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Not too Late for Grant Bobblehead

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June 1, 2017

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A Thursday notes column leading off with—you never expected this—Bud Grant Bobblehead news, plus Gophers basketball, the Twins, and fishing.

Grant & Boom

Grant sold Bobbleheads at his annual garage sale last month but those who missed out can still obtain the plastic statue through Joe Florenzano and Triple Crown Sports Collectibles. The former Vikings coach is depicted to reflect his football career and passion for the outdoors. The figurine shows him wearing a Vikings cap and jacket, holding a duck, and accompanied by his hunting dog Boom. The Bobblehead is a first for the 90-year-old Minnesota sports legend, and probably the last.

Mail orders are being accepted while limited supplies last, with the cost $55 for an unsigned Bobblehead and $90 for a signed. More information is available at Vikingstwinsman@gmail.com.

Grant will sign autographs at Florenzano’s collectibles show from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 30 at Southtown Shopping Center. Fees are charged for autographs and photos.

Sportingnews.com has the Gophers No. 10 in its top 25 national basketball rankings for 2017-2018. The rankings, posted online yesterday, listed Michigan State No. 2, with the Spartans the only Big Ten team ahead of Minnesota. The Gophers were a surprise last season finishing 11-7 in Big Ten regular season games, and they are losing only one key player. Ryan Fagan wrote the “Gophers will push for the Big Ten championship.”

The other ranked Big Ten teams are No. 23 Purdue and No. 24 Northwestern. Arizona is No. 1.

There is some speculation that when the ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchups are announced the Gophers will host Duke at Williams Arena. The Blue Devils are ranked No. 3 by Sportingsnews.com, and the Gophers have never played them in the Challenge. Minnesota is 1-2 historically (all neutral court games) against the famed program, with the last game coming in a 2013 Duke win in the Bahamas.

The Gophers are “drowning” in Challenge games against Florida State, having played the Seminoles three times in the last five years.

Christine Clifford (photo credit: Ephraim Moore)

Christine Clifford, a Golden Valley resident, won a tarpon invitational tournament in the Florida Keys last month where 127 tarpon were caught. She hauled in a record 14 tarpon in the 33rd annual tourney, breaking the previous record of 11.

The Twins have lost four straight but with a surprise 26-23 record still have the best winning percentage in the AL Central. Minnesota lost 8-6 to the Rays on Sunday in a 15 inning game that took 6 hours and 26 minutes—longest in club history. The Twins blew a late inning 8-2 lead on Memorial Day, losing 16-8 to the Astros. In losses to the Astros Tuesday and yesterday, the Twins were defeated 7-2 and 17-6. For the three game series the Astros scored 40 runs, the Twins 16.

“Building character right now, along with building a winning attitude,” said Jim Rantz. The now retired Twins front office executive spoke to Sports Headliners yesterday morning before another loss at Target Field.

The Twins can now show the defeats aren’t demoralizing to a team that was 59-103 last season. A strong June led by revived pitching would help. The club hasn’t played better than .500 baseball in June since a 14-13 record in 2012. Last year the Twins were 10-17 during the month, on their way to the worst record in the majors.

The June schedule has the Twins on the road for two-thirds of the month but Minnesota is 14-5 in away games so far, 12-18 in Minneapolis. The Twins play the Angels in Anaheim tonight and won’t have to face Angels superstar outfielder Mike Trout who was in the early running to win the AL Triple Crown before tearing a ligament in his left thumb.

The Twins had the opportunity to select Trout in the 2009 first-year player draft but took Kyle Gibson with the No. 22 choice. The Angels found Trout still available drafting at No. 25. Gibson has been inconsistent with the Twins during his career, and this season has been disappointing so far. His record is 1-4 with a 7.75 ERA.

In the Astros series the Twins faced star shortstop Carlos Correa who Houston chose with the No. 1 selection in the 2012 draft. The Twins, picking next at No. 2, drafted center fielder Byron Buxton. “I think we were leaning toward Buxton all along,” said Rantz who was involved with that draft.

Buxton has been sensational in the field and a major contributor to the improved Twins defense that has played a key role in the club’s early contention for a division title. After a miserable start at the plate, Buxton is contacting the ball with some consistency and he hit .254 in May. His average now is .201.

Rantz thinks Buxton might be the fastest player in baseball and refers to him as a hitter who eventually may average .250 to .280 each season, with double digit totals in home runs. “He’s going to get his hits and some of them won’t be pretty, but that’s what speed does,” said Rantz.

Twins president Dave St. Peter told Sports Headliners he hasn’t been surprised how consistent the Twins outfield and infield defense has been. Minnesota has the second fewest errors among MLB teams, according to Espn.com. “Our outfield defense has been as good as any outfield defense in Major League Baseball,” St. Peter said. “All of the modern metrics demonstrate that.”

St. Peter said minor league performances by Buxton and fellow outfielders Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario indicated they would perform well in the majors. Early signs were also present with shortstop Jorge Polanco and third baseman Miguel Sano. “I think the other person that probably doesn’t get enough credit is Joe Mauer at first base,” St. Peter said. “Joe is having an incredible year defensively over there and certainly should be somebody who gets Gold Glove consideration.”

St. Peter talking about the club’s personnel: “We’re always open to discussions about how we make our team better. I don’t think there is a single player on our roster that is immune from those types of discussions. …”

ByungHo Park is playing again for Triple A Rochester. He had a hamstring injury earlier in the year and is hitting .228 in 92 at bats after an impressive spring with the Twins and almost making the big league roster. “But I certainly expect to see Byung in Minnesota at some point in 2017,” St. Peter said about the DH and first baseman.

The Twins sold about 1,500 of the new Spring Ballpark Pass, St. Peter said. The pass provided access inside Target Field but not a seat and cost $99 to watch Twins games in April and May. That type of product is something the Twins will consider in the future.

St. Peter said the club has sold more than 13,500 season tickets and could exceed 14,000 for 2017. The team’s season ticket total last year was about 14,000.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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