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Joe Nathan is on the air

  

By Gordy Jones

 

That was Joe Nathan calling the Twins game on Fox Sports a couple of weeks ago. I was with him before his telecast, and I asked him if announcing baseball was something he had always wanted to do. He answered, “No. I never gave it much thought. But they came to me and asked me if I’d like to give it a shot, and I said ‘Why not?’”

Joe has been hanging around the team quite a bit even though he is out for the season while he rehabs from Tommy John elbow surgery. There is something to be said for that, because oftentimes a player on rehab will stay in his hometown, or at his home in Florida. Joe’s been around the ballpark, having fun, watching and rooting for his teammates, and it appears he’s itching to get back into the game.

I asked Joe if broadcasting might be something he’d like to do after baseball. “Nah…the travel is just as grueling as being a ballplayer,” replied Nathan, who is a happy family man. But then he looked over at his teammates, who were having some fun at the time, and said, “You know, I might consider it if they’d give me some kind of a deal where I could do it part-time.”

Fans say that he did a great job…I think you’ll see a repeat performance soon.

 

A Brave job, but someone has to do it!

When the Atlanta Braves recently visited Minneapolis, I went online to find some tidbits about them — because I’m an American League guy, and I don’t follow them regularly. Much to my chagrin, I noticed that there was a lot of talk about Braves hitting coach and veteran major-league player Terry Pendleton being the frontrunner for retiring manager Bobby Cox’s job. It appears that’s the feeling of many fans and writers in Georgia.

But I’m sure the people who are writing this stuff don’t know about Scotty Ullger’s experience, and the fact that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has made phone calls recommending him, and the weight that Gardy’s opinion carries in baseball. However, I remember the look in Ullger’s eyes as he mentioned to me that this would be a tough job to land, because a lot of good baseball people were interested in it. If he were not to get Cox’s job, that would put a damper on my theory that Ullger will leave, and that Jake Mauer will be promoted from his minor league assignment and eventually take over Gardy’s job (only when Gardy’s good and ready). It could still happen; Ullger will manage somewhere, someday, but maybe not as quickly as he would like.

 

He was only being Frank!

Frank Quilici is the only person who has been a Twins player, coach, manager and broadcaster. He was at a charity event with his friend and former teammate Harmon Killebrew not long ago when I asked him about this feat. He laughed and said, “Yeah — they didn’t know what to do with me, Gordy.”

Suddenly his facial expression turned serious. “But do you know what? It was a wonderful career. I was in the same organization for 22 years. Not too many guys will get that opportunity. Calvin (Griffith) and I got into it a few times. But still, all-in-all, he felt I was an asset to the ball club, so he kept me.

“I became Killebrew’s caddy, going into third base every once in a while. Then Carew was going into the service at the time, and when he did, I took over at second base.

“I love the Twins organization. I signed when we were the Washington Senators, and we became the Twins that winter while we were down playing winter ball. Nobody knew what to expect.”

He ended up in the minors for five years, then was promoted when Jerry Kindall and Bernie Allen were on the D.L. “Yeah, I got lucky and played in the World Series my first year in the majors.”

Today Frank sits on the board for the Killebrew Foundation, he’s president of a company called Commerce Solutions, was on the Minneapolis Park Board for the last 10 years, is the inventor of a tennis racket-type item used to hit baseballs to fielders at practice, and attends nearly every charity fundraiser affiliated with the Twins, but he calls himself retired. At the age of 71, Frank looks fit — like he could still suit up today and play. With the shape that our infield is in, we might need him.

 

More than three million sold

The Twins have announced they have already sold more than 3 million tickets for 2010. This is the first time since 1988 they have sold so many. In 1988 the Twins were defending World Champions.

Available tickets are limited for the next couple of months, but the Twins encourage fans to continue checking back, even though it may show that a game is sold out. The single-game inventory does become available for various reasons, and you can also choose your games for late August and September while tickets are still available. Go to: www.twinsbaseball.com.

 

Check out Gordy’s book at http://www.baseballguy.org. Gordy can be reached at gejones1@aol.com.