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Finding Smiles - Twins 6, Red Sox 2

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What was the fan reaction in Hammond Stadium following the gut-punching news about Miguel Sano?

Honestly, it was smiles. Basking, wondrous smiles expressed with the eyes and shoulders moreso than the lips. Or at least that what I saw as I walked up to the Hammond Stadium gates. Yes, the Twins had received the worst possible news for one of their cornerstone prospects. But it was still a home opener, still 80 degrees and sunny, still a record-sized crowd watching a baseball game.

The first couple innings helped the mood. The Twins lineup jumped all over Red Sox starter Allen Webster, who is fighting to keep his wildish mid-90s fastball out of Pawtucket this year, and being opposed by the Red Sox crowded rotation. The Twins didn't help his cause.

If only you really could tell everything you wanted to know about a season by that first game, first at-bat, first pitch. If so, we'd know that Brian Dozier's power last year was real. His first at-bat concluded with a double off the left field gap's wall, missing a home run by a couple of feet. If so, Joe Mauer's move to first base would turn him into an RBI machine. He immediately drove Dozier home. If so, the concerns about the Twins offense this year would be baseless. They plated three and knocked Webster from the game before he could finish his second inning.

That's not how it works, of course. The real omen of the day was the Sano news. It's another delay for a rebuild that's going into it's fourth year. It always hurts to lose a year of player development, but it's worth noting that the important clocks hasn't begun to tick for Sano. He's only 20, and this doesn't impact his "option" years, let alone his player service time.

Historically, it's been much worse. The Twins lost Francisco Liriano for a year within months of him making the team. They lost Mauer for most of his first full year in his first game. And Jason Kubel in his first offseason. And Morneau when he was hit by Ron Villone....

Sigh. Talk about an angle that doesn't get enough talk. How come so many of the Twins top prospects have been injured just as they are reaching the majors? Does that happen to any other franchise? How different could the last decade have been? And how about we hunt down the White Sox fan with the little voodoo doll and beat the snot out of him.

For that job, I nominate just about anyone except Tony Oliva. As I left Hammond stadium, I saw an older man tussling in the grass with a couple of toddlers. He stopped long enough for their mom to take an photo with his head upside down on the short grass. He got up and laughed and told his friends it was time to go

It was Oliva. The kids had no idea who he was. The dad didn't either. The mom suspected it was Oliva but admitted that when he stopped while he was walking past the kids, she thought he was going to scold them for wrestling and tearing up the grass on the concourse.

Nope. Instead, a day that started out with incredibly depressing (and seemingly inevitable) news ended with an impromptu joyful moment between rugrats and a Twins legend on the walkway to Hammond. Short of finding the Sox voodoo guy, maybe this is how we shake ourselves from this Minnesota sports funk. If not, at least it uncovered some smiles.
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