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Playing with the players
By Gordy Jones
Earlier this month, Justin and Krista Morneau hosted their fourth annual casino night, benefitting research of childhood arthritis. I have found this to be one of the most enjoyable events of the year, and each year it seems to get better.
Krista is the “maestro” of the entire evening, and she has it down to a science. But she will be first to share the credit; she has many helpers who are very capable at their jobs. There has to be a few behind-the-scene obstacles in the preparation of an event of this magnitude, but if there are, you would never know it; the Morneaus make it look so easy and smooth.
The Morneaus looked fabulous as they took the stage in the opening ceremony; Justin in a stylish dark tux and Krista in a beautiful royal blue dress. Except for her glow, one would not guess she is expecting another baby next month. It was humorous as Justin gave thanks to all of their supporters, he acknowledged his wife first. He said he learned his lesson one other time when he forgot to thank her.
The casino games played only a minor role in the event, as they are played for fun with play money. However, they add a lot of fun to the party, because that is where fans attending the event can belly up to the card table and converse with Justin, Drew Butera, Nick Blackburn, P.J. Walters, Brian Duensing, Jamey Carroll, Ben Revere, Denard Span and other Twins in attendance – and their wives and girlfriends, too. There was a group of Justin’s NHL buddies there as well, lead by former Wild player Mark Parrish.
If you were at the event and you saw a slow-moving crowd of fans speckled by flash photography shooting off like fireworks in the sky on the Fourth of July, you probably knew that Joe Mauer and his lovely fiancée, Maddie Bisanz, were in the center of that crowd. They looked sharp together, and you could sense their happiness as they graciously greeted fans and posed for photos with them. Her parents were along, too. Her dad, St. Paul businessman John Bisanz, and his wife Virginia (Ginny). Since the Mauers and Bisanz’s are friends of mine, I spent most of the night wandering around the party with them.
Although Joe doesn’t like to be in the spotlight, he makes every person he talks to feel special. Joe looks them right in the eye, and he listens to every word that they say. He smiles as he responds to each of their comments, and you can tell the fans feel like they are his best friend, because for that moment, they are. Maddie is the same way. Many of the women she visited with walked away feeling like they had known her for years.
As we ate appetizers and mingled, I saw a young woman with a walker attempting to make her way through the crowd, but she was having a difficult time. I went to talk to her, and she immediately told me that her name was Amy, and that she had a brain injury, but went on to say that she felt much better every day. She told me how much she admires Joe, but with her walker she couldn’t squeeze through the crowd to get near enough to meet him. I told her that I’d help her through the crowd. Joe saw us coming and excused himself from a conversation with a friend. As we approached Joe, I introduced him to Amy. The two of them hit it off and had a wonderful talk. For the rest of the night, Amy was the happiest girl in the world.
But this is nothing new. Joe Mauer frequently makes time for others, especially those who have extra challenges in life. Last week he even had a pizza party with some kids who were ill in the hospital. He has an athletic gift, but he also has a gift in which he makes others feel special.
Many of the Minnesota Twins do things like this, but especially Justin and Joe. They do things unannounced and when you’re least expecting. Sometimes players want privacy when they do this, but it gives me great pleasure to occasionally write about such wonderful acts. I believe many things that would typically go unnoticed can be quite noteworthy.
Soon, the gaming tables closed, the silent auction closed and a live auction began. The party was nearly over. Ben Revere still wore his trademark ear-to-ear smile when the closing remarks were about to begin, and it was great to see friend and host Justin Morneau looking so happy and vibrant the entire evening. The night closed with thousands of dollars being raised for children’s arthritis. Everyone went home with a good feeling, knowing they had fun while helping to relieve the pain experienced by a child with arthritis.
Off the airwaves, on the golf course
I talked to my friend John Gordon the other day. The former voice of the Twins is happily retired in Fort Myers, spending time with his wife, Nancy, something he dearly missed doing when he worked with the Twins. “Everyone’s fine,” he said. “Nancy’s fine, I’m fine, but the Twins aren’t doing so well (chuckling). Nancy and I golf a lot. We went nine holes this morning, and we’ll do another nine tomorrow.”
I told John that I missed seeing him at spring training this year. “I’m retired!” he blurted out. I thought living a few miles from the park, he would have hung around a little, but I think he had to cut the cord. He probably liked his job so well, it would have been hard to just hang around. John went on to say, “I go to see the Miracle now and then, and I talk to (manager) Jakie Mauer. Jim Rantz was here, and I had the chance to visit with him. Now the Gulf Coast League starts, I’ll go see them, too.”
In my mind, just as the sound of Herb Carneal’s voice represented the Twins, Gordo’s voice is synonymous with Twins baseball and summer in Minnesota. I love the radio descriptions of baseball, and after listening to John for 25 years, I really miss his “Touch ‘em all!” call. I never thought I’d say that, but now I look back to all of those great games, including playoffs and World Series, and he was making the calls. John even did a little on-air eulogy when my dad passed away. His replacement, Cory Provus, does a fine job, and in 25 years when he retires, I will probably say the same types of things about him.
John said he has been in Minnesota twice for events since retiring, but he wasn’t here long. Our conversation was drawing near the end when suddenly he said with excitement, “Oh! I’ll see you in September! Tom Kelly asked me to MC the event at Target Field when they retire his number. I told him I’d do it.” We talked a few more moments, and then he said in a positive tone, like when a Twin would get a hit, “September! See you then!” See ya, Gordo, and touch ‘em all.
A Hunting We Will Go!
A few weeks back, I wrote about Twins shortstop Brian Dozier. If you recall, I told you Brian is from Mississippi, he’s a country type-of-guy, and lives and breathes hunting and fishing. I was talking to him again last week, and asked if he’s had a chance to make plans to try Minnesota hunting or fishing. He said no, explained how busy he’s been, even on days off. Then he did a double-take and asked, “There’s a lot of hunting in Minnesota? What kind?” I told him: “Duck, pheasant, deer…” At that he interrupted, smiled and said, “Deer? Whitetail?”
I told him I knew many hunters, and that in fall (thinking that even if he is sent down, he’d be back in fall when roster expands), I’d set him up. The first person I thought of was Joe Mauer’s dad, Jake. He lives for hunting. Every day in fall, whether it is bow season, muzzle-loading or other seasons I don’t even know about, Jake is out there nearly seven days a week, from October to January.
Later that day, I told Joe about Dozier’s love for the hunt, and immediately he said, “We’ve got to get him together with my dad!”
I will work on this. To be continued.