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Opinion

Twins stars remain humble despite success

April 26, 2007

I’ve officially been covering various sports since 2001. That’s nearly six years on the sidelines or in the press box. During those years, I’ve worked with high school athletes, college athletes, semi-professional athletes and now professional athletes, while writing for four different newspapers.

I had my first run-in with professional athletes April 13, and it was by far one of the most exciting opportunities I have ever had in my journalism career. That afternoon, following my classes, I traveled to Minneapolis and interviewed members of the Minnesota Twins prior to their game with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

When I got down on the field and began watching the players start batting practice I already had an idea of who I wanted to interview that day. I knew I wanted to talk to Joe Mauer, Johan Santana and Justin Morneau.

Once in the dugout, waiting for those I wanted to interview to come around, my game plan changed a little bit. I was sitting a few feet away from new Minnesota pitcher Sidney Ponson, so I talked to him first. We talked about how he felt fitting in and how he thought the early portion of the season was going.

“... fitting in, I didn’t have a problem. You know I knew some of these guys already, so it was only to meet a couple new guys,” Ponson said. “Spanish people get close to each other real quick, and I was close to Torii [Hunter] from playing against him so long. I think I fit in pretty good; the chemistry is outstanding here.”

After finishing my first interview, I returned to my place in the dugout, awaiting the trio I wanted to see to come onto the field. While waiting, I sat in the dugout and talked with Bert Blyleven. Blyleven, who may get into the Hall of Fame some day, had a lot of information about the Twins and gave me advice on what was going to happen once the entire team was on the field.

Hall of Famer Tony Oliva and I also exchanged “Holas,” while watching members of the team take batting practice.

The most impressive part of this entire experience was talking to these athletes and realizing how humble they really are. Prior to this experience, I was surprised about how baseball players never get into as much trouble as other athletes, but now after this I can see why.

Mauer was by far one of the most humble people I have ever met, let alone interviewed. I asked him a question of what it’s like being someone everyone looks up to for some reason or another, whether they love him or want to be like him.

He said he never really thought of it that way and said it was pretty crazy to think about. In fact, he even seemed surprised by the statement and laughed.
Mauer’s answers also reflected the modesty of the entire team, not just his own.

“My goal every year is to just help the team get back to the playoffs,” Mauer said. “You ask Torii Hunter, his main goal isn’t to get a Gold Glove; it’s to get back into the playoffs; the same with Santana and Morneau. It’s kind of the mentality we have here.”

Morneau was also extremely modest when talking about his accomplishments from last season. We discussed how he planned to prove last season wasn’t a fluke, his superstitions and what it was like beating greats like Derek Jeter for an MVP title.

“It’s not only Jeter, it’s Ortiz, Dye, even the guys on our own team,” Morneau said. “Just to be named in the top ten was an honor. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.”

Following last season, Twins fans and baseball fans alike became familiar with the Piranha nickname White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen gave Twins players like Jason Tyner, Jason Bartlett, Luis Castillo and Nick Punto.

Punto said he takes pride in the new nickname.

“It’s how I played my whole life you know,” Punto said. “I’ve always been one of the smaller guys on the field; I’m not really a home run threat. I have to steal and bunt to score in any way I can.”

While the experience had some twists and turns that were different than I expected, I wouldn’t change it. I had an opportunity to chat one-on-one with some of the best in the game. I laughed and joked with Mauer, sat in the dugout with Morneau and leaned on the batting cage next to a Hall of Famer while watching the Twins take batting practice.

Ever since I was four and had attended my first Twins game, I knew somehow, on a game day, that I would be allowed to step on the field. I didn’t know how, I just knew that I wanted to do it. And now, nearly 17 years later, my dream came true.

Sarah Packingham is a former member of the Student Voice staff.

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