SLEEPY EYE - It was cold outside but students sang "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" and "We're Gonna Win Twins" in the Sleepy Eye Elementary School gym Tuesday before the Minnesota Twins Caravan entourage arrived.
TC Bear got the crowd pumped with some cheerleading as the group entered the packed gym.
Television broadcaster Dick Bremer said one of the new things about the Twins in 2013 is opening the regular season at home on Monday, April 1, at 3:10 p.m. against the Detroit Tigers.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
TC Bear of the Minnesota Twins Winter Caravan gives Joann Schmidt, director of the Sleepy Eye Chamber of Commerce, a hug Tuesday in the Sleepy Eye Elementary School gym as students watch. Students showed their support for the Twins by donning apparel featuring the team’s logo.
"It's the first time they've opened at home since the (outdoor) days of Metropolitan Stadium," Bremer said. "It may not feel like it outside, but baseball is right around the corner."
Bremer introduced Twins shortstop and second baseman Brian Dozier, new hired bench coach Terry Steinbach, and Manager Ron Gardenhire.
Dozier said nowadays, major league baseball players can't stop working out during the off-season.
"During the season, we come to work at 7 a.m. for a pre-game meal," Dozier said. "I've played more at shortstop than second base, but I may play both this year. It's about being comfortable where you're at in baseball as in life."
Steinbach, a New Ulm native who played on the University of Minnesota team and later caught for the Oakland Athletics and the Twins, said the visit to Sleepy Eye reminded him of baseball games he played there in his younger days.
"We had great challenges here. Sleepy Eye had great baseball players when I played here, and they still do," Steinbach said. "After I stopped playing in the major leagues, I stayed home and helped raise my kids. Now they're in college; I get the opportunity to coach."
Steinbach played third base until he was asked to catch in the minor leagues.
"I had great teachers and coaches that helped me succeed," Steinbach said. He asked teachers in the crowd to stand and students to applaud them, which they did.
"If Ron Gardenhire gets thrown out of a game, he gives me the (lineup) card," Steinbach said.
Steinbach predicted the Twins will win many more games in 2013 than they did last year if the team's pitchers and catchers do well.
Gardenhire thanked students and others at the event for supporting the team.
"The Metrodome was good for many years. It was good to know you would be able to play a game, as long as the roof didn't cave in," Gardenhire said. "It's a little different at Target Field. It's fun to be outside, where I think baseball was meant to be played."
He talked about Twins catcher Joe Mauer.
"Joe's a great player and a nice guy on and off the field," Gardenhire said. "He's always talking to players. He's as real as he seems on TV. He's still one of the Big Leagues' best players."
A student asked Gardenhire how many times he's been thrown out of games.
Gardenhire didn't answer with a number.
"It's not fun, but I argue for my players and may be thrown out instead of them," Gardenhire said. "It's not fun hearing my wife talk about it. I don't like seeing my photo in the paper the next day with an angry face either."
Gardenhire played for the New York Mets in 1987 before becoming a manager.
Gardenhire said his favorite Twins season was in 2002.
"There was talk of major league contraction and maybe even losing the Twins team before the regular season "came to fruit."
Bremer asked Twins trivia questions while TC and Gardenhire handed out prizes including autographed baseballs, Twins ball caps and season calendars to students who correctly answered questions.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at email@example.com).