Thursday, April 15, 2004

My Twins Background

Wow, what a start to already appear in Seth's blog (which I highly recommend to everyone)! The best place to start with something like this is to know who's doing the writing. My name is John Betzler and I'm a freshman at Mankato State this year. Ryan and I have been friends since third grade and the majority of that time we have been in love with the Twins. Ryan's actually become a legend back in Northfield for his knowledge and passion of the game. He was a high school catcher so he knows what he's talking about. He's also blessed to be an amazing writer. That said, I add a little different view of the game then he does. That's what makes this blog unique and hopefully interesting.

Sadly, I discovered the Twins just after the World Series years. I was introduced to the game back in 1993 and I was instantly hooked. I remember staying up late to watch Griffey Jr. break the consecutive games with a homerun record against our Twins. The first game I attended was against the Indians, the infamous 22-inning affair. The night before I stayed up late praying that the game would go 18 innings so I could get to watch more baseball. The game remained tied through the 22nd inning when Pedro Munoz (my name at the DTFC) came up and hit a shot to end the game. It was 1:30 in the morning and definitely my most memorial Twins moment. The strike in 1994 broke my heart. I was burned a couple more times in the mid-nineties by the Scott Klingenbecks and Stohoviak's of the world. When Kirby retired, I prayed that it was all one big joke. I got my first big taste of a playoff run that year (1996) when we printed playoff tickets but really were never that close. This whole time I can remember playing Strat-O-Matic on the bus with Ryan and talking about how good it would be when Todd Walker got to the bigs. We couldn't figure out what was wrong LaTroy and we thought this Brad Radke kid could be pretty good. We got to watch Eddie Murray get his 3,000th hit here and Molitor get his at Kaufman stadium. These were the moments a Twins fan lived for, as the team wasn't very good (obviously). Unlike Ryan, I never lost hope but I did come to accept that I would never get a winning team. When the Vikings blew it in 1998 I became a true one sport man.

The Twins have been the center of my life. I have spent countless hours beside my grandfather learning the game. It has allowed me to connect to him in ways I otherwise never could have. At the turn of the millennium there were so few fans out there it was getting bleak; people even seemed to be turning against T.K. Even the best of fans were growing tired of the losing, but not I. I'm not sure if I sensed something special or if it didn't matter to me. I supported T.K., one of the best managers of all-time and the young kids he was teaching to play the game. TwinsFest that year was empty and Ryan and I got just about everyone's autograph. We even spent a significant part of our day off at Channel 9's booth where a crowd of about 10 people gathered to listen to a couple of Unknown ballplayers Joe Mays and Torii Hunter. These guys were funny and you could easily tell that they loved to play the game. Both guys still had a long ways to go to stardom, however. In 2001 it all seemed to come together and for the first time there was winning baseball team to watch. These Twins played the game right and they rallied around being the underdog.

Watching winning baseball changed everything for me. Suddenly it mattered who won! No matter how hard I tried not to I got excited. It broke my heart to see them get swept by Tampa Bay (August '01) and then have their playoff backs broken by yet another LaTroy meltdown against Cleveland. Still, now there was hope. I spent the whole winter praying contraction was a myth and I could feel the excitement building when they were allowed to live. That year we made it back to the playoffs and suddenly it was cool to be a Twins fan. Its amazing to go to games and feel the energy, something that never used to be there. Our lovable Twins gave us a playoff victory to savor against Oakland before coming up just short to the champs. Last year they built on their legacy and continued to set themselves apart in my mind. Aside from Tony Fiore, I felt like everyone of them was my guy. What's great about the Twins is that every player has a unique history to everyone of us that has grown up watching their careers.

That's my Twins experience of the last 11 years. Its late and there is so much more I could add but I think your just going to have to pick up on it through the columns that follow. Ryan and I share some unique experience but we have some very interesting perspectives on the team and the game. I think there is something special about anyone who can have fun just talking about the Twins for hours without another care in the world. That's who this site is for: the fans. We are not statheads, though some may appear here, we probably wont have much insider information, and some us can't even see the games right now (!) but we are all about the intrigue and discussing what happened, what's happening and what's going to happen. Honestly, I think you'll enjoy this site if for no other reason then that you love the Twins and this is one more place to read about them.

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