ALEXANDRIA — The point of Twins caravan is to generate good public relations, and not necessarily just with the team’s fans. So when a grade-school student wearing a Twins jersey on Monday asked Casey Fien who he looked up to as a child, the righthander didn’t hesitate.
“My favorite player growing up,” Fien said, “was Paul Molitor.”
The overflow crowd of more than 225 roared as Fien’s Hall of Fame manager beamed, getting Minnesota’s annual meet-the-team event off to a lighthearted start in this northwest Minnesota town. And if the enthusiasm inside the Alexandria Holiday Inn banquet hall is any indication, the team’s first winning record (83-79 in 2015) after four terrible seasons has rekindled interest in the state’s baseball franchise.
More than twice as many fans showed up in Alexandria on Monday as turned out a year ago, a fact partly attributable to the school holiday, partly to the presence of rookie phenom Byron Buxton, but also, Molitor said, to a fondness for baseball in this state that he has been attuned to since his childhood. “We’re lucky to have such great fans, wherever you go in Minnesota,” the second-year manager told the lunchtime crowd, which braved below-zero temperatures. “There is no denying your support is important to our success.”
The Alexandria program was delayed as additional tables were set up to handle the big crowd, and a morning stop at a Little Falls hardware store was equally standing-room-only.
Alexandria was stop No. 2 for Molitor, Fien, Buxton and television announcer Dick Bremer, just the beginning of a 13-towns-in-four-days trek through northern Minnesota. Further north and west, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Tony Oliva and radio broadcaster Cory Provus are trekking through North and South Dakota and the northwest corner of the state. All-Stars Glen Perkins, Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer are among those setting out for Iowa and the southern part of Minnesota next week.
A full schedule of the Twins’ caravan stops is available at twinsbaseball.com.