Editor’s note: We were supposed to be sitting in the stands this week watching baseball. The Twins were to play six games over seven days at home. We won’t have that, but we still need baseball. We’ve asked Patrick Reusse to bring us baseball each morning. Six games and an off day from years gone by, reimagined for us in April 2020. This is Patrick’s (Target) Field of Dreams.
This chilly Friday was to be an off day for the Twins. We’re at Target Field anyway, listening to what’s being said. No game today, mythical or otherwise, but in baseball the stories can be more entertaining than the ballgames.
Today: an off day
Rich Becker was in the clubhouse and staring placidly at a TV screen. The attraction was a roller hockey game. There was a suggestion made that Becker must be bored.
The Twins outfielder continued gazing at the TV and said: “You never know. Maybe I’ll learn something watching this.”
The Twins weren’t scheduled to start Friday’s off-day workout at Target Field for 45 minutes. Yet staff and players started ambling toward the limestone dugout. There was a discussion about a rainout that came early in a recent game that cost the Twins several runs and hits.
Coach Ron Gardenhire rose to his feet, took off his ballcap and turned the conversation into story time. Called “Gardy” by all and previously a minor league manager, he said:
“Best rainout story ever; we’re with Orlando in the Southern League. You can hear the storm coming. All of a sudden the sky lights up with lightning. The rain starts to come down in buckets. Everyone runs for cover — the fielders, the coaches, the umpires. Except one guy.”
Infielder Jeff Reboulet filled in the blank: “Mike Randle.”
Gardenhire smiled and resumed: “Randle was the runner on second base. The lightning is all around. He’s out there with a batting helmet. The guy is going to get killed. We’re all in the dugout shouting, ‘Go, Mike, go.’
“Randle starts looking around … He wants to make sure no one is sneaking up behind him for a pickoff. Then he takes off for third. We’re yelling ‘go’ to save his life, and he thinks we want him to score. He’s going to get us a run.”
Gardenhire, Reboulet and the half-dozen other dugout squatters laughed long. “Mike would practice jumping into the fence,” Gardy said. “He would jump into the fence and reach up with his glove for an imaginary fly ball. You would be taking early batting practice and you would hear those thumps.”
Reboulet said: “Gardy, how about the spin move!”
Gardenhire said: “Yeah, the spin move. Mike played left field. He would practice coming to the line, fielding a ball, then spinning and making the throw to second base. He might practice the spin move for an hour straight.
“You would be taking batting practice, the middle infielders would be turning double plays, and here would come the baseball flying in from left field ... almost killing the infielders. I would yell at him, ‘Mike, practice the spin move later.’ ”
Reboulet took off his cap and ran his index finger along the bill, near the sweatband.
“Mike had numbers and letters written here in no sequence,” Reboulet said. “It might be FD4L82H36N … something like that, just those numbers scrawled on the bill.
“I asked him, ‘Do those numbers and letters mean something? Phone numbers? Birthdays?’ He said it was the formula for hitting. If he followed this formula, he would get hits.”
Gardenhire smiled again and said: “I wonder whatever happened to good old Mike?”
• This byplay took place on June 21, 1996, in the visitors clubhouse and dugout at Tiger Stadium. Randle, a lefthanded-hitting outfielder, was drafted by the Twins in the sixth round in 1986. He reached Class AA and was released in April 1991.
• Later that night, Detroit’s Felipe Lira defeated Twins starter Rick Aguilera 2-0. It was Lira’s second consecutive season with a June 21 shutout. Reusse, covering for the Star Tribune, and John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press promptly dubbed Lira as “Senor Solstice.”
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