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Game 137: Guardians at Twins

Hey, maybe Minnesota can catch Cleveland this weekend, with Bundy, Archer and TBA on the mound! Could happen!

Minnesota Twins Photo Day
This handsome man accidentally hit his mom with a baseball 30 days after this photo was taken. She was fine, though!
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Start time: 7:10 Central

Weather: Cooler yet humid, decreasing chance of showers after 7 PM, first pitch 63°

Opponent’s SB site: Covering The Corner

TV: Steve Jobs Network (free for this game with an Apple ID login, instructions here). Radio: Has ads for Apple TV read by Bojack Horseman

If righty starter Cal Quantrill’s name sounds faimilar to you, it’s either because you remember him from last year’s Cleveland roster (I didn’t!) or because his unusual last name is shared by 14-year pitcher Paul Quantrill. Yes, Cal is Son Of Paul. Paul had a 3.83 career ERA and one All-Star game. So far, Cal has also been unspectacularly solid. 2002 digits:

Quantrill (today’s one) throws a 94-ish fastball with good. varied movement, a slurve and change.

I recently discovered what, to me, is by far the happiest news of this baseball season – The Baseball Project are back in the studio, and working on a new album.

It’s good news because their songs make me as happy as any band’s of the last 15 years. And especially happy because in 2017, co-lead lyricist Scott McCaughey suffered a stroke.

It’s something which has affected our family, as well, with Mrs. James suffering a stroke last March.

Both were “too young,” although strokes can happen at almost any age – 38% occur in persons under 65 (as both McCaughey and Mrs. James were).

Recovery from a stroke is different than from many other injuries, in that the dead brain cells cannot repair themselves or regrow. The hope in recovery is that other portions of the brain can take over the functions of the dead portions.

Re-wiring the brain, as it were, is known as “neuroplasticity” and becomes more difficult as we age. So, a full recovery from stroke is less likely for older patients. It’s probable that some abilities may be permanently lost, with the most recovery happening in the first 3-6 months. Recovery after that period remains possible, but will progress at a much slower pace, if at all.

The process involves a lot of work -- and a lot of courage. In facing the work, and facing the sorrow of realizing that some of what you took for granted has been changed forever. Mrs. James has shown enormous courage. But then, I'm not surprised.

One thing we were told, however, was that people who have learned how to play music sometimes already have a advantage in the neuroplasticity department. Music involves doing several different things with different parts of your mind which don’t usually work together – for example, playing the piano (as Mrs. James does) can involve reading the music, using most the dominant and non-domiant hand, and using one’s feet at the same time.

McCaughey has been a professional musician since 1981, in several different groups, and has always been praised for his witty, observant songwriting. So I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that he’s returned to writing and playing. I’m just so happy he has.

The Baseball Project was formed by McCaughey, Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon, and Peter Buck after talking about their shared love of the game. (All of them had toured/performed with each other several times.) For their third album, they’d be joined by Mike Mills (along with Buck, a founding member of R.E.M.)

You can read brief interviews including descriptions of their baseball fandom with Pitmon here, and with McCaughey here. In that one, McCaughey responds to the question “what would you do if you were baseball commissioner” by saying “get rid of the commissioner of Major League Baseball. Baseball needs some sort of small, democratic governing body that is not appointed solely by the owners.” Right on, Scott!

Which teams, specifically, are they fans of? Several. McCaughey grew up rooting for the Giants and A’s, then the Mariners once he moved to Seattle. Buck and Mills were Georgians, so Atlanta. Wynn, an LA kid, loved the Dodgers, and Pitmon, a Twin Cities kid, naturally loved the Twins. (Wynn and Pitmon, who are married, now live in the Bronx, and as such enjoy Yankees history – but, as this charming song says, “when the Twins face the Yanks in the ALDS, you know who this small-town girl likes.”)

(Yeah, everyone from New York considers anyplace smaller than New York a “small town.” It’s just their way.)

So The Baseball Project has had a few songs about the Twins. “Look Out Mom” is about the bizarre spring training incident where Denard Span lined a foul ball right into his mother in the stands. “Don’t Call Them Twinkies” features guest vocals by The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, and you’ll like it depending on your tolerance for Craig Finn’s growly Beat poetry style of lyrics. (Personally, I appreciate his originality, but a little of it goes a long way for me).

One Baseball Project song I really love, “They Don’t Know Henry” imagines the deeply private Aaron’s thoughts as he faced ignorance from early coaches and, always, racist “fans.” Naturally they have songs about Babe Ruth, Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Pete Rose and many others both somewhat famous (Harvey Haddix, Dale Murphy) or trivia answers (Larry Yount).

I won’t make this a series of YouTube embeds, but here’s a great hero-worshiping song about Ichiro:

The songs aren’t just hero-worship, though; or, when they are, they can be mixed with appreciation for the darker sides of fame. “From Nails To Thumbtacks” describes the higlights and lowlights of Lenny Dykstra’s career: “I lived in a mansion / I lived to steal a car.” “Broken Man” sympathizes with roiders vilified for cheating, yet “no-one seemed to care when it brought back the fans." “Here Lies Carl Mays” is about the only pitcher ever to kill a hitter with a HBP. “Buckner’s Bolero” looks back at the series of front office, management, and player moments/decisions that led to Buckner’s infamous World Series error – one of which was a failed save by Angels pitcher Donnie Moore that would have sent California, not Boston, to the World Series. (Several years later Moore would kill himself after attempting to murder his wife and daughter.)

One that mixes comedy and tragedy (and it’s Mrs. James’s favorite Baseball Project song) is about Pascual Pérez, an Atlanta pitcher who missed a scheduled start because he got lost on the freeway and ran out of gas. He took the inevitable ribbing in stride and would appear in TV commercials after he retired, poking fun at the incident. But he would be brutally murdered at age 55 in a completely senseless robbery.

(Pitmon really shows off her drumming chops there. In her interview linked above, she’s asked if she does warmups before a show and says “No. I’ll stretch. I’ll do windmills. Because I’m old. Grandma’s not allowed to pull a bicep. That won’t go over well.”)

My favorite, probably, still has to be the first Baseball Project song I ever heard:

That’s the question, isn’t it? For baseball, aging musicians, Mrs. James and me? “So long ago, so long, past time, are you past your prime?”

Of course, the answer is YES! But until they put us in the ground, we might still have something to contribute.

We’ll be going to the game on Sunday. We haven’t gone to anything nearly as daunting as a baseball game since her stroke. But we got tickets for free from a pizza promotion, so it seemed like a good time to try.

Me, I haven’t been to Target Field since 2016. Various reasons, one being money, one being the loss of a job where I’d take persons with disabilities to a few games every year. Losing that job still smarts. (I got fired because I got injured. Injuries suck.)

The last time I went? It was late in the year. And the Twins stank. It was still fun, though. Former TwinkieTown contributor Dan Carlson gave me a ticket a friend of his couldn’t use (because of injury) and he was a terrific person to chat baseball with.

Also, we both enjoyed the guest band that performed shortened versions of their songs between innings. When they weren't performing, the band basically hung out at the centerfield bar and nursed some beers while watching the game for free. They were clearly into it, too, even though the game was meaningless.

What band was it? Take one guess!

Today's Lineups

Steven Kwan - LF Luis Arraez - 2B
Amed Rosario - SS Carlos Correa - SS
Jose Ramirez - 3B Jose Miranda - 1B
Josh Naylor - 1B Nick Gordon - LF
Oscar Gonzalez - RF Gio Urshela - 3B
Andres Gimenez - 2B Gary Sanchez - DH
Richie Palacios - DH Jake Cave - RF
Austin Hedges - C Gilberto Celestino - CF
Myles Straw - CF Sandy Leon - C
Cal Quantrill - RHP Dylan Bundy - RHP