It will be a “who’s who” of players at TwinsFest this weekend but long travel distances will keep pitcher Francisco Liriano (Dominican Republic) and infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka (Japan) away. The three-day event at the Metrodome begins today and continues through Sunday.
The Twins will issue wristbands in various colors to fans seeking autographs from catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau. Fans with the “winning color” will be able to obtain autographs from the popular twosome. Patrick Klinger, Twins marketing vice president, said the system will eliminate the long autograph lines for the two stars seen at past TwinsFest events.
Klinger said although single game tickets for next season go on sale February 25, the April 9 home opener against Albert Pujlos and the Angels won’t be included. Season ticket holders will be able to purchase extra tickets for the home opener and have priority for that game. Some tickets for purchase by the general public will be available through a random drawing, Klinger said. Details will be available at TwinsFest and the team website.
Mauer, Morneau, pitcher Carl Pavano and broadcaster Bert Blyleven will make TV commercials today. Klinger didn’t disclose details but said the commercials will be “typical Twins humor, offbeat and fun.”
Twins pitcher Glen Perkins will be on the Pro-Alumni & Legends team playing the Gophers starting at 3 p.m. on Saturday, February 4 at the Metrodome. Third baseman Jack Hannahan from the Indians will also play in the game. Hall of Famer Paul Molitor will manage the alumni team.
Matt Birk recently told media outlets he’s undecided about retiring from the Ravens. The former Vikings center just finished his 14th season of pro football.
Birk is one of three finalists for the 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year award. The others are Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers and Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. The award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities and onfield excellence.
Rich Kallok, Birk’s coach at Cretin-Derham Hall, said the St. Paul native did volunteer work even when he was in high school. “All of our kids do community service of some sort,” Kallok said.
He said Birk played soccer as a ninth grader at St. Thomas Academy. Friends influenced Birk’s decision to transfer to Cretin-Derham Hall and Birk played defensive end and offensive tackle on the football team.
Progress on the football field has characterized Birk’s career in high school, at Harvard and in the NFL. “He’s improved a lot all the way through,” said Kallok. “He’s intelligent and a good athlete. There are no shortcuts with Matt.”
It was 20 years ago yesterday that Minneapolis hosted its only Super Bowl. Washington defeated Buffalo 37-24 in Super Bowl XXVI on January 26, 1992.
The Minnesota Football Coaches Association chose Mike Grant from Eden Prairie as Class 5A Coach of the Year. The other coach of the year winners are: Mike Rowe, ROCORI, Class 4A; Carl Lemke, St. Croix Lutheran, Class 3A; Brent Schroeder, Caledonia, Class 2A; Cory Larson, Dawson-Boyd, Class 1A; Andrew Fleischman, Edgerton/Ellsworth, Class 9M.
At the request of Sports Headliners, Mr. Basketball chair Ken Lien yesterday provided his rankings of the best prep boys teams in 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A. His top five in big school 4A are Eastview, Hopkins, Wayzata, Osseo and Lakeville North. Benilde-St. Margaret’s is No. 1 in 3A followed by Minneapolis Washburn, SpringLakePark, DeLaSalle and Blake. The top five in 2A are Perham, Braham, Redwood Valley, St. Peter and Watertown-Mayer. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa is No. 1 in 1A followed byBattle Lake, MACCRAY, Southwest Christian and Dawson-Boyd.
The 17-9-1 Gophers hockey team has lost seven of its games by one goal. Gophers sophomore Nick Bjugstad has 20 goals and 32 assists. He’s the first Minnesota player to have 20 or more goals and 30 or more assists since the 2008-09 season. The Gophers play at home against St. Cloud State (10-12-4) tonight and in St. Cloud tomorrow night.