The Minnesota Twins baseball season ended suddenly. After thrilling us all in Minnesota with by winning over 100 games, they didn't win a game in the playoffs.
The Minnesota Twins baseball seaon also ended slowly. Their three playoff games clocked in at 11 hours and 51 minutes total time.
Baseball is my favorite sport and I enjoy rooting for the Twins. But Major League Baseball really needs to do something to speed up the pace of the games. They've put in some changes to try to speed up the pace, but games just keep getting longer. My guess (and hope) is that we'll see pitch clocks soon. My pet peeve is whenever they bring in a relief pitcher in the middle of an inning even though he's warmed up in the bullpen, he still needs to spend time warming up when he comes into the game. But, I digress.
Even though they had a wonderful season it's disappointing for it to end that way. Some day we'll be able to look back and appreciate the joy this season brought. But until that time, there's always next year.
We’ve just set a record in Minnesota for the most snow in the month of February. So, of course, my mind wanders to thoughts of warm weather and baseball. Spring training has begun for the Twins; our real spring can’t be too far behind that.
Or can it? It’s also the time of year when false optimism reigns supreme. Every fan feels their team has a chance to have a great year. Since I became interested in baseball, I have been told every spring by Sid that the Twins have a good team with a shot at going all the way.
Baseball has always been my favorite sport. While it’s a team sport, it’s also a one on one person vs. person confrontation between the pitcher and the batter. It’s the only major sport where points are scored by a person. Instead of a ball or puck crossing a line or going into a net, in baseball a run scores from a person touching home plate.
There’s also more of a sense of the history of the game. I have the feeling that while some NBA fans would recognize who George Mikan was, they wouldn’t be able to tell you much about any of his feats on the court. While a large share of baseball fans would be able to tell you the story of an obscure player named Fred Merkle.
But for now, I’ll just say I enjoy being able to look outside and see mountains of snow at the end of my driveway and dream about baseball and summer.
On Friday we watched a game in Bowling Green and on Saturday we were on our way to Peoria for a game that evening between the Peoria Chiefs and the Beloit Snappers. Our GPS led us on an interesting route. There were a few times where we were questioning it. But there was a car ahead of us doing the exact things we were doing, including slowing down at some of the more obscure turns.
We stopped for gas at one point and Gunnar went to use the ATM. There was a person there using it, so Gunnar left and then came back. When he went to use the machine there was twenty-dollar bill in it. Gunnar took it and found the person who had been there before him. He returned the bill to its rightful owner.
We arrived in Peoria in the afternoon and the temperatures were in the mid-nineties. Our hotel was located near the baseball stadium. We walked over the to the stadium and were surprised that we could see the whole field while standing at the fence and looking in. We kept walking and found a restaurant where we ate dinner. Then it was on to the taproom for Bearded Owl Brewing. I tried two beers. One was called Sister of the Moon Pale Ale. It was brewed from Illinois grown hops, Illinois grown grains and Illinois sourced yeast. We chuckled about the yeast’s tenuous Illinois connection. But in reality, as the yeast converts the sugars into alcohol it multiplies. So, most of the yeast had been created in Illinois. I liked this enough to buy a mini-growler of it later that night. The second beer was made with Idaho seven hops. I’ve brewed a pale ale with these hops before and like them. The beer was very light; it was too close to water for me.
We went back to the stadium. As we were standing in line waiting to buy tickets a man came up to us and asked if we needed tickets. When we said yes, he gave us his two tickets that he wasn’t going to be using. They were great seats, right behind home plate. Gunnar attributed getting free tickets to his good karma from returning the twenty-dollar bill he had found earlier in the day. Just to be difficult I attributed it to my wearing a red shirt as Peoria is a farm team of the Cardinals. Gunnar was nice enough not to point out that his karma could have caused me to pick that shirt.
The game was a loss for Peoria. I made a comment about seeing Clint Eastwood fielding at the end of the post about Bowling Green. We saw The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The good was that in the first five innings Peoria ended each inning with a double play. The Bad was that Peoria had more errors than hits in the game, 7 errors and 6 hits. The Ugly was the Peoria third baseman’s four errors including two in the ninth inning. As you would expect from hearing that Peoria lost the game.
After the game we wandered around and heard some music. Following the sound, we came to an outdoor concert at Kelleher’s Irish Pub. We had a beer and listened to the band. They were playing some older rock and roll songs. I am musically challenged, so the only songs I remember for sure were The Last Train to Clarksville and Wipeout. Gunnar could probably recite most of the playlist
The next day brought us to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for our final game on Sunday afternoon. The Cedar Rapids Kernels were playing the Kane County Cougars. Cedar Rapids is a Twins minor league farm team. The game was enjoyable; the Kernels won ten to four. At this point we were happy because the bottom of the ninth inning didn’t need to be played and we could leave sooner to get home that evening.
It was a good trip. We had fun watching baseball, trying out beer and traveling. I had dreamed of making this trip for quite a while; it was great to have it turn out so well. Of course, any trip where you don’t have to shoot your travelling partner is a good trip.
Our next leg of the tour took us from Tennessee to Bowling Green, Kentucky. The drive was short and because we didn’t spend the morning going through a baseball museum as we had the day before we arrived in the early afternoon.
This left us sitting in our hotel room after we checked in wondering, “what is there to do in Bowling Green?” Of course, the joke before we left was that we should look for the memorial for the school shooting. This being a reference to Kellyanne Conway’s defending Trump’s ban on Muslim travelers by talking about the Iraqi’s behind the “Bowling Green Massacre.” There was no such massacre. And, so there was no memorial for us to visit.
We found two things that might have been interesting. There was a cave and there was a Corvette museum. We decided to take a walk downtown and see what there was to do there. My Beer Guru app showed that there was a homebrew supply store and a taproom on the way. The store ended up being close to our hotel. I might have been interested in seeing the store, but I didn’t think Gunnar would be interested. The taproom was White Squirrel Brewery. We stopped in for a beer. I ordered a flight and was not impressed with any of the selections.
Reaching downtown we realized that there was nothing to do there. We decided to go to the Corvette museum. We took an uber out to the museum which is located near the plant where they build Corvettes. My AAA card got us a discount on admission to the museum. The museum ended up being interesting. It was fun to see the progression of Corvette styles through the years.
There were some special models there. One was the only 1983 Corvette in existence. There were some big design changes that year. When they didn’t get everything ready in time, they waited a year. There were 43 of the 1983 models produced for testing, and this is the only one left.
Another one we saw was the 1,000,000th Corvette produced. This one had been restored. It was heavily damaged while in the museum. In the early morning of February 12, 2014, a sinkhole opened up beneath part of the museum and eight Corvettes fell in. You can see the security camera video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smhOL8I4T_o. In the picture of me above, you can see yellow and red lines on the floor. The red line marks the section that fell in. The yellow line marks the extent of the cave that is below the museum.
After the museum, we went back downtown. We had time for dinner before the game and ate at restaurant named 643 near the stadium. I wasn’t thinking about the name too much, but during dinner I realized what it stood for. When people use a scorebook and keep track of the game the notation that is used for a shortstop to second baseman to first baseman double play is 6-4-3, those being the position numbers of the players.
We bought seats at the stadium in a cheaper section and ended up being in the front row on the aisle. down the left field line. The stadium was a big upgrade from our last stadium, which was to be expected with the change to a higher level of the minor leagues.
While we waited for the game to start a pretty blonde woman came down the aisle and stood next to us at the edge of the field. One of the players came over and they talked. As they talked a small boy came down the aisle and was standing next to me looking at the ball player. He had a ball and a pen in one hand. The player, understandably, didn’t notice him. The boy reached out a hand. He had one finger extended. Slowly, the hand approached the arm of the player until contact. Then it jumped back. The player looked down and saw the boy. He asked him if he wanted something and the boy asked for an autograph.
Suddenly, three or four more boys showed up. The player signed autographs for them all. I thought it was classy. I looked up the player in the program, his name was Simon Rosenblum-Larson and he was from Wisconsin.
The game was fun. The Bowling Green Hot Rods first batter doubled and scored for the game’s first run. They scored two more runs in the fifth. Their opponents the Lake County Captains hit a two-run home run in the sixth to keep the game close. In the ninth inning Bowling Green put in a new pitcher. It was the autographer, Simon Rosenblum-Larson. He closed the game out to get a save and Bowling Green won the game.
We walked back to the hotel from the game. On the way we passed the home brew supply store again. Now they had a canopy out front with a bunch of people sitting at tables and we could see a lot of people inside. Deciding that there must be some sort of event going on we decided to check it out. Walking in we realized that this was more than a store, it was also a tap room. There was a few hundred square feet of brewing supplies for sale. Maybe there’s a quirk in their tax laws or licensing that being a store and a taproom gives them an advantage. They were selling their own beers along with others. I bought one of their beers, an IPA, I think. It wasn’t bad, just not memorable.
That ended our day from there it was on to Peoria where we found good karma, good music and Clint Eastwood fielding.
We were just about to leave when Gunnar handed me his gun and told me I might need to use it on him. Gunnar was diagnosed with diabetes when he was a teenager. The gun was his glucose gun and I would need to shoot him with it if he were to go unconscious from a diabetic reaction. Fortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to use it during our trip.
With that out of the way we were off. We had planned that our first day would be our longest day of driving. And it was. We ended up arriving in Louisville around 8pm. After checking into our hotel, we walked to a restaurant taproom for dinner.
I have an app on my phone that shows me where there are taprooms, so Gunnar put me in charge of finding beer. My choice for Louisville was Bluegrass Brewing Company. I drank a Bourbon Barrel Stout and enjoyed it. I’ve had many bourbon barrel beers. Many are either overpowered by bourbon taste or the bourbon taste isn’t too noticeable. This beer had a good balance with the bourbon taste. It was there but didn’t overpower the beer. I was thinking of getting a growler, but the beer was on tap as a nitro, so it was not available for a growler. Which ended up being ok as their growlers were clear glass. (Clear glass allows UV rays into the beer which can cause a skunky flavor. That’s why most beer bottles are brown; they don’t allow UV light to get through to the beer.)
In the morning we were looking out our hotel window and saw the top of a baseball bat sticking above the top of a nearby building. That was the Louisville Slugger museum. The factory where they make Louisville Slugger bats is right in Louisville and they have a fun museum attached. There were bats from many great players on display. They also had bats from different players that you could hold. They made you were gloves to hold them and you can’t swing them. But, it was still cool.
After the museum we hit the road heading toward Elizabethton, Tennessee for our first baseball game. The unexpected part of the drive was that we ended up in Virginia for a short time. The drive was very scenic as our route took us through Daniel Boone National Forest and the Cumberland Gap ending near the Great Smokey Mountains. It was difficult to find the stadium in Elizabethton, partially because it looks like a high school stadium. But we found it in time for the game.
For the first time I took advantage of a senior discount. General admission tickets were $5 with a dollar off for ages 55 and up. Seating was a grandstand on the first base side. Unfortunately, the dugout takes up a large part of the grandstand and blocks the view from many of the seats. We sat a few rows up from the back of the dugout. The view was fantastic with the mountains in the background and the moon rising.
The game started well for Elizabethton. They were playing the Greenville Reds. Andrew Cabezas had a no hitter going into the fifth inning. Yunior Severino hit a home run in the third to give Elizabethton the lead 1-0. In the fifth inning the Greenville catcher Robert Boselli got a hit. He hit a fly down the line in right field and the right fielder dove for it to try to preserve the no-hitter. But he missed it and hurt his leg. By the time the center fielder got to the ball it was too late. Elizabethton was held hitless for the last five innings while Greenville came alive for six runs in the last two innings. Final score was 7-1 for the visitors.
We spoke with some people in the stands. They were in from Minnesota and had paid for a package where they were able to throw out the first pitch and meet some of the players. They also received a bobble head that was left over from a promotion. They gave it to me. So, now I have a bobble head of the commissioner of the Appalachian baseball league.
I also got a baseball. After a foul ball the first baseman, Chris Williams, tossed the ball to the dugout. He threw it to high and the ball went over the dugout into the stands. Or maybe he was throwing it to me, since I had on a Twins cap from 1987. Gunnar retrieved the ball and gave it to me.
After the game we drove back to our hotel in nearby Johnson City. But first we stopped at a tap room I had found, Yee-Haw Brewing is in an old railroad station in town. I had a flight of three beers. Velvet Charmer, a strong scotch ale; Big Hoppa, a double IPA; and Munich Dunkel. I really enjoyed both Velvet Charmer and Big Hoppa. Although they were both pretty heavy. Sipping beers, not for chugging.
Moving on the next day was to bring us to wrecked cars and a masquerading tap room.
Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.