Something strange is happening at Target Field this season. Something stranger is happening in the home clubhouse.
Coincidentally or not, the team with the best record in the American League also holds the best post-victory dance parties, complete with a fog machine, lasers, glowing props, twerking, Soul Train dance lines, strobe lights and at least one American Indian headdress.
After a victory, the Twins repair to their clubhouse, turn on the fog and light machines, and demand that the star of the game dance in the middle of the floor, right on top of the team logo.
Outfielder Torii Hunter started the parties to build team unity. Or to laugh at bad dancers. Which is the same thing.
“You have to dance at least five minutes,” Hunter said. “Or 10 minutes. I try to dance 20 minutes.
“We twerk. You’ve got the two-step. You’ve got reggae-meringue-salsa music going. You don’t have to work out after the game, because we burn so many calories.”
After another strong outing in the Twins’ 6-5 victory Sunday, reliever Blaine Boyer brought his kids into the clubhouse. His son Levi, 4, may require therapy.
“We had Aaron Thompson running around with a headdress, and all these big guys dancing, and Levi was looking at me like, ‘Dad, get me out of here,’ ” Boyer said. “There will be repercussions, I’m afraid.”
There already has been gratuitous accessorizing. Trevor Plouffe bought his teammates gloves with flashing fingertips.
“Blaine Boyer can dance,” Hunter said. “Shane Robinson — Sugar Shane — might be our best dancer.”
Said Robinson: “It’s always good to be recognized by your peers.”
Ricky Nolasco, Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson were mentioned as the worst dancers.
“Gibby just jumps around in a really weird way,” closer Glen Perkins said. “He’s got a 10-foot wingspan, and he’s just jumping. But Nolasco is really bad. I think he has some experience, so I’m not sure he has an excuse.”
Pitcher Phil Hughes said, “There are no rules, other than that rules that govern every other United States citizen.”
“The best rule,” Gibson said, “is that there are no rules.”
“You just go with the flow,” Hughes said. “If you want to dance, you can dance, if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. There is some peer pressure for the player of the game to go out there and show off his moves. Plouffe gave us those gloves, with eight different settings. Everyone’s embracing it.”
“This is what Torii brings to a clubhouse,” said bullpen coach Eddie Guardado. “This is how you build togetherness.”
In the age of advanced metrics, feelings aren’t supposed to matter, but the Twins have the best record in the American League despite average statistics and a shallow lineup. Whether because of good timing, fielding, statistical anomalies or the way that bad dancing strengthens core muscles, the Twins have won seven of eight, are 25-10 since April 22 and are 30-19 to start the season, their best record at this juncture since the 2001 Twins started 33-16.
Target Field is for the first time in five years home to quality baseball, and the home clubhouse suddenly resembles the bar scene in the original “Star Wars.”
“It’s starting to elevate,” Hunter said. “We have flashing gloves, we have masks and helmets. I think by the end of the season we’ll have glasses that shine, we’ll have tubes in our mouths.”
Twins manager Paul Molitor has delegated clubhouse leadership to Hunter. He has repaid him by shaming him into dancing.
“A couple of times, Mollie said some good things to pump us up, and I got him out there,” Hunter said. “He just bobbed his head. But I think in the end, he’s going to get wild. We’re going to get him on the floor, and we’re going to surround him, Soul Train-style.
“He tries to be professional, but I know him. I’ll get him rolling.”
Hunter has that effect on people. And teams.