Minnesota Twins past and present came together at the Lodge at Brainerd Lakes on Wednesday as the Twins Winter Caravan stopped in the lakes area.
All-time great Tony Oliva joined outfielders Rene Tosoni and Ben Revere along with FSN announcer Dick Bremer.
Bremer talked about the chance to work with Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven. He joked that Blyleven told him every day while Bremer was shining Blyleven’s shoes that Bert didn’t want to be treated any differently now that he was a hall of famer.
Oliva talked about his experience coming to the United States from Cuba in the early 1960s. Oliva, a 3-time batting champion and rookie of the year, has been with the Twins’ organization for 52 years, and has been on the winter caravan for more than 45.
Most of the time questions were for two members of the 2011 rookie class. Revere and Tosoni each started the season in the minors, before being called up because of injuries on the big league roster.
Although the 2011 season was miserable for most Twins fans, Tosoni and Revere have fond memories of their first year.
“Last year was an amazing one for me,” Tosoni said. “In 2010, I had shoulder surgery so going into spring training last year, I thought for sure that I would be going to Class AA again. I had a good spring and made the AAA squad.
“You prepare for that call every day, but when you get it you are still nervous. You wonder if you are going to be able to compete at this level, but once you get on the field it’s a rush and the greatest feeling in the world. Last year was a tough year for the team, but for me as a first-year player it was exciting from beginning to the end.”
Tosoni played in 60 games with 172 at bats. He finished the season with a .203 average with five home runs and 22 RBIs. One of his bigger hits was a grand slam that keyed a 7-3 win over Kansas City in the second-to-last game of the season.
Tosoni has also been working out with first baseman Justin Morneau, and gave the crowd a positive report on Morneau’s offseason workouts.
“He’s looking great,” he said. “Justin took me under his wing a couple of years ago, and I’ve had the chance to work out with him the last two years. He’s gone through some things that no player wants to go through. He’s hitting and throwing great and can’t wait to get back on the field.”
Revere gave Twins fans a number of thrills, mostly with great defense. He capped off his year by winning a Greatness in Baseball Yearly Award for his outstanding catch against Baltimore’s Vladimir Guerrero on Aug. 22.
“There are some balls that I see hit to center field and I think they’re going to be long gone,” said Revere. “When I was running back to the warning track when Guerrero hit the ball, I’m thinking the whole time, ‘How I am going to catch this?’ I just jumped and crashed into the fence and I looked at my glove and the whole crowd was going crazy. It was one of those plays that really shocked me.”
Revere played in 13 games in 2010 before playing in 117 games in 2011. He had 450 at bats and 120 hits with 34 stolen bases while batting .267. If Denard Span returns healthy in 2012, the Twins will have speed in the outfield.
“I think my rookie season was pretty good, getting the chance to come up,” Revere said. “I thought that maybe I would get a call up in September, but in baseball you just never know.
“I got called up on my birthday. It was really special for both Renee and I that we got to play. We wanted to show the coaches that we could compete at this level so it was a good season in my eyes.”