My grandma passed away Tuesday night at the ripe age of 97.
She was as Minnesotan as they come, growing up in the farm towns of Ghent and Marshall before moving to the Twin Cities. Grandma was my umbilical cord to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, as I was born and raised in baseball-less Indiana. Were it not for her, my love affair with the Twins may have never fully bloomed.
I could always count on her to join me for my yearly pilgrimages to the Metrodome. And in my absence, she collected and saved anything and everything Twins related, from newspaper clippings and programs to Star Tribune promotional medallions. Whenever I dialed her up to say hello, one of the first things out of her mouth invariably had something to do with the Twins, no matter the season. Whenever birthdays rolled around, a long hand-written card was customary, always with a sentence or two devoted to the team. Inscriptions like “Radke looked tired the other night. Hope he’s not over-throwing” impressed my college roommates to the point that they referred to her as “Gammons Grandma.”
Her passing puts things in perspective about what’s important in life. It’s not about money or possessions. It’s about people: enjoying others company and treating everyone respectably and kind. The Minnesota ball club has operated on these same principles, more or less, for 20+ years, dating back to that historic World Series ride in 1987, when I first became hooked on a team that played with their hearts on their sleeves. Under the direction of two managers, TK and Gardy, and baseball’s best GM, Terry Ryan, the Twins have functioned more like a family nurturing its own than any other organization in the game. And the formula has proven successful.
As Ramon Ortiz discovered quickly, "It's unbelievable, this team here. I've never seen a team like Minnesota. Everyone is together and everyone is happy. There are no superstars here. Everybody is the same. They make me feel very good."
I think Grandma would have liked the Twins direction this year. In her heart of hearts, she would bless the decision to bring in two wayward pitchers, Sidney Ponson and Ortiz, in hopes of re-railing their careers. She would anticipate the coming of age stories of the club’s youth pitcher movement as Garza, Bonser, Perkins and Slowey stand poised to make an indelible impact.
She would understand the wisdom in exercising the option for Torii, no matter the price. The guy embodies the Minnesota spirit, much like Kirby. There aren’t many players with Hunter’s complete package: breathtaking defense, dangerous power, passionate leadership, infectious clubhouse zeal. You want these players rubbing off on the youngsters. Their value cannot be quantified.
Her infatuation with Joe Mauer reached epic proportions since the reigning batting champ walked the same Cretin hallways as two of her sons. And who doesn’t like sending a two-time Cy Young champ to the mound every 5th day and writing the reigning MVP into the lineup card on a daily basis. Yeah, Grandma would have liked what’s in store for this year. Now she can join #34, peering down from the clouds to enjoy the only team each of them knew.
I’ll miss you Grandma.
I’ll miss you Grandma.