The public relations folks from NASA contacted the Twins and asked if they were interested in having a living, breathing astronaut throw out a ceremonial first pitch.

Imagine the brouhaha if word leaked the Twins had snubbed NASA. It would be the greatest backlash from patriotic zealots since manager Ron Gardenhire complained that tenor Ronan Tynan consumed too much time singing "God Bless America" before the bottom of the seventh inning in the 2003 playoffs against the Yankees.

"Sure," the Twins of '08 said to NASA, and the spaceman sent to perform the duties on Monday night was Robert Cabana, a graduate of Minneapolis Washburn.

Cabana spent many years in Houston and became a fan of the Astros. That meant the Twins player he was most interested in meeting as he waited near the dugout before the game was Adam Everett, the Astros' starting shortstop for the previous five seasons.

"He was a season-ticket holder in Houston and that made me his all-time favorite shortstop, supposedly," Everett said of Cabana. "He was telling me that and then said, 'I just wish you hit a little better.' It was sort of a double-edged compliment."

Cabana's comment was overheard by several occupants of the Twins dugout, including manager Ron Gardenhire.

"Gardy gave me this shocked look and said, 'Did he really just say that?' " Everett said.

Mark this down as a successful example of tough love for Astronaut Robert.

Monday's game was scoreless when Everett came up in the bottom of the second. Brian Buscher had drawn a two-out walk in front of him. Beyond that, Yankees starter Sidney Ponson was using his sinker to retire the Twins on rollers around the infield.

"He's tough," Everett said. "That sinkerball of his falls off the table. I battled and battled, trying to get a pitch I could hit in the air."

On the eighth pitch, Everett was able to dig out a Ponson fastball and get a ball in the air.

"I knew it was going to be either a home run or an out, because this place is so big," he said.

Everett spent his Houston years playing in what's now called Minute Maid Park, so obviously he was spoiled by the bump out in left field (the Crawford Street boxes) that creates a short porch for fly balls.

Justin Christian, a rookie left fielder, hustled to the fence, tried to get a glove on the fly ball, but it carried several centimeters over his glove and settled in the first row of seats.

Twins, 2-0. And home run No. 2 in the rocky several months that Everett has spent in this organization.

Once the Twins included Jason Bartlett in the Great Rays Heist of November 2007, they felt the need to bring in a shortstop with established fielding ability. We have the word of a brave, loyal, courageous, trustworthy astronaut that it was Everett's glove, not his bat, that made him a lineup fixture in Houston.

Unfortunately for him and the Twins, Everett had a shoulder problem in spring training that kept getting worse, not better. He went on the disabled list on April 19, and went back on it May 23. It looked like he was done with the Twins.

Everett's minor league rehab was over July 31. Gardenhire called him in and said there was no room on the 25-player active list. He went back to his Twin Cities residence and started making plans to send his wife and kids home to Georgia.

The Twins then found out Alexi Casilla had a torn thumb ligament, and they called Everett to say he was back on the team.

"I was fired and hired within a few hours," he said. "It was a big-time shot to the ego, obviously. I had two choices. I could've been mad at people, or I could go to work, and try to prove I can play major league shortstop ... that I can do some things to help this team."

So far, there have been hints of helpfulness, but in Monday's 4-0 victory, Everett did have the chance to jog the bases muttering, "What do you think of me now, Spaceman," if he was that kind of a guy, which he's not.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. •