Twins Defeat Gophers In Frigid Affair
The best moments for everyone seemed to be the pregame discussions. Several Twins or Twins alumni took time to speak with the Gophers players, including Sergio Romo and Tony Oliva. Derek Falvey, Thad Levine, Rocco Baldelli and John Anderson had their own gathering along a baseline to catch up, too. If nothing else, it’s nice to see visuals connecting the University’s historic baseball program to the Twins.
Excitement for the game was high, if for no other reason than baseball was back. A home opener on a Friday night works for everyone, and the Twins cut ticket prices in half for the event, using it as a soft open to Hammond Stadium’s season.
Finally, the Twins also used the event to highlight their deep farm system. The first six batters in the Twins lineup represented six of our recently announced top 20 Twins prospects. The Twins top prospect, Royce Lewis, led off. He was followed by top catching prospect (and seventh overall) Ryan Jeffers. Batting third was Twins Daily’s #3 prospect, Trevor Larnach. Our ninth prospect, Brent Rooker, hit cleanup. Finally, the top six were rounded out by Travis Blankenhorn and Gilberto Celestino, our eighteenth and twelfth best prospects.
That’s an exciting lineup to roll out prior to Grapefruit League play. Several of those guys are likely to have big league careers, and will be depended on to help extend this Twins’ team’s competitive window. Those links above are worth clicking over to - you're going to excited about some of these guys. So this lineup was a must see if you follow the Twins farm system.
Unfortunately, a few factors, some controllable and some not, but a damper on the festivities.
Those lucky enough to be in Florida in February will get little sympathy from Minnesotans, but it was cold, and it got cold fast. The high for the day was 70 degrees, but that was about 7 AM. All day the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. By game time it was 59 degrees, cloudy and dark, with a cold wind gusting in from left field to pummel the often underdressed crowd. There was no way to avoid it.
You can’t control the weather, but the Twins and Gophers will likely look at what they can do with the Gophers’ schedule if this event is to be repeated. The Gophers had to treat this as an exhibition game; they left their three best starting pitchers at home since a three-game set versus TCU started today. You can’t blame them; they had an overnight flight back to Minnesota to play in today’s game.
As a result of all of the above, shivering fans watched an undermanned collegiate team face the Twins minor league All-Star team. The results were predictable: there were four runs scored in each of the first three innings of the game. It didn’t help that in the second inning, Rooker got hit by a pitch squarely in the helmet and had to leave the game. Per MLB Twins beat reporter Do-Hyoung Park, he cleared concussion protocol and is fine. Both teams decided in the sixth inning that the game would be stopped after the seventh inning, the length of a college game, rather than play through the ninth. The crowd was not disappointed with the decision.
The larger realities around the event still made it worth attempting, and perhaps some tweaks and better weather will help if the event is deemed to be worth repeating. The game is an unwelcome but probably necessary reminder to both Twins/Gophers players, management and fans about the reality of baseball: it doesn’t always go the way you hope.
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