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Monday, January 30, 2012

The Minnesota Twins and Autographs

I have to admit, being "afar" from the Twins wasn't the best thing this past weekend. I enjoyed reading all the posts re-capping Twinsfest, and also the Star Tribune coverage of some of the new players that made the trek for our fan fest. But I was a little jealous. Yes, other organizations have similar fan fests, but the Twins do it the right way. Going back a couple decades to when I was a kid, even the great Kirby Puckett would always make an appearance to sign autographs. No Twin was immune from the requirements that: 1) they travel from wherever great location they live to the cold, Minnesota tundra during one of the coldest times of year; and 2) that they converse with fans and play the role of "hero" for a weekend. It's a great tradition. And the money goes to charity. It's hard to complain.

I remember attending Twinsfest after the 1987 World Series. I would have been 6, I guess. I still have a Twins hat that Tony Olivia signed from that year. That next summer, Dan Gladden signed my baseball glove and a 1987 Topps card at an youth baseball clinic at the Maplewood YMCA. My dad also surprised me by mailing a 1987 Homer Hanky to Frank Viola (who was my baseball hero back then), who promptly signed it and sent back for me. It's still in a frame in my parents' house. Long story short, the Twins make it pretty easy for fans -- especially kids -- to get autographs and mingle with players.

Minnesota's sports hero signs for fans on the road

As an adult, I wouldn't say that I'm an autograph hound by any means. I don't really have a great place in my house to display sports memorabilia (no room for a man cave yet), so there's not much of a point in collecting stuff that will just have to go in storage. When possible, though, I have tried to take advantage of a couple opportunities for autographs. Back in 2009, my wife was able to get Joe Mauer to sign the back of my #7 baby blue throwback jersey when we were in Baltimore. I have a case for the jersey, so it just has to be ironed and put in there. I also have a goal of getting signed MLB baseballs from the "retired number" crew. So far, I have Puckett, Killebrew and Hrbek. So there's a little work to be done there.

Eventually, I imagine putting some of this stuff in a boy's room, or even a girl's room; she's probably predestined to be just as much a Twins fan as a boy would be, anyway. My goal for this April, when we will go to the final 2 games of the first series of the year at Camden Yards, is to get Justin Morneau to sign a Metrodome banner that I purchased from the Twins Pro Shop a couple years ago. I'm sure you can picture these -- they hung either outside the Dome on flag poles, or inside the concourses at the Dome. It's about 6 feet tall, has a full-body likeness of him swinging a bat on one side, and the Twins and Star Tribune logos on the other. I've been toting this thing every year to Camden Yards, but he has yet to play when I'm there. Maybe this year will be different.

I would never personally sell any autograph. I even have a Jose Mijares autographed regulation MLB baseball. Sadly, the ball might be worth more without Mijares' autograph. But it -- like my other autographed items -- is tied to a good memory, namely, a hot summer afternoon in Baltimore, when at least a dozen or so Twins players were nice enough to step out of the clubhouse into the 110 degree Inner Harbor heat and mingle with Twins fans for a few minutes, even though the weather was so awful that batting practice had been cancelled. Every little piece of memorabilia I own has a nice story behind it. The Twins may not win 95 games this year, but they are very, very good in the community.

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