I was asked yesterday whether or not I went to the Twins Caravan to report on it or to, well, just go to it this year when it made it’s Fargo stop a couple weeks ago. I was unable to go this time, since I had a desk shift that night.
But I’m not sure I would have gone this year. The lineup wasn’t overly impressive, with the Twins sending backup catcher Drew Butera and pitcher Jeff Manship – who quite possibly might not make the team this year – as player representatives.
It’s a pretty far cry from 2004, when I covered the Twins Caravan for The Forum for the first time. Player representatives that year in Fargo were first baseman/designated hitter Matthew LeCroy and a young pitcher about to enter the team’s rotation named Johan Santana. Little did I know at the time that Santana would go on to win the AL Cy Young Award that season, then win anotherÂ one a couple years later.
But if you really want to go back, I remember the first time I ever went to a Twins Caravan stop. It was in January of 1988, just three months after the team won its first World Series. My family and I made the trek to the Thief River Falls Armory and were not disappointed, because the players that came all the way up to that small northwest Minnesota city were outfielders Kirby Puckett and Dan Gladden.
I was in first or second grade at the time, but I remember that day pretty well, getting to shake Kirby’s hand and get his autograph … it was quite a thrill. And that autographed 1987 Topps card of Puckett – you know the style of the card that year, the one with the wood grain borders – is a priceless piece of memorabilia as far as I’m concerned.
Plenty has changed since then. But there’s no doubt that you wouldn’t see those caliber of players making stops in TRF, or even a larger community like Fargo. With Santana, the F-M community got lucky because he exploded onto the scene that year. But I’m guessing a name like that wouldn’t have been put on the Fargo swing even one year later.
I’m sure it has something to do with agents or the players’ union or even the team itself not wanting to send its stars to the far reaches of Twins Territory. I understand it.
This isn’t mean to beÂ a rip against Butera or Manship. To play in the major leagues at all takes a lot of hard work and a lot of talent. But let’s face it: They’re not Puckett or Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau.
I just remember the impression that was left on me after getting the chance to meet a star like Puckett in the prime of his career. Honestly, considering how big of a baseball fan I am, seeing Puckett in person like that was a significant, somewhat life-altering moment for me, one of those childhood moments that made me a baseball fan for life. It’s unfortunate that kids nowadays around here won’t get a moment like that.