It's January in Minnesota, which naturally means ... baseball?

The Twins' Winter Caravan kicked off the cold-weather activities, and they continued Thursday with the Diamond Awards gala at Target Field — with proceeds benefiting the University of Minnesota's neurological research. The event has raised $3 million for that research over the past 12 years.

Several Twins players were on hand to collect awards from the 2016 season, which were announced in October (as voted on by the Twin Cities Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America).

In a surprise to nobody, second baseman Brian Dozier was named the team's Most Valuable Player after smashing 42 home runs in 2016.

Ervin Santana earned pitcher of the year honors after posting a 3.38 ERA.

Max Kepler was named the top rookie after hitting 17 home runs in his debut season, while fellow youngster Byron Buxton earned the award for top defensive player.

Brad Hand, a native of Chaska, was named Upper Midwest Player of the Year after compiling a 2.92 ERA as a reliever for the Padres.

Lefthander Stephen Gonsalves, who was named minor league pitcher of the year, had an impressive award presenter: new Twins boss Derek Falvey.

Meanwhile, new GM Thad Levine presented Zack Granite with his award for minor league player of the year.

In off-field awards, Eduardo Escobar won the Carl R. Pohlad Community Service Award; former Twins General Manager Terry Ryan won the "Media Good Guy" Award; and Rod Carew was given the Herb Carneal Lifetime Achievement Award.

A silent auction and a other fundraising games highlighted the event. Some of my favorite items:

• A private tour of Surly Brewing for up to 20 people.

• A James "Mudcat" Grant autographed jersey.

• Use of the Target Field food truck at a private event.

• Spend a day with Star Tribune baseball writer La Velle E. Neal III.

• A crockpot (just because when have you ever had the chance to get one at a silent action?).

Adjacent to the silent auction was a $20 ball toss, where winners got autographs. Back-to-back participants won Rod Carew- and Brian Dozier-autographed baseballs.