Thursday, January 28, 2010

Twinsfest Prep Class promised, here are some extra tips for having a good Twinsfest.

First off, answering a few more nuts and bolts logistics questions that are popping up a lot in the Google searches:

Yes, most of the autographs cost money above and beyond your admission ticket. Unless prices have gone up this year, expect to pay $5 for Corner 1, $10 for Corner 2, $15 for Corners 3 and 4, And anywhere between $20 and $50 (for bats and jerseys) in the Legends/HOF Corners 5 and 6. Corner 7, aka "Down on the Farm" is free. The price is per autograph session, not per player. EDIT---NOTE: The prices have indeed gone up. Sounds like $5 more per corner. Prepare accordingly.

No, I do not know why they call them "Autograph Corners" when most of them are not, in fact, IN corners. Personally, I think we should call them "Autograph Nooks." It's cozier.

The photo area is free now $2. I will not complain because it's for charity. Except that I will complain silently in my head a little tiny bit and then feel guilty about it.

Gates F and H should be open, and Will Call tickets should be available at either gate. Doors open at 4pm on Friday and 9am Saturday and Sunday. Lines will form well in advance of the doors opening.

The lines for Mauer and Morneau will be long. LOOOOONNNNNNGGG, I tell you. And you can try to tell yourself that since it is so freaking cold out, no one will be in line very early. But you would be wrong. I have found that it's a good rule of thumb to just assume that in any given situation, there are at least a few hundred people who are crazier than you are. Plan accordingly.

The food options at Twinsfest are a scaled down version of what was available during games at the Metrodome. Dome dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, nachos, etc. (And beer!) Last year I ate the worst mini donuts in the universe, which were cooked in what looked like a toaster oven. They came out charred on the outside, frozen solid in the middle. And I got a weird rash from the Maui Waui smoothies. (I blame a previously undiagnosed allergy to "Waui.") So choose wisely.

There's no map of the layout online unless someone somewhere has scanned one from previous years in themselves. I looked to see if I still had one from last year, but I don't. But entering in through either gate will get you where you need to be. Corners Nooks 1, 2, and 7 are down on the field, while the rest are up along the main concourse. You get a map as soon as you get inside. If you're looking for Mauer right away on Friday or Saturday, just follow the giant wave of people frantically running in one particular direction. They won't steer you wrong.

And now...onto my own personal ideas of things people should know.

What to carry with you:

Cash--Some individual merchants at Twinsfest may have credit card machines, but a lot of stuff is cash-only, including the autograph lines.

Hand sanitizer--I cannot stress this enough. Every year Twinsfest breeds the flu bug like nobody's business. I also recommend slamming some Airborne before you go to keep your immune system in tip top condition, because it is going to be working overtime.

Whatever objects you'd like autographed.

Bottled water.

Asprin/Your headache reliever of choice--Maybe it's just me...but I find painkillers to be a godsend every year at Twinsfest.

Something to keep yourself occupied in the mind-numbingly long lines.

Your best manners.--Don't be a dick, please. Being polite and friendly to the players and your fellow 'Fest attendees makes everything go so much better. We're all in this together!

Things you DON'T need to carry with you:

Pens, Sharpies, whatever other writing implements you might usually need for autograph-seeking--The tables come fully stocked with pens and sharpies in different, blue, silver, and gold. No need to bring your own. Most players are pretty accommodating about signing with whatever pen or marker you want, but if you have a strong preference you need to speak up and ask, otherwise they will probably sign with whichever color they have in hand.

If you find yourself in an autograph line, and you don't know who one (or any) of the players actually are, ask the person standing in FRONT of you, if you must. Because if you ask the person behind you, they may be the tiniest bit resentful that you are making their wait longer. Especially if the person behind you is me. I only mention it because it happens to me every year. If you feel like you MUST ask the person waiting patiently behind you, and they answer you...I think you should then offer to let them go ahead of you. Just my opinion.

Sometimes you can get through the $5 and $10 lines (and sometimes the Legends/HOF lines too) faster if you wait until the tail end of the scheduled autograph time. Because at the end, most of the people in line are waiting for the next group of players, and you can frequently skip right to the front. Of course, that's a gamble, and I don't recommend trying it for lines that are outrageously long to begin with.

If you do not make it through an autograph line before the cut-off, you have the option of staying in line for the next player(s). So if you know ahead of time that you're going to be in a high-risk line (ie Mauer/Morneau), you might want to plan ahead and decide if you'd be willing to get the autograph of the player following them instead, and pack something for that player to sign too.

The photo line has volunteers snap a picture of you with your favorite players, using your own camera. So don't forget to bring the camera/batteries/SD card/etc. I actually sometimes pack an emergency backup camera. Which sounds ridiculous, except that it came in handy last year, when the battery popped out of my first-string camera and I lost it.

Don't miss the minor league displays. All of the teams in the Twins' farm system are represented, and you can find a lot of really cool merchandise you can't find anywhere else. This is a good place to look for items for the prospects to sign, as well as finding some unique items featuring current Twins in their younger days.

If you really are committed to getting a lot of autographs, it's good to plan out your schedule and prioritize ahead of time. There have been years where I'm not ashamed to admit to using an Excel spreadsheet color-coded for prioritizing.

Of course you should also be flexible enough to call an audible when you need to (sorry for mixing sports metaphors). If a certain line looks longer than you anticipated, or the dreaded flu strikes your favorite player, there are always a ton of entertaining things going on you can try. Last year, Joe Mauer filled in at the photo line last minute, and Carlos Gomez went salsa dancing in the Celebrate Diversity area. Something wacky can always happen, and you don't want to miss it because you were a slave to the schedule.

Have fun!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obligatory Thome Post

I would be remiss without at least mentioning Jim Thome.

For the record, I was neither disappointed nor excited about the news of his 1 year contract with the Twins.

I like the fact that his addition to the line-up only increases the odds that opposing middle-of-the-rotation right-handed pitchers will wake up in a cold sweat the night before they face us. I also like the symmetry of The Nicest Guy In Baseball playing for the nicest team in the American League. And I like that I don't have to feel guilty for hating the Nicest Guy In Baseball anymore.

As long as someone has to fill the quota for the Twins' obsessive-compulsive Annual Aging Veteran Free-Agent Signing, we could have done a lot worse than Jim Thome.

That said, I will postpone any plans for a celebratory parade honoring his arrival until he blasts one out of the park in a game against the White Sox.

I think that's fair.

Unfortunately, there is ONE teeny tiny problem with bringing Thome to Minnesota. When Those Girls are physically present at games, Thome never hits anything. I'm not exaggerating. I don't believe we have ever, EVER, witnessed Jim Thome get a hit when we have attended games together....and we've seen Thome plenty. We very much enjoyed calling him The Designated Misser on those occasions. We have long considered ourselves to be his own personal jinx. (And yes, don't think we didn't kick ourselves repeatedly for not making an emergency last minute trip to Chicago for Game 163 in '08.)

It's always been a good thing when he played against us. Now that he's playing for us, it's slightly worrisome.

Note to self: Will do some serious wikipedia research on jinx-reversal techniques before Spring Training.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Frequently Googled Questions: Twinsfest Edition

With Twinsfest just over a week away, there seems to be a big uptick in the number of folks turning to Google for answers to their burning questions about Twinsfest logistics. I suspect that there will be a lot more first-timers at this year's Fest. More new season ticket holders = More free Twinsfest ticket recipients. Maybe that explains the number of folks looking for information. And Google sends them here, I guess.

So I will do my best to come up with some not-completely-ridiculous answers for once.

Q: What does Twinsfest cost?
A: The cost of admission depends on when you buy your tickets, and how many days you plan to attend. Twinsfest is 3 days long. Each day requires a separate ticket, per person. If you get free tickets to the event as a season ticket holder, you're set. If not, tickets cost $8 for adults and $4 for kids 14 and under if you order them before next Thursday at 5pm. You can buy tickets at the Metrodome ticket windows the day of, but the price is a couple bucks higher.

Once you're inside Twinsfest, everything is kind of ala carte, cost-wise. It's entirely possible to have a perfectly fun experience without spending any extra money at all. The "Down on the Farm" autograph line doesn't cost anything, and always has top-notch prospects from the organization. You can also get your picture taken with players for free. There are great radio interviews conducted live that you can watch from the stands. There are tons of fun activities for kids to participate in too.

If you're more interested in autographs, you have to be prepared to pony up some cash. Assuming the prices haven't changed this year, autograph lines cost between $5 and $25 generally. Some of the Legends and HOF autograph opportunities may cost more depending on the type of item you want autographed--bats and jerseys cost more--and if you want your autograph authenticated on the spot.

Many of the autograph lines include multiple players at one time, and the fee covers all of them, (i.e. if there are 3 players in a $10 line, you pay $10 total, not $10 per player).

[And as long as I'm talking about the price of autographs, on several occasions I have overheard people grumbling about the players being greedy and charging for autographs. It should be made very, VERY clear that the money made at Twinsfest goes to the Twins Community Fund to help finance any number of wonderful charitable works. The players do not profit at all from the proceeds. In fact, as I understand it, attendance at Twinsfest is voluntary for the players, and aside from travel and lodging expenses, they don't receive any additional compensation for the time they spend at Twinsfest. This makes it all the more impressive that so many players attend year after year, and go out of their way to make it a great experience for fans. So be nice!]

And of course, there are many ballpark concession staples available for purchase as well. Although, you are able to bring your own food and beverages (with bottle caps even!) into the Dome as well. And there's a HUGE flea-market type sale on the field with more sports cards and collectibles than you can dream of. And if you've got even more money burning a hole in your pocket, there are live and silent auctions with tons of great stuff.

Whew! OK, that was a really long answer to an incredibly short question. Moving on.

Q: What is the Twinsfest player schedule?
A: It's not out quite yet. The official team Twitter account has been saying the schedule will be available the Wednesday or Thursday before. I've usually found that it comes out slightly earlier than that. I will probably start checking the site twice a day on Monday myself, just because I'm a little hyper about these things, in general. (Actually, if I'm being completely honest, I will probably start checking on Saturday....just in case.)

EDIT: Actually I lied again. I just checked and it's up RIGHT NOW! Woo hoo!

Until then, here's the list of scheduled attendees so far:
Rick Anderson, Scott Baker, Joe Benson, Nick Blackburn, David Bromberg, Alex Burnett, Jesse Crain, Michael Cuddyer, Robert Delaney, Brian Duensing, Ron Gardenhire, Toby Gardenhire, Kyle Gibson, Matt Guerrier, Carlos Gutierrez, J.J. Hardy, Brendan Harris, B.J. Hermsen, Aaron Hicks, Jason Kubel, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Manship, Joe Mauer, Jose Mijares, Jose Morales, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, Pat Neshek, Chris Parmelee, Carl Pavano, Glen Perkins, Trevor Plouffe, Nick Punto, Jon Rauch, Ben Revere, Anthony Slama, Kevin Slowey, Denard Span, Rick Stelmaszek, Anthony Swarzak, Matt Tolbert, Steve Tolleson, Scott Ullger, Danny Valencia, Joe Vavra, Jerry White and Delmon Young.

Former players scheduled to appear include Juan Berenguer, Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew, Dan Gladden, Dave Goltz, Kent Hrbek, Tom Kelly, Harmon Killebrew, Corey Koskie, Gene Larkin, Tim Laudner, Scott Leius, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, Tony Oliva, Greg Olson, Terry Steinbach, Dick Stigman and Kevin Tapani.

[Sidenote: Just look at how many guys have the initials "J.M." This fascinates me.]

Q: How early do I need to get to Twinsfest?
A: Once again, the correct answer is: "It depends." It depends mainly on what you're going to Twinsfest for. If your only goal is to get a Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau autograph, the answer is "As early as you can possibly stand it." If patterns hold true, they are likely to sign in the first or second block of autograph time on any given day. You should be in line outside the Metrodome well before the doors open and go immediately to their lines to even have a chance at getting an M&M autograph. Bring a bottle of water and something to read, because you will be camped out in line for hours.

If you take an approach more similar to Those Girls, you don't need to get there quite that early. One year, for a reason I no longer recall, we decided to a) get in line an hour and a half before the doors opened and b) not wear winter coats. We wound up leaving the line and sitting in my car in the HCMC parking ramp for an hour, defeating the whole purpose. We could have slept another hour, or had a leisurely (and WARM) cup of coffee at Starbucks instead and been much MUCH happier. After that experiment with poor decision making, we came to the conclusion that there is no one on the team (or really, in the universe) whose signature is worth waking up early and standing outside in January in Minnesota. We will roll up when the doors open and take our chances on other pursuits, thank you very much.

I think that covers the basic logistic questions. Here at Those Girls, we have continually worked on improving and perfecting the art of successfully navigating Twinsfest, and we kind of consider ourselves experts. If anyone out there is new to Twinsfest themselves, and has any other questions, feel free to ask. I am working on a short (or possibly long) list of helpful hints for getting the most out of Twinsfest to post next week. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 15, 2010

It's Friday!

I'm exhausted and burned out and have lost all track of my days. But I KNOW that today is Friday, because I tentatively, and hopefully, asked someone this morning "Is it Friday?"

I had a feeling it was Friday, but I didn't want to get my hopes up.

But it IS Friday! Yay! Tomorrow is going to be my first day not at work since the Monday after Christmas. I'm pretty excited about it.

Normally, I'd sleep in on such an occasion, but alas, I will be up early buying Baltimore Orioles spring training tickets. A few other Grapefruit League teams' tickets go on sale tomorrow (or today) also...including our Minnesota Twins, but I've been lucky enough to have access to some pre-sales. But no such luck with the Orioles. So, my first few hours of my first day off in a very long time are sure to be spent in front of the computer, stuck in the purgatory of the dreaded "Virtual Waiting Room." Gah. I HATE the virtual waiting room.

It's worth it though. Or at least that's what I will be telling myself over and over while I'm stuck in it.

I'm looking forward to a Florida agenda chock-full of baseball. And alligators. Those are my two favorite things, and my this is my raison d'etre at the moment.

But first I have to slog through midwest winter a while longer. Thankfully, we have almost gotten to the turning point...the days are getting a little longer, we've had double digit temperatures for like 5 days in a row, and it's time for the Winter Caravan on Monday.

Having Winter Caravan and Twinsfest right around the corner definitely makes me feel victorious. We have survived another long baseball-less winter. Go us!

So, if you live anywhere featured in the Northwest or South legs of the Caravan, make sure you get out and catch the show next week. Take advantage of the first taste of baseball in 2010. And ask some good questions for me!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Dream Team

Whenever Those Girls drive together to baseball games, the same few topics of conversation generally pop up...things like "how awesome we are," and "why has no one invented a teleportation device yet?!" And sometimes we play this weird game we like to call "Mango Island," which is something so ridiculous we would never even dream of trying to explain to anyone else.

We like routine.

One of the conversations that comes up most frequently is "What if we had our OWN baseball team..." In the event we ever both win the lottery multiple times and can afford a baseball team, we already have a lot of great ideas. Like having a section of the ballpark that is Wave/Beachball free. (You would also have to pass a rudimentary baseball knowledge test in order to gain admittance to that section.)

To get to the sort-of point of this rambling story, the other day I was reading about how 14 teams had requested pitcher Noah Lowry's health records. This news made me happy. I'm quite fond of Mr. Lowry and I have missed him during his time of extended brokenness. And then thought popped into my head that if I had my OWN baseball team, there would actually be 15 teams interested in Noah Lowry.

Which naturally led me to daydream about what other players might be on that imaginary team, really for no other reason than that I get bored easily and this seemed like more fun than being productive.

So, this is the 25-man roster I came up with. I heart it a LOT, and I wish it actually existed in this plane of reality. For the purposes of this whackadoodle daydream, this team is in the National League and has no DH. Sorry in advance to the pretend pitchers :)

1B--Garrett Jones
2B--Ian Kinsler
SS--Jason Bartlett
3B--Brian Buscher
LF--Jacoby Ellsbury
CF--Andrew McCutchen
RF--Michael Cuddyer
C--AJ Pierzynski

SP--Zack Greinke
SP--Scott Baker
SP--Nick Blackburn
SP--Kevin Slowey
SP--Noah Lowry

RP--Boof Bonser
RP--Matt Guerrier
RP--Boone Logan
RP--Craig Breslow
RP--Neftali Feliz
RP--CJ Wilson
RP--Joe Nathan

Nick Punto
Matt Tolbert
Trevor Plouffe
Carlos Gomez
Mike Redmond

I can't decide if I want to call the pretend team the Crocodiles or the Pronto Pups. But I do know that our pretend home uniforms would look an awful lot like the KC Royals' light blue uniforms...

....And that our pretend ballpark would have both waffle fries in mini-helmets and a giant "Mix Your Own Slushies" bar.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Adrian Beltre Is Just Not That Into You

Overtime at work has been kicking my butt the last few days, so I haven't had much time to think about baseball, much less blog about it. So I missed New Year's :(

I had plans for a grand sweeping bullet-pointed list about the past year, or the past decade or something. But that sounded exhausting, quite frankly. So I skipped it and took a nap.

I have kept up with Twitter feeds though. Not necessarily posting anything interesting on my own, but I've been reading everyone else's. (Including Pat Neshek, who is the newest member of the Twins twitter family. He appears to actually be tweeting for himself, unlike a certain twitchy closer we all know and love.)

But my point was that I noticed today that a lot of Twins fans on Twitter were shocked and upset that Adrian Beltre signed with the Boston Red Sox, instead of the Minnesota Twins.

To those folks, I'd like to ask you to sit down. Because we need to have a serious talk.

I'm not sure how many times we have to go through this before you really get it, so I'm going to be painfully blunt with you right now:

Adrian Beltre is just not that into you.

I think that there might be a lost chapter to the book in there somewhere....

Chapter 12: He's Just Not That Into You If He Added Your Team To His No-Trade Clause When He Heard You Might Be Interested In Him

Because if he really liked you, he wouldn't find legalistic loopholes to keep you the hell away from him.

I know that's hard to hear. Rejection never feels good. But it's better to just be honest with yourself and face the truth up-front.

Sure, you can delude yourself with theories about how that no trade clause was really just a bargaining chip for more cash, and he didn't actually have anything against the Minnesota Twins. Just like people convince themselves that restraining orders are really just a sign of love. But in reality, I've never seen any indication from Beltre or Boras that he has ever had even the slightest inkling of the slightest intention of ever donning a Twins uniform in this, or any other lifetime.

Face it. He is just not that into us.

And that's OK.

Do we really want a 3rd baseman who plays greedy money-grubbing mind-games like that, anyway?

No. We do not.

So, honestly, we're not that into him either. We just have a bad habit of only wanting things we can't have.

We deserve to have rewarding and healthy relationship with a 3rd baseman who treats us with love and respect. We need Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Now. And we should be patient enough to wait for him.

Personally, I am just glad he finally signed somewhere else, so the Twins can just stop calling him for good. We were really starting to look pathetic.