THE SCENE – Late Sunday night on a chartered flight from Milwaukee to Minneapolis.
Following a 1-5 disastrous road trip for the Minnesota Twins, which might have been 0-6 if not for an 8-run first inning in game 1 against the Giants (Thank you, Madison Bumgarner) the players are sitting, contemplating the quick turnaround from an 8 game win streak to a 5 game losing streak, while the strains of “Margaritaville” drift over the sound system.
ALEXI CASILLA : Hey, Guys, why the long faces?
(Several players glare at him and go back to their reading)
BEN REVERE: I know a great joke about that! See, a horse walks into a bar, and the bartender says, “Why the long face?” Get it? See a horse has a long face and…
CARL PAVANO: We get it, Ben.
NISHIOKA: (in Japanese to his interpreter) This is shocking! I will refuse to enter a bar in this city where they serve farm animals. What a bunch of hicks! Why did I leave Japan?
INTERPRETER: (nods knowingly)
BEN REVERE: So you liked that one, eh, Nishi?
INTERPRETER: (in Japanese) Smile, Tsuyoshi, he’s still carrying his bat!
JIM THOME: Say, Ben, could you keep it down? Some of us older guys need our beauty sleep. Thanks.
REVERE: Sure, man, no problem. I just thought someone needed to lighten the mood in here a bit. After all, we just lost 5 in a row and we’re back at the bottom of the AL Central.
CARL PAVANO: Well, that definitely lightened my mood. Thanks a lot, Sunshine!
MICHAEL CUDDYER: I liked it, Ben, and I applaud your desire to help the team in any way you can…
DREW BUTERA: (in a strangely high-pitched voice) More ice, please.
CUDDY: …yeah, like Drew here, taking a ball to his…
MIJARES: Too bad it wasn’t the other one.
BUTERA: (groan) Actually, it was both.
JOSE MIJARES: I meant the other catcher.
JOE MAUER: I heard that.
GARDY: That wasn’t very nice, Jose. Apologize to Joe.
MIJARES: (Mumbles something in Spanish)
MIJARES: (through gritted teeth) S’ry, Joe. Idiota!
CUDDY: As I was saying, we all have to pull together if we want to get back to our winning ways.
CASILLA: Sigh…I remember our 8 game winning streak like it was last week…
BAKER: It WAS last week!
CUDDY: Now, now, guys. I know something that will take our minds off losing. Who wants to see a magic trick?
MAUER: Cuddy’s not quite that caliber magician, Jose, heh heh.
MIJARES: (under his breath) Yeah, you’re the magician…
MAUER: (with a twinkle in his eye) Well, I have been known to make a tall, frosty glass of milk disappear. (pauses for laughter to die down and when there is none, sinks back down into his seat)
MIJARES: You made the lead disappear in Milwaukee! Calling for 6 straight fastballs. Estupido!
GARDY: Jose, that’s enough!
MIJARES: But he…
GARDY: I’ll make you watch the video of Delmon hurting his ankle again…
MIJARES: OK, I’ll be good.
People start to settle back into their seats.
CUDDY: I’m still open for magic…
BAKER: Knock it off, Cuddy.
VALENCIA: Hey, easy on the dude. He’s giving it all for this team. Did you know that in the last 5 games we’ve had only 32 hits and Cuddy has 8 of them? That’s ¼!
BAKER: I got a hit!
VALENCIA: OK, but otherwise it was a pretty sorry display of hitting prowess: Cuddy (8); Revere (6); Young (4); Valencia, Nishioka (3); Mauer, Repko (2) and Thome, Hughes, Casilla and Baker (1).
The team sits quietly digesting this.
MAUER: I miss Justin.
CASILLA: I miss Denard.
CUDDY: I miss Kubel.
BUTERA: I miss Joe Mauer.
MAUER: I’ve been back a week, Drew.
BUTERA: I mean, I miss your bat.
More awkward silence.
MAUER: Sigh…me too.
CUDDY: All right. Yes, it’s tough to be back in last place, but we’re the freaking Minnesota Twins! We’re the AL Central Champs! We own the White Sox! We’re not afraid of Cleveland, Detroit or Kansas City, are we?
MIJARES: Only if Prince Fielder gets traded to one of them.
CUDDY: C’mon, Guys. Our fans know we’re better than this! We know we’re better than this! Everyone knows we’re better than this! We just need to really believe that we can do this! Today is the first day of the rest of the season, and we are not losers. We – Are – Winners! Now you say it.
EVERYONE: (self-consciously) We are winners.
CUDDY: You can do better than that!
EVERYONE: We are winners!
EVERYONE: WE ARE WINNERS!
CUDDY: OK. Let’s get back to Target Field and do this thing!
Much back-slapping, high-fiving, and general celebration and then slowly each team member drifts off to sleep with a confident smile on his face.
CUDDY: (with a smile of satisfaction) And they thought I couldn’t do magic!