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I miss darn near everything: Twins officials, broadcasters reflect, share memories as baseball waits

The Twins were scheduled to play their home opener against the Oakland A’s on Thursday at Target Field, marking the start of their 11th season at the baseball palace in downtown Minneapolis.

The game would have come following a seven-game trip to open the season and kicked off a home schedule filled with anticipation after the Twins won 101 games last season en route to their first AL Central title since 2010.

Instead, the coronavirus pandemic has put the Twins’ season — along with the rest of Major League Baseball and every other sport — on hold with no idea if we will see baseball again anytime soon.

Considering what’s going on in the world, the loss of sports isn’t that big of deal but that doesn’t mean the people who enjoy watching games don’t miss them. Below you will find the thoughts of various Twins officials, and former player turned analyst Roy Smalley, on what they miss most about the game they love, along with their most memorable Opening Days as big-league employees and an Opening Day memory from their childhood.

DEREK FALVEY, TWINS PRESIDENT OF BASEBALL OPERATIONS

What do you miss most about baseball?

The people. While we all love watching the game on the field, I miss walking into the ballpark and connecting with everyone along the way from the morning when I arrive right up and through departing after the game.

What is your favorite Opening Day memory in the big leagues?

March 31, 2008. I distinctly remember my first Opening Day working in professional baseball (for Cleveland) against the White Sox – Mark Buehrle vs. CC Sabathia, great pitcher’s duel, right? Well it ended up 10-8 (for Cleveland)! I had to look this part up, but Buehrle gave up seven runs in 1.2 innings pitched and Sabathia gave up five in 5.1 innings. Twenty-five hits between both clubs!

What is your favorite Opening Day memory from your childhood?

There’s not one specific Opening Day game memory. As a child, I never had the chance to attend an actual Opening Day in person at Fenway Park. My best memories are watching the first game of the year with my family, and notably my grandfather Jake. He was a die-hard baseball fan and we always bonded over baseball. Sitting in a living room watching the game with him, my mom, my dad and whatever other family member happened to be in the house that day was always the best.

THAD LEVINE, TWINS GENERAL MANAGER

What do you miss most about baseball?

While I miss darn near everything, I miss the unadulterated euphoria that we experience when a player or a team does something spectacular thus transforming us from fans to fanatics.

What is your favorite Opening Day memory in the big leagues?

I am going to go with a memorable first start to a season. Setting the scene. Yu Darvish toes the rubber for his first outing with the Rangers on April 9, 2012. During the offseason, we had convinced ownership to post an unprecedented amount of money for the right to negotiate with Darvish. We then doubled down and signed him to a robust contract. This was the biggest financial commitment of our careers. We were sitting in the suite giddy with anticipation. In the top of the first against the Mariners, Darvish gives up four runs on three walks and four hits and threw what felt like 50-plus pitches. We stayed strong through the inning, and Darvish gutted out 110 pitches and 5.2  innings in an 11-5 win.

What is your favorite Opening Day memory from your childhood?

Growing up in Virginia, I was a diehard Baltimore Orioles fan. While I do not have a strong memory of just one Opening Day, going to games with my father solidified my love for the game. During the three-hour round trip and close to three-hour game, my father educated me about baseball and strategically passed down his love of the game to me.

DUSTIN MORSE, TWINS SENIOR DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS

What do you miss most about baseball?

I miss how baseball connects generations, connects friends, connects athletes and brings people together. The competition, the work that goes into trying to beat your opponent.  The importance and meaning the game has to so many.  How everyone can have an opinion and how anyone can second guess – how the sports media can break down the smallest play and document the biggest feat.  I miss the sounds and smells at the ballparks, the smiles on the fans and the passion in the clubhouse. It’s the greatest game and I miss it deeply.

What is your favorite Opening Day memory in the big leagues?

April 1, 2002.  My first Opening Day.  I worked as in intern for the Chicago Cubs and they were playing a day game in Cincinnati.  I had a small working space inside Wrigley Field watching the game on an old tube TV. I was miles away from the action but just sitting in a ballpark, being employed by a Major League team made it so special. I remember looking around the old office space and realizing my dream had come true – it almost brought me to tears. I made it to the big leagues.

What is your favorite Opening Day memory from your childhood?

1987. I cried at the end of the 1986 World Series – partly how the games played out but mostly because baseball was over for the year. I remember saying that I wanted the Twins in the World Series next year so I could stay up late and miss school. I remember counting down the days until Opening Day in 1987.  The day came and even now I don’t remember all the details watching the game with my family on TV, but I remember a walk-off win and knowing it was going to be a special season.

TREVOR PLOUFFE, FORMER TWINS THIRD BASEMAN

What do you miss most about baseball?

My favorite thing every April is the teams who become overly optimistic because they come out hot. … It’s funny because people will be like, ‘Oh we missed that!’ People forget. It’s like a recency bias thing. You see these teams playing well but you forget it’s a long season, and there’s peaks and valleys as everyone knows. And it’s funny to see those teams hit those peaks early. And you kind of know that they’re going to come down but you don’t want to tell them, you jut want them to keep feeling good. … I love to hear the optimism. I like watching good teams get in slumps early on, too, because I like to see them claw their way out of it. … I kind of like that. I like the start of the baseball season and how everyone freaks out about it.

What is your favorite Opening Day memory in the big leagues?

Oh man. You ask any baseball player this and they’re just going to tell you how special opening day is. Doesn’t matter how long you play. I think my favorite Opening Day was 2012. I didn’t really start Opening Day, but it was my first time breaking camp with the team, and that was special in its own right. But I got to start the home opener. And it’s just something different about lining up, getting your name announced. Everyone’s so optimistic. [laughs] We didn’t play too well that year but at the beginning we were — everyone’s right in the thick of things. I’ll never forget that. With all the ceremonies going on, I think the best thing as a baseball player is getting your name introduced and then running out on the field for the first time. It was the first time I’d broken with the team so it had a little extra significance for me.

CORY PROVUS, TWINS RADIO PLAY-BY-PLAY BROADCASTER

What do you miss most about baseball?

Well, selfishly, 2020 was a year the Twins were built to win. The front office put together, at least on paper, the best Twins team in years. Not seeing this team compete on a daily basis is sad.

What is your favorite Opening Day memory in the big leagues?

I’ve had the pleasure of calling games for three MLB teams (Cubs, Brewers and Twins). My first game with each team will always be special. Oddly enough, until 2017, I had never broadcasted an Opening Day win. Cubs lost their opener in 2007 & ’08. Brewers lost all three from 2009-11. Meanwhile, the Twins finally snapped a long streak of Opening Day losses in ’17. So until ’17, my 0-10 Opening Day record was something I didn’t publicize fearing my employer would rather have me sit out Opening Day.

What is your favorite Opening Day memory from your childhood?

Tuffy Rhodes, Opening Day 1994. As you know, I was born and raised a diehard Cubs fan. Rhodes finished his MLB career with 13 home runs, but three alone were hit on Opening Day in 1994. Of all people, Tuffy, took Doc Gooden deep three times in one game. Now, in typical Cubs fashion they still lost the game. But watching that game on WGN will stay with me forever.

DAVE ST. PETER, TWINS PRESIDENT

What do you miss most about baseball?

I miss the people we interact with on a daily basis. From the players to the usher working in Section 114, there is a community of individuals that make Target Field run. I truly miss engaging with those people and seeing the ballpark come to life before my eyes.

What is your favorite Opening Day memory in the big leagues?

April 12, 2010. Everything about Target Field’s inaugural game was perfect: Gorgeous weather; a giddy sell-out crowd; a Twins victory. Understanding the Twins organization first uttered the words “new ballpark” in 1995, seeing Target Field’s first Opening Day was magical and rewarding beyond belief.

What is your favorite Opening Day memory from your childhood?

Growing up in Bismarck, N.D., I didn’t have the opportunity to attend an MLB opener until going to work for the Twins in 1990. As a kid, I do have vivid memories of going to bed and listening to the the Twins on the radio — especially when they opened the season on the West Coast.

ROY SMALLEY, FORMER TWINS SHORTSTOP AND FOX SPORTS NORTH ANALYST

What do you miss most about baseball?

Can I just say everything? I miss watching it, it’s in my blood. I want to watch big-league players doing big-league things. I miss that and I miss the daily routine. The fact that there’s a game on virtually every night or day and I can watch it if I’m available to do that. I miss all that stuff. … Maybe this is the most important thing. This is what is the worst part of it for me: I miss the fact that this Twins lineup is not going to hit for all 162 games. It may turn out that in a shortened season, if we get one, all the guys will get hot and they’ll be just incredible and it would be a lot of fun. But baseball is such an averages game and guys go through ups-and-downs and in 162 games it all kind of comes out the way you would expect. Especially with these guys, they’ve gotten old enough now, the young guys, and then you’ve got (Nelson) Cruz and (Josh) Donaldson and those guys that you know what the range is going to be for them. You know low to high what to expect and one through nine or one through 12, you kind of know what to expect from all these guys now. In 162 games, you’re going to get the good sample and we may not get that.

What is your favorite Opening Day memory in the big leagues?

April 9, 1977. I think it probably would have been 1977 because that was my first Opening Day with the Twins. I came up with the Texas Rangers in ’75 on June 1 and then in ’76 I was with the Texas Rangers playing second base. Opening Day’s are always fun but I just felt like I was a fish out of water, a guy out of position over there. I got traded to Minnesota and so to be introduced and run out to shortstop for the Twins kind of felt like my first real big-league opener. I’ll give an honorable mention also in ’82, got traded five games into the season or something to the Yankees. I was told on Saturday and got in there on Sunday in time to go right to the ballpark and get introduced. Going out there to the first base side, even though we didn’t play, we got snowed out. Going out to the first base line out of the Yankee dugout for the first time on Opening Day was pretty good.

What is your favorite Opening Day memory from your childhood?

I grew up in L.A. so I was a fan of whoever my uncle, Gene Mauch,  was managing, which was the Phillies and Expos, and then the Dodgers. I was a Dodgers fan. So, for me, what I remember is the excitement I had every Opening Day as a kid getting a chance to either watch it on TV, which was probably not going to be the case because I was probably going to be in school, but just the anticipation of the Dodgers playing and I could listen to Vin Scully. It was a thrill that baseball had started again.





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