The Twins 2006 season will be remembered by those inside and outside the organization for being a year of inspirational surprises. The team comeback of playing under .500 baseball, being 12.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers, rallying to make the playoffs and then becoming Central Division champions on the last day of the season will assure this club a prominent place in Twins history.
The individual performances of major league batting champion Joe Mauer, rookie sensation Francisco Liriano, Cy Young candidate Johan Santana, extraordinary reliever Joe Nathan, run producer Justin Morneau and master manager Ron Gardenhire and his staff will be deserving of awards and recognition.
But there’s another reason the players and those close to them will fondly remember 2006. They will recall, too, how much they enjoyed each other’s company.
“These are the kind of guys you would be friends with if you didn’t play baseball,” Morneau said. “There’s a lot of good people. Terry Ryan (general manager) has done a great job of bringing in the right guys. It’s a good mix in here. Everybody has fun. Nobody is off limits. Anybody can get on anybody else and nobody takes it personally and that’s what makes it so fun. Guys take it with a smile and know you are part of the team. If the guys are getting on you it’s because they are expecting something out of you or because they think highly (of you).”
Brandon Owens was ranked the nation’s No. 18 safety prospect by rivals.com coming out of high school in Florida in 2003. By last season he had emerged as a standout strong safety for the Gophers and almost certain NFL draft choice. Then he had a violent collision with Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson, injured his shoulder and suffered nerve damage.
Last week’s Minnesota-Penn State game here brought back attention to the accident that ended Owens’ football career. Gopher coach Glen Mason said one of the two players had to suffer an injury because of the intense impact that occurred. For awhile last season Penn State showed the collision on its video screen at Beaver Stadium but then Mason called Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno to tell him how serious the injury to Owens was and asked that the video not be aired.
Owens, a junior last season, had an eight hour surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Mason said the severity of the injury was likened to a “NASCAR injury because the nerves were pulled off the vertebrae and so his football career is done.”
Mason also said Owens is still in school and “he is trying to work with us as a student assistant.”
Vikings coach Brad Childress talking about negative fans at Sunday’s home game against the Lions: “They pay a lot of money to sit in those seats. They can do whatever they like to do. You live with it. It’s not an energy sapper or anything like that.”
The Vikings have named their new press facility the Sid Hartman Media Room in recognition of the 86-year-old newspaper and radio legend.
The Timberwolves have 120 corporate partners, the most of any team in town. Partners are attracted to the NBA fan profile of people 25 to 45 years old with household incomes of $100,000 a year or more.
Alfonso Fernandez will do Spanish play-by-play for 12 Timberwolves games on KBGY, 107.5 FM. He has also broadcast games in Los Angeles in the 1980s and 1990s including for the Lakers and Clippers.
There are no plans for a pro tennis exhibition this fall at Xcel Energy Center, according to general manager Jack Larson. During the last several years Xcel has hosted exhibitions that included Anna Kournikova, John McEnroe and Andy Roddick.
Coach Glen Mason said the Gophers have verbal commitments (14) from every senior high school player in the state except one (Broderick Binns of Cretin-Derham Hall) who Mason and his staff have pursued. This is the first year the Gophers have been able to tell recruits they will play in an on-campus stadium and the facility is making a difference in recruiting, Mason said.
Ted Robinson, former Twins play-by-play voice, was the ESPN Radio play-by-play announcer on the two Twins-A’s playoff games from the Metrodome.