Monday, April 16, 2007

Jason Tyner: Starting the next fan movement

Twins fans are known for supporting their beloved players even when they are on the DL; even when they are in a nasty slump; even when they make errors; even when they are Sidney Ponson. I’m not one for making predictions or driving a bandwagon, but if there’s a player whose cause is worthy of support and encouragement, I can find none better than Jason Tyner and his bid to achieve his first major league homerun.

On the field, Tyner looks like a rookie anticipating such a defining moment with wide-eyed childish amazement. Maybe that’s because the 6’ 1” native Texan looks like a 12-year-old 30-year-old. But Tyner’s been around, and he’s been pregnant with this homerun for nearly 10 years. The small but important, way over-due homer is poised to burst from his bat and soul and cause his daughter to ask, “Mommy, where do homeruns come from?”

Tyner made his major league debut with the Mets in June of 2000. Less than a year later he was an outfielder with the Devil Rays, collecting a career best 31 stolen bases. After nearly three years with the Rays, waivers, free agency and fateful winds of change brought him to the Rangers, Braves and Indians, where little kid-man Tyner was terrified of C.C. Sabathia mistaking his slim arm for a chicken wing and dousing it with barbeque sauce after a game. (Not wanting to give another giant pitcher any more ideas, Tyner currently does his best to avoid all condiments that Sidney Ponson has a palette for.)

So the Twins, displaying their unwavering faith in the little guys as per usual, signed Tyner in late 2004 to increase their outfield depth after the imminent departure of Jacque Jones. In 2004, Tyner did hit his first “professional” homerun in triple-A, which came after 2,632 homer-less at bats throughout high school, college and six years of floating in between the minor and major leagues. But what’s a homerun if it’s not knocked out of a major league ball park?

This April 23, Jason Tyner will turn 30-years-old and will have spent nearly 10 years as a professional baseball player. His homer-less streak is now at 1,068 at bats, the most of any active player.

Now the Twins can use a homerun whenever and however they can get it. Last Saturday, Tyner was inches away from contributing his first homer to the offensive harassment the Twins laid on his former team in a 12-5 win. It was so close even Sports Center made note of it and did a zoom-in, slow motion shot of the ball hitting that pesky baggie of ours.

The Twins kidded with him back in the dugout and clubhouse. Fellow piranha Nick Punto even gave him a heartfelt wedgie, which was promptly followed by a Bartlett nuggie. And crass Mike Redmond playfully stole Tyner’s snack money he was saving for the florescent orange crackers-and-cheese sandwich pack from the vending machine.

Twins fans get behind players struggling to officially achieve what they deserve. In recent years, we have seen the Liberate Santana (from the bullpen) movement, which has since evolved into the Free Matt Garza (from the minors) movement. The 2004 election brought about the exciting Nathan/Santana presidential ticket. Last year, fans displayed T-shirts and signs reading “Morneau for MVP,” “Mauer for Mayor” and “Santana for King of the Universe.” And retired pitcher Bert Blyleven has a continually growing support base for his Hall of Fame bid.

By June, if Tyner hasn’t gone yard, and history shows he probably won’t, I want a movement to roll through Twins Territory that’s fierce enough to get every fan on their feet when Tyner is at the plate. If we can celebrate an over-paid, over-hyped, medicated, chunky behemoth breaking the homerun record, we can surely be excited for a cheaper, fresher, much slimmer and lesser-known kid-man to hit his first homerun. I'll be spending my Sunday afternoon crafting my “1 is more impressive than 756” or “Piranhas can hit homeruns, too” sign for the next home stand.

Jason Tyner Notables:

  • Holds the Texas A&M school record for stolen bases AND hits
  • Named Texas High School Athlete of the Year
  • Member of the 1997 United States National Team
  • Hit a single in his first major league at bat off of then-Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina
  • Helps run Southeast Texas Baseball Academy, which provides baseball programs for kids

Jason Tyner Fun Fact:
His middle name is Renyt – Tyner spelled backwards. A palindrome. What's that about?

1 comment:

Uncontrollable Id said...

If you make me a "1 > 756" T-shirt, I'll happily make you a 'Nathan Saves' shirt. Or maybe 'Team colors only,' a statement against things like green and pink Twinswear. I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out a pithy statment for that...