Looking for an even deeper farm system, the Twins have opened a European-style youth academy in Fort Myers, Florida for potential future Twins players from four to 18 years old. The young prospects, some of whom have not graduated from kindergarten, have access to professional-level facilities, as well as coaching: watching the players' progress is recently fired Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.
"It just made sense to put Gardy to work this way," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "He's got a whole lot of time on his hands now, and all of us like having him around. Plus, he didn't even want to be paid for some reason. I think he said something about an all-expenses-paid trip to Florida in January being good enough on its own."
A week into the job, Gardenhire is already impressed with the talent at the academy.
"Mikey Johnson is the best eight-year-old outfield prospect I've ever seen," Gardenhire said. "He's got 80-grade power and an arm like a Howitzer. I swear, he's got more power and a better arm than Ben Revere ever had."
Ryan has spent the past week with Gardenhire in Fort Myers and claims credit for the idea.
"Here's how it works," Ryan said. "We sign a bunch of kids with high potential to minimum-wage contracts, just like European sports teams do, and they get to work at our facilities in Fort Myers and live with a host family, since a lot of them are from nowhere near Florida. We've got a couple of six-year-olds from my neighborhood, actually. But the best part is, they're under team control the entire time. No service time clock or anything. It's brilliant."
The move is unprecedented in MLB history, but Ryan says he doesn't understand why no other franchise has tried it before.
"I actually haven't checked if this is against the rules," Ryan said. "I was just up late one night and had the TV on, and I saw this 'Southampton Way' thing on NBC Sports. I don't even know what sport this Southampton crowd plays, but I thought, 'Why don't we do this?' So I called the Pohlads, and they gave the go-ahead."
Some of Gardenhire's former, fully professional, players have come out and said that Gardenhire is the right choice to lead a group of elementary schoolers in training, including first baseman Joe Mauer.
"Gardy's always been great with kids," Mauer, father of two, said. "I've had him watch the twins while my wife and I were out getting eggs at Cub a few times, and every time, they tell me how much fun they had with Uncle Ron."
There have been some complaints, however, that the players' extended separation from their families might be detrimental to them. Gardenhire has dispelled these complaints, saying that living away from home serves as an opportunity for maturation and learning experience.
"Tough shit," Gardenhire said. "Do these kids think that Luis Rivas never missed his mom on a road trip? They've just got to learn to deal with it or go home."
Gardenhire does admit that some measures are necessary to keep his prospects' spirits up though.
"Of course, we've had to do some things to make the kids feel more at home," Gardenhire said. "For example, I called in a couple of favors, cleared a few things with the Mets, and arranged a fake tryout, and we've had a couple of magic shows with Cuddy [Michael Cuddyer] and Johan [Santana]. Just like old times."
Cuddyer, a renowned clubhouse magician during his time in Minnesota, is happy to help his former manager.
"Hey, I love Gardy," Cuddyer said. "Plus, I owe him $100 after I bet on the Broncos beating the Colts, so I'm kind of paying him back this way."
Santana, who has not pitched in the majors since 2011, agreed to the magic show with the understanding that he would have a shot at making the Twins' roster this spring. In return, he would go under Cuddyer's saw.
"What do you mean it was a fake tryout?" Santana said. "And Ron isn't even the manager anymore?"
Potential controversies aside, Gardenhire is very happy with the opportunity Ryan has given him.
"I've been very impressed with what I've seen so far," Gardenhire said. "It's very exciting preparing the future of Twins baseball."
This was an attempt at satire.
(Not all of us can be Stu, but I thought I didn't do too poorly.)