by, 10-17-2013 at 10:33 AM (224 Views)
In 1987 and 1991, I was eight and eleven respectively.
1987 was the first year I “followed” the Minnesota Twins, and I can still remember my father, an ardent Yankees fan, complaining about the Twins that year. It was a beautiful time to be eight and hate the Yankees. Memories of the World Series are not very clear, but for some reason I swear I remember an Ozzie Smith back flip (I hope that actually happened). Once they won that championship, I was hooked (still have a wall plaque of the 1987 championship team). The down side to this season was the advent of the Homer Hanky. To this day when the Twins have made a playoff push, I buy a load of these in the hopes of a World Series Championship gift to my kids, nieces, and nephews (these kids need a crazy uncle, don’t judge me).
In 1991, I remember the Twins digging out of the cellar to get into a pennant race. I was an eleven-year-old baseball player with one tool, I was fast…and that was about it. Little did I know I was on a collision course to be a pinch runner on a mediocre Legion team.
Looking back on those years I, obviously, had no idea what went into building the roster, or that the Metrodome was an albatross sucking the Twins to an eventual vortex of doom and despair for the remainder of the 90’s (much like silk shirts did to the male population around that time). Quite frankly, the two or three times I saw a baseball game in Minneapolis, I couldn’t believe that building was real. I came from a town of five hundred, and seeing Kirby Puckett live was a life changing experience through the lens of a particularly crappy set of binoculars. Too bad I had to pee when he hit a homerun, but those troughs were irresistible fun for an entire little league team.
Now I am a father of three, and I get the best of both worlds. I get to troll through blogs, Podcasts, and forums discussing every aspect of the details of building a winning roster, and I get to watch baseball through the eyes of a five-year-old boy who watches the season a game at a time. No matter how much time I spend reading arguments, posting infrequently, and listening to Podcasts on long drives, watching baseball through a child’s eyes is one of my greatest joys.
He doesn’t get the concept of a pennant race quite yet, although that is coming too fast for his old man’s comfort. Still, to him, each game is a championship. I’ll never forget our last trip to Spring Training. The Twins were playing the Cardinals, and in looking at my son, my mind’s eye took me back to the 1987 World Series, except I could smell the grass and see the players while my son eagerly watched in a sugar-induced haze. In this game, the Twins had the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh and a rally was starting. I can’t remember who, but someone struck out with the bases loaded to end the game (my son still hasn’t seen the Twins win in a live game). As he cried in the concourse, other Twins fans past us by. They tried to console him….knowing in their hearts what it means to be a fan of a Minnesota sports team; they’ve been there. They could see, feel, and perhaps taste “one of us” being born and passing through the ritual. I picked up my then four-year-old son and tried to explain the concept of Spring Training; just one game; it’s just a game; and in the end, I carried him to the car (wife, other child, and two Grandmas in tow). We stopped for some orange juice and ice cream on the way back to our hotel. I could see the sting of that game in his eyes as he drifted off to sleep in his car seat.
One day we will all share in the glow of a good team…. I too sat through the 90’s (even as a child). I see good things coming…good things through a child’s eyes. Later that night, I had a beer, he some milk (not chocolate or his Mom may have disowned me). I said, let me tell you about Puckett, Hrbek, Gaetti, Gagne…and let me tell you about Arcia, Sano, Rosario, Meyer……….