Sid Hartman: Vikings, governor appear to get closer

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 20, 2011 - 2:02 AM

A recent meeting has renewed hope that a stadium bill will be passed in a special session of the Legislature.

Gov. Mark Dayton

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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A meeting Tuesday that included Gov. Mark Dayton, Ted Mondale, Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf and team Vice President Lester Bagley has given new hope that a Ramsey County stadium bill will be passed at a special session of the Legislature after the budget is settled.

At the meeting in the governor's office, the word is that the Wilfs agreed to add around $30 million more to the $407 million contribution they made from the start toward building the stadium.

This additional contribution would be put toward generating funds necessary to build the roads around the Arden Hills site, one of the big factors in holding up a bill. Apparently, there were strong negotiations at the meeting, with Dayton giving in on some of his demands and the Wilf brothers doing the same.

The governor has insisted that the state would contribute a maximum of $300 million toward the $1 billion stadium, and that state contribution had to include the cost of road improvements.

Another meeting with the same principals is scheduled for Thursday, at which time any disagreements between Dayton and the Vikings could be worked out so that everybody is satisfied and a bill could be presented during a special session.

No doubt the Wilfs are more optimistic about getting a stadium bill passed this year than they have ever been before.

It also is apparent that Dayton is very eager to get the stadium bill passed so as to eliminate any chance of the team leaving once its Metrodome lease expires after the season, assuming there is a 2011 NFL season.

Big day for Butera

Drew Butera got more satisfaction than usual out of driving in the winning run in the Twins' 5-4 victory over the Padres on Sunday, because his mother, Gina, was on hand for the game at Target Field.

Gina Butera, wife of former Twins catcher Sal Butera, was all smiles when she greeted her son in the players' lounge.

And as it turned out, Drew Butera didn't start Sunday's game, with Rene Rivera beginning behind the plate and Joe Mauer playing at designated hitter. But it worked out well when Rene Tosoni pinch hit for Rivera in the seventh inning and hit an RBI double that tied the score 3-3. Butera came out to catch Glen Perkins in the eighth inning and then got his big hit an inning later.

What also is amazing is how well Butera, who was hitting a low of .104 on May 18 and is now hitting .176 for the season, is batting an impressive .381 during the eight games he has caught during the Twins' 14-2 run.

Butera didn't have any reason for his sudden surge as a hitter, other than jokingly to say that it might help for his dad to stay away. Maybe Sal, a scout for the Blue Jays, offers too many tips to his son.

"I don't know, it seems to be finding my bat, I guess," Butera said in explaining his recent streak. "I've just been working with [hitting coach] Joe Vavra and we've been doing a good job every day. I'm just trying. I've just got to stick with the plan and go from there."

Butera spent the entire 2010 season with the Twins as a rookie, but he caught only 47 games and hit .197. Now, Butera has caught 42 of the Twins' 68 games to date.

Butera said it's only natural that the chance to play more has helped his hitting. "Absolutely. You get to play a little more, get some more at-bats, it helps your timing," he said.

The hot streak he has enjoyed might help him stay with the Twins, who are expected to send either Butera or Rivera down to the minor leagues now that Mauer is healthy.

Jottings

• Twins President Dave St. Peter said the club never had a contract for Paul McCartney to play at Target Field as had been reported. "We offered McCartney the date of Sept. 1 and as it turned out they weren't scheduled for a show on that date," St. Peter said.

• During the Twins' June surge, their starting pitchers have posted a 1.86 ERA. And the relief pitchers, who have been on the mound only 32 innings in those 16 games, have a 1.93 ERA.

• After Sunday's game, the Twins had the fourth-highest attendance figures in baseball with 1,166,828 fans, an average of 38,894 in 30 dates.

• One subject that is being discussed by Major League Baseball is whether it should go back to a more balanced schedule. That could mean that such AL East teams as the Yankees and Red Sox would regularly make two road trips here, the way they used to before the unbalanced schedule was adopted.

• Twins farm director Jim Rantz watched 2010 first-round draft choice Alex Wimmers, who had been shut down because of control problems, give up three hits while walking two in two innings at extended spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday. "Wimmers is making progress, but he has a long way to go," said Rantz, who is optimistic the former Ohio State standout righthander will regain his form in time.

• Three of the Twins' 2011 draft picks played in the same game of the College World Series on Saturday. Corey Williams, a third-round pick and a pitcher for Vanderbilt, threw 2 2/3 innings of relief, picking up the victory as the Commodores beat North Carolina 7-3. Williams gave up no runs while striking out five. First-round pick Levi Michael, the Tar Heels shortstop, hit second and went 0-for-4. He struck out against Williams in the eighth after drawing a walk off him in the sixth. Will Clinard, the Twins' 30th-round pick, pitched in relief of Williams, giving up one hit and striking out two in 1 1/3 innings.

• Kyle Washington, a forward on the Benilde-St. Margaret's boys' basketball team this past winter, has received a scholarship offer from Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. Washington doesn't turn 17 until August and will reclassify to become a member of the 2013 class. The 6-8 lefthander reportedly is transferring to Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn. Washington, who averaged 8.0 points per game for the Red Knights, is more known for his presence on the defensive end of the court. Another player from Benilde-St. Margaret's, Jordan Taylor, is the Badgers' starting point guard and an All-Big Ten selection.

• J.J. Hardy hit his eighth home run of the season for the Orioles on Sunday, collecting his 24th RBI in the process. The former Twins shortstop has been primarily hitting leadoff since coming off the disabled list and is hitting .293 this season. Hardy hit six home runs with 38 RBI in 101 games for the Twins last year.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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