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Well anyway, here’s my story:
I love baseball and the Minnesota Twins more than anything in the world—but, believe it or not, there was a period in my life where I didn’t even like the Twins or baseball. At all.
I don’t like to talk about it much. I’m ashamed of it. And no, it wasn’t just a facetious, “I hate baseball!!!111” period because I was upset over some trivial thing that didn’t go the way I wanted. I actually hated baseball. I thought baseball was boring and pointless and stupid. I thought it sucked.
It’s sad to think about, considering how much I was into the Twins as a young child. One of my earliest memories is riding in my car seat and looking at a giant Homer Hanky draped over the entire side of the four-story elementary school by my house. That was when the Twins won their first World Series in 1987. It was trippy.
Like every other Minnesotan kid my age (or otherwise), I absolutely adored Kirby Puckett. I will never forget the day in 1991 when I woke up and ran to my parents to find out to find out if the Twins had won or lost Game 6 of the World Series. They explained to me what Kirby had done (which was win the damn game), and I thought, in my awfully tiny brain, “Well of course Kirby Puckett did that. He’s Kirby Puckett.” I was used to watching Disney movies. The protagonist always wins. Duh.
Winning the 1991 World Series was euphoric, and literally something I will never ever forget, even despite my young age at the time.
However, the Twins quickly started sucking again after the ‘91 championship. Baseball players went on strike in 1994. Twins great Kent Hrbek retired early to pursue his true love (fishing and drinking beer. God bless him.) Chuck Knoblauch turned out to be a monumental asshole. Kirby Puckett, my hero, woke up one day blind in his right eye. I still remember the morning, months later, when Kirby officially announced his retirement. I remember how loud my Mom screamed and sobbed. It woke me up. Startled. From the other side of the house. On a different floor.
By then I knew the protagonist does not always win.
So, yeah. Sometime in the ‘90s I came to the conclusion baseball was stupid. My favorite players were gone. My favorite team sucked. For the most part, I stopped paying attention. I still watched some of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire’s home run battle and some of the Yankees in the World Series, but as far as my own fandom went, I was probably more into the Vikings season in 1998, and then… yeah.
But, quite obviously, something brought me back to baseball
It was 2001. I started watching the Twins again in 2001. The team was off to a hot start, thanks to a bunch of young, talented players. They had a guy named David Ortiz, who was hitting home runs like crazy—until he broke his wrist (again) sliding into home plate. They had Doug Mientkiewicz, who could do the splits to catch balls at first base. They had A.J. Pierzynski, Eddie Guardado, Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, LaTroy Hawkins, Corey Koskie, Cristian Guzman... Brad Radke… and a young pitcher named Johan Santana. So many more, too.
The Twins were exciting. My Mom was excited. I started getting excited again. I even went to my first Twins game ever at the Metrodome—on Kirby Puckett night, of course. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, this is the biggest room I’ve ever been in.” And I will never forget the image of watching Kirby walk out to the podium to give his Hall of Fame speech to the Twins fans before the game. It was the only time I ever saw my childhood hero in person. I remember thinking, “Wow, he really is fat.
The Indians ended up beating the Twins to win the division that year, but I had hope and interest again. I liked my team and these young players.
Of course, that’s exactly when MLB decided they were going to try and contract two baseball teams: the Montreal Expos, and my Minnesota Twins. Contract, as in, just erase them from existence. Poof.
We were shell-shocked. I know in retrospect it seems like it wasn’t that real of a threat, but it sure as hell felt real at the time. As Minnesotans, this was not a joke to us. We already lost our hockey team. Now they were going to try and take our baseball team? After all, we weren’t living in a Disney movie. The protagonist does not always win.
My Mom was having none of it. Absolutely none. She left the house in silence, got in her car, drove down to the Twins ticket office at the Metrodome, and bought 81-game season tickets for 2002. She ended up buying a ticket to every single home game for the next 13 years.
That’s not even all. At the time, she thought, “Well, if this is the last year the Twins will exist, might as well savor it!” She brought me and my brother and sister to watch the Twins play the Red Sox at Fenway Park—a place she always wanted to go. I watched David Ortiz hit a home run over the Green Monster to win a game for the Twins.
My boys—the young band of players I had gotten so excited about—did not disappoint that year. The Twins surprised everyone in 2002. They even made a movie about it! Moneyball. It’s about how much the A’s tried to do with nothing, and how a team with even less beat them anyway. That’s literally how the movie ends. I remember seeing it at a movie theater in Minneapolis, and everyone stood up and clapped at the end. We won. We beat Moneyball. We beat contraction.
For me, and many others, that was the team that saved baseball. Literally.
My Twins fandom, and baseball fandom, has only been snowballing since 2002. Every year I learn more about the game. I took college and law school classes on the social history of baseball, arbitration, and sports law. I read books. It just makes me love the game more. Players may have left the Twins, and at times the team has sucked—but it doesn’t bother me anymore. I love the Twins, but I just love the game now, too. I understand the protagonist does not always win, but that’s what makes it great. Because every once once in awhile Kirby Puckett does hit a walk-off home run in the World Series, and for some little girl somewhere, it is magic.
I’m just waiting and watching for the next time it happens for me, as a Twins fan—and I’m enjoying every second. Because I can.
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