Itís been a busy week here at Twins Daily with a lot of draft coverage. Last Sunday, I posted my blog on Day 1 of my Territory Train trip. It included a bus ride through Iowa, and a ball game at the beautiful Modern Woodmen Park and a Snappers win. Itís a few days later, but here I will continue my log of events of the trip with the second dayís events.
Day 2 began earlier than a typical Territory Train day does. We were on the bus outside our hotel in Moline, Illinois, and on the road by about 8:30 a.m. However, there were no complaints because the day was going to be full of some very fun events. We drove through northwest Illinois and found ourselves in Beloit, Wisconsin, which is just north of the Illinois/Wisconsin border, before 11:00 a.m. We were scheduled to eat lunch at a sports bar called Jerseys at 11:45 with several Snappers.
Scott Povolny (Territory Train owner) had worked with Snappersí AJ Pettersen to set up the event, and it was very much successful. AJ and fellow former Gopher Kyle Knudson were there. Pitchers Tim Shibuya and Ryan OíRourke showed up soon after. Outfielder Wang-Wei Lin arrived. Infielder/Outfielder Drew Leachman, who came to the Snappers in early May from Extended Spring Training, was there as well. Then hitting coach Tommy Watkins arrived.
It was fun though because the players were all very nice and willing to answer questions, take pictures and sign autographs. The group filled up the outside patio at Jerseys, but it was such a nice day and such a nice, relaxed event. We were under the impression that the players may only have about 45 minutes to meet with us before they would need to leave to go to the ball park. Instead, the players and Watkins hung out with us for over two hours.
What was really nice about that events was it made all of the players more real to the group. Obviously I have had several of them on my podcasts before, but to be in that interactive of an event allowed those on the trip to see the size, to ask questions, to see the people instead of just the players.
Around 2:45, we left Jerseys and went to our hotel. Arrangements were made so that those who wanted to go to the ball park early for batting practice could. Normally, fans are not allowed into the stadium until one hour before game time. We were able to get in at about 4:15. I love watching batting practice and seeing infield/outfield work being done. Right when we got there, Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario were batting. Both hit a ton of line drives, and Sano blasted a couple that went over the scoreboard in left center field. Watkins was throwing BP and at the end of his last few rounds, he told Sano to bunt for a hit. Sano laid down two very good bunts and Watkins fielded them and tried to throw him out at first base. Clearly the group was having a lot of fun.
Chrissy Scaffidi is the Snappers director of media and public relations. She let us in and then spent 15 minutes or so talking to us, and answering questions about the ballpark, about attendance and about the increased media requests that they are fielding due to Sano and Rosario. She even provided the group with a couple of media packets, information that media who covers the team gets to help with their stories. She was great and very much helpful to our group.
On a personal level, she even helped me get a couple of copies of my Minnesota Twins prospect handbook signed by Sano and Rosario, who are both on the cover. Snappers manager Nelson Prada saw the book and asked for a copy and got one.
Later, Chrissy introduced us to Matt Bosen. For several years, he had been part of the Snappers front office, most recently in charge of Merchandising. When long-time Snappers GM Jeff Vohs took another job in Beloit, Bosen took over as the teamís GM. He was kind enough to spend about 10-15 minutes talking to me and the group as well. Itís amazing how much responsibility he has making things run so smoothly for the Snappers and their games, but they also are in charge of running other events in the park (such as American Legion tournaments, high school games, etc.). They do an amazing job with a front office staff of six.
About an hour before game time, I was walking around behind the stadium, jotting down the lineup. Watkins walked by and came over and asked if everything was going well, having a good time, talked about the lineup briefly.
Minutes later, I heard a voice say my name from a bit away. I turned and saw a husband and wife that I had met a year ago there. They had spent time introducing themselves and their family to us last summer, and it was good to see them again. They are just a great family who this year decided that they would be a host family for a couple of players. We talked a little about how that was going and what went into their decision to offer their home like that.
That night, we had Hog Heaven tickets. That is a great promotion by the Snappers in which fans can sit down the right-field line in a big picnic area. It is all-you-can eat and includes hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, chips, peanuts and more. It includes all-you-can drink pop or beer, and it goes all the way through the game. I believe the cost is just $25. I went out there and ate a bit before the game started, but we also were able to sit in the bleachers behind home plate, so I was there some.
Early in the game, I stood behind the fence and took pictures and video of the players the first time through the lineup.
(Rosario batting, Sano on deck)
The game was another good one for the Snappers. The first three innings went quite quickly. Matt Summers was on the mound for the Snappers. AJ Pettersen informed us that Matt Miller would be on the mound for Wisconsin. Pettersen had faced the former Michigan Wolverine in Big 10 play during his career with the Gophers.
(Knudson batting, Pettersen on deck)
Wisconsin got a 2-0 lead in the top of the 4th
, but the Snappers came back with five runs in the bottom of the fourth. Wisconsin (the Timber Rattlers) came back with two unearned runs (thanks, in part, to a dropped pop up with two outs by Miguel Sano) in the top of the 5th
. However, the Snappers came back with four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Wisconsin added a run in the top of the 6th
off of Tim Atherton, but that was it for the scoring and the Snappers came away with a 9-5 win that put them into a tie with the Timber Rattlers at the top of the Midwest League Western Division. (Wisconsin would win the final two games of the series to regain a two-game lead in the division, which is the separation in the teams today.)
I even got to spend an inning with Chrissy in the press box overlooking the park. Along with all of her other duties, she also is the public address announcer for the Snappers home games.
(photo courtesy George Damian)
Also, besides the normal mid-inning fun activities that the Snappers (and most minor league teams) do, the Inflatamaniacs made an appearance at Pohlman Stadium that night. Itís impossible to explain what they are in words, so here are a couple of pictures.
Following the game, I talked a bit with Ryan OíRourke and Wang-Wei Lin. AJ Achter talked briefly as he walked by toward the clubhouse. Also spent a couple of minutes talking to Pettersen.
Iím sure it wonít surprise you that I was the last one to the bus, but no one seemed too upset. Ha!
On Sunday morning, things were much more casual. A little continental breakfast at the hotel. Listened to the Ron Gardenhire Show. The bus rolled out of our hotel in Jayneville, WI, which is about 15 miles north of Beloit, around 11 a.m. From there, itís just a 5 hour drive on highway 94 back to the cities. We did stop in Thoma for some lunch.
We got back to the Walmart in Woodbury at about 4:05 and said our good byes. The best part about the two Territory Train trips that I have been on is the relationships you develop. As I mentioned after the Detroit trip two years ago, people enter the bus on Friday in small groups, but when you leave the bus on Sunday afternoon, the group is really a group. So, I do want to take a moment to thank Scott Povolny for a great trip and for putting together a minor league trip this season. It was a great time. I want to remind those reading that he does have just a couple of openings remaining on his final trip of the year, to Kansas City in mid-July. If youíre interested, go to www.TerritoryTrain.com
for more details.
Finally, I do want people to consider a weekend trip to Beloit. I talked to two or three people at the game on Saturday night who had driven down to Beloit from the Twin Cities that morning and were planning to drive back after the game. It is about five hours each way, so I recommend looking at the Snappers schedule
on their great website
and find a weekend where they have a night game followed by a day game. Drive down early on the morning of the night game, check out that game, stay in a hotel in Beloit or Jaynesville, and then go to the afternoon game and drive back. For me, it gives an appreciation of how good many of these players are while at the same time seeing players in the very early stages of their development. I'm still planning another trip to Beloit at the end of June!
I do plan to post one more short Ďreportí with some scouting reports on players I saw play for Beloit. Until then, let me know if you have any questions or comments.