field officially for their first regular season home games. They will play the Boston Red Sox in games that are probably a bit more important than these Mayor Cup games we are hearing far too much about in Florida!
I had the opportunity to go to Target Field last Saturday, and the place is amazing. Absolutely remarkable! Few stones were unturned. It feels as if it is one of those places where every time you go, you’ll see something that you hadn’t noticed before. They did a tremendous job of bringing the rich history of Minnesota and the Minnesota Twins to the stadium. The field is incredible. The scoreboard is even more amazing (and clear) than I would have imagined. The seats face the infield. Seriously! The seats face the infield!! Novel concept, isn’t it?
If you are able, on Saturday, the Minnesota Gophers will play a game against Louisiana Tech in Target Field. The first 25,000 fans there will be able to get into the stadium for $2 with proceeds going to the Twins Community Fund. I am planning to attend because I just want to be there. Isn’t that reason enough?
Spring is here. There is no snow on the ground in the Twin Cities. It’s time for a new season, and I can say that I officially have Baseball (And Twins) Fever now!!
Here are some other links to peruse or listen to as you have time today:
·         On Wednesday, Seth was on a New York Mets podcast (Call to the Bullpen) and was able to talk about the Twins. They discussed the Joe Mauer contract, the Joe Nathan injury and its affect that bullpen, Target Field and much more.
·         On Wednesday night, John and Seth joined Topper Anton on Fanatic Jack’s Twins Talk podcast. There were many topics, including the Twins bullpen and the backup catching situation.
·         Tonight at 8:00, Seth will host another episode of The Show on SethSpeaks.net. His guests tonight will be Trayvone Johnson (Twins 2009 draft pick), JJ Stankevitz (White Sox Examiner writer) and Max Kepler (Twins prized German prospect). Links to listen live will be available at www.SethSpeaks.net approximately 30 minute before the show begins.
·         Nick continued his Twins position analysis by looking at the relief pitchers.

Traveling with the Twins

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: March 24, 2010 - 10:15 AM
There is perhaps no greater summer adventure than the baseball road trip. It provides an opportunity not only to see your team play in a different ballpark, but also to experience a new city and bond with friends or family. Last year, I made a couple of baseball road trips, heading to Chicago with family to see the Twins play at Wrigley Field and traveling to the heartland in a rental van with some friends to see games in St. Louis and Kansas City. Both of the trips were absolutely amazing, with the baseball games serving as only small highlights in thoroughly enjoyable overall experiences.

Each spring, I like to take a look at the schedule for the upcoming season and pick out series that might provide road trip opportunities. There are several considerations to be made in selecting appropriate destinations. Is the distance drivable? Is the stadium nice? Are there cool things to do in the city when not attending the games? Is the series during a weekend, so I don't have to take a bunch of time off work? Are there people I can stay with to save on lodging fees?

With all of these things in mind, I went through the Twins' 2010 schedule and picked out a few series that make for nice road trip possibilities:

Chicago White Sox
(April 9-11, August 10-12, September 14-16)

Those early April dates provide an opportunity to hit the road right at the beginning of the season, as it is the Twins' second series of the regular season. I've been U.S. Cellular Field and didn't come away terribly impressed -- not much personality -- but Chicago is a beautiful city and unfortunately the Twins don't play the Cubs again this year. I figure that the Sox will be the Twins' fiercest competition in the AL Central this year, so that September series could loom large.

Driving Time: About 7 hours

Kansas City Royals
(April 23-25, July 26-28, September 27-29)

Of all the big-league ballparks I've visited, I think Kaufmann Stadium is my favorite. It's gorgeous, with big splashing fountains beyond the outfield wall, and the Party Deck in right field is a great place for a guy like me to hang out and watch the game while chatting with friends and sipping a beer. The huge parking lots surrounding the stadium are great for tailgating. And of course, since it's the Royals, you know there's a very good chance you'll be walking out happy after seeing a Twins victory. Be careful about that July series -- it'll be hot!

Driving Time: About 7 hours

Detroit Tigers
(April 27-29, July 9-11, September 24-26)

Detroit might not have the greatest reputation as a city, but I've heard plenty of good things about Comerica Park. The Twins and Tigers, of course, came right down to the wire last year, so another intense battle could easily shape up here in the 2010 campaign. The drive, nearly 12 hours, can be a bear but it does take you through some nice cities like Madison and Chicago. You could even stop in Beloit along the way to catch the Snappers, the Twins' Low-A minor-league affiliate.

Driving Time: About 11.5 hours

Cleveland Indians
(April 30-May 1, August 6-8, September 10-12)
 
The drive to Cleveland is similar to the one to Detroit, except that it's about an hour longer. The Indians' home park, Progressive Field, draws rave reviews so if you've got it in you to spend over half a day on the road, this is a good trip.

Driving Time: About 12.5 hours

Philadelphia Phillies
(June 18-20)
 
Alright, this is a pretty daunting drive by car, but the Twins don't play the Phillies very often and Philadelphia is a pretty awesome city. The main reason I've added it here is because the Twins play the Mets in New York the following weekend, so if you want to go all-out and do an expansive East Coast baseball road trip, here's your opportunity.

Driving Time: About 19.5 hours

Milwaukee Brewers
(June 22-24)
 
Quick vent session here: This year marks the second straight time the Twins/Brewers series in Milwaukee has taken place right in the middle of the week rather than on a weekend. What gives? Milwaukee is easily the quickest drive of any mentioned here, and with the "Border Battle" aspect and excellent tailgating at Miller Park, it makes for an awesome weekend trip that I've done multiple times in the past. Yet, scheduling the series in middle of the week makes this trip a tough one to pull off for us weekday working folk. Frustrating scheduling here.

Driving Time: About 5.5 hours

New York Mets
(June 25-27)
 
As I mentioned before, the Twins play in Philadelphia the prior weekend. If you manage to make it out there, the drive to New York is only two hours. Like the Phillies, the Mets are a rare opponent for the Twins, and of course there's a decent chance the Twins will face Johan Santana in this series. The Mets' stadium, Citi Field, is brand new and there are all sorts of things to do in New York. Although it is a sacrelige in the realm of baseball road tripping, I might even hop on a plane and fly out for this series.

Driving Time: About 20 hours
 
Last spring, me and John Bonnes talked at length about trying to organize a big road trip where a bunch of Twins fans could jump on a bus and follow the team to St. Louis and Kansas City, but ultimately the logistics became overwhelming. The idea continued to simmer in my mind, so I was very pleased to meet Scott Povolny at the TwinsCentric Viewing Party at Majors a couple weeks ago. Povolny recently launched a new company called TwinsTrain, which basically seeks to accomplish the same thing me and John futilely toyed with a year ago. Basically, for a reasonable all-inclusive fee, you can sign up with TwinsTrain and get all the arrangements of the road trip taking care of for you -- bus ride, hotel accomodations, tickets to a couple games, and some other nice perks. Destinations include most of the ones listed above. You can check out the web site (linked above) for further details, including prices and dates, if you're interested. I'll be tagging along on the Kansas City trip in late April, and I know the other TwinsCentric fellows are planning on making trips with TwinsTrain as well. As fellow Strib blogger Sooze mentioned yesterday, she'll be aboard for the Detroit trip in July.
 
I'm hopeful that TwinsTrain succeeds, not only because Scott seems like a really nice guy but also because the core concept relates directly to something I harped on in my inaugural post on the TwinsCentric blog: synergy. It's an opportunity for Twins fans to get together and share their passion. It's the same reason we organized that gathering where I met Scott, and the same reason we've got a similar event scheduled for Majors in Blaine on April 10 (which I hope many of you can attend). The Twins have a terrific, optimistic and well-informed fan base, and the opportunities I've had to meet and interact with these folks have made this entire five-year blogging experience a rewarding endeavor.
 
Whether you choose to hop on board with TwinsTrain, rent a van with some friends or jump in the family station wagon with your loved ones, I strongly recommend road tripping to catch the Twins in another city this summer. As you can see above, there are plenty of great opportunities to do so.

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