Dear Minnesota Twins

Dear Minnesota Twins,

Please win a game in the American League Division Series.

For the love of the father, the spirit, and the holy Prince, please just win at least one game in this series.

An ALCS win? A World Series, even? Bonuses. The cherry on top of a Helmet Sunday. But there’s no sense putting a cherry on when there’s no ice cream, and there’s no sense focusing on anything else if you haven’t won a single postseason game.

I’m not a desperate man. I’m used to Minnesota playoff let downs, used to the worst of Wide Lefts and Sparks and whatever the hell happens to the Wild every time they end up in the playoffs. But this team, this season, this sport — it’s different. Way different.

Let’s step back. The last Twins playoff win was in 2004, in an ALDS eventually lost 3–1 to the Yankees. If you want to include tiebreakers, technically that year goes to 2009, but that’s just an extension of the regular season, not a playoff. Thirteen Fifteen years from a playoff win proper.

Fifteen years ago, I was but a small, figurative amoeba that had no interest in sports. I was more of a nerd, interested only in staying inside and playing video games. It wasn’t until two years after that point that I cared that sports were around. Even though I played sports in that time, I didn’t care about them.

I wasn’t conscious or aware of the Twins in 2004. The only time I remember them from before then was when I was dragged to a game with my family — and promptly sat in the upper deck of the Metrodome playing Pokemon the whole night.

Through an odd series of events comprised of the X-Games, NASCAR, and a sixth grade field trip, I ended up falling in love with them in 2006. Needless to say, I hadn’t had so much as a taste of the postseason, let alone Twins postseason success. But that first season as a Twins fan, I was ready. Even without the history, I felt the excitement. I even stopped working on a group project to watch as the Twins clinched the division. I can remember the second game of the 2006 ALDS, against the Athletics; mostly, I remember watching it on the T.V. in my middle school’s cafeteria, the air stale with reheated pizza and spilled chocolate milk. I remember watching Justin Morneau absolutely clobber a ball over the right field bleachers, the inflatable Land-o-Lakes milk jug in foul territory, looming over everything.

It was a deceiving beginning. The Twins lost that series in three straight, and didn’t even make the postseason in 2007. Even so, my love didn’t waver. If anything, it got stronger as I learned more and more about baseball’s history, watching prior World Series victory tapes and plugging an astonishing amount of hours into .

2008 should have served as a wake-up call; it ended in a loss in a play-in game against Chicago, but I could still justify the optimism. The game should have been played in the Metrodome, not in Chicago, but was decided by a coin flip. There was an excuse, so I kept believing.

2009 was arguably worse. Winning a play-in game against Detroit, Carlos Gomez crossing the plate to score the walk-off run in the final regular season game at the Metrodome, a night that’s remembered so fondly in Minnesota that it’s probably the younger generations version of 1991. Sure, we got swept by the eventual World Series champions, but at least we got in, right?

2010 was personal. A mammoth season to open up Target Field, which quickly became my favorite place. The first game I went to was in early July against the Rays. I remember dragging my dad to go into the field as soon as the doors opened, jetting down the stairs to stand along the first base line, leaving my dad to carry the hot dogs and drinks himself. I was so close to the players warming up, so close to these idols, awkwardly waving at them and watching them, confused, wave back.

Justin Morneau, an MVP on track for a second MVP award, the same man I had watched from the cafeteria in my middle school hit a home run in the ALDS, came over. He signed autographs, made small talk — I was possibly the oldest person there, being in high school, while the average age of the other excited fans was probably around six. At one point, he asked the question to the group, which I still remember vividly.

“So, do you guys play baseball?” It was just chit chat, but me, being who I am, couldn’t resist the opportunity to tell a stupid joke.

“I would if I wasn’t a chick.”

And Justin Morneau laughed. I made an MLB MVP laugh. It is the highest point of my Twins supporting career to date.

(The joke was also foreshadowing. Funny how that works.)

Then Justin got kneed in the head days later, knocking him out with a concussion for a huge chunk of his season and pretty much derailing any attempt to get back on form, and which followed him for the remainder of his career. I couldn’t help but think to myself which is a pretty shitty way to think about things but also how I coped with the idea that me telling him a shitty joke screwed up his career. Sorry, Justin.

Regardless, the Twins won the division and I got to go to the 2010 playoffs, the first ever at Target Field. We had made it to game two, the night following a game one loss. We were already behind in the series, and we were seated in almost the last row of the stadium, but it didn’t matter. It was October at Target Field. I was getting to watch my Twins in the postseason, in person.

They lost. And then lost the next one, too.

After that, things sort of… fell apart.

I still made it to games, but the magic that was there in 2010 and before had vanished, and where it had gone, I still have no idea. I have sneaking suspicions it made its way to the rest of the AL Central, since Detroit, Kansas City, and Cleveland have all made the World Series since then.

Even when the team was good, it lacked something extra. It was a team built on consistency in the late 2000’s, in terms of their unassuming hitting, and consistently outstanding pitching — you might not see something spectacular every night, but you could at least count on a winning record.

I had thought the team had regained that magic in 2017. It was a season that looked so lost by the trade deadline that even the players the Twins traded for were on the trading block. But then something happened; it was the spark, that little hint of happiness that hadn’t been around since 2010. A second half surge was good enough to get the Twins into the postseason as a second Wild Card, something that didn’t even exist the last time the Twins made it to October.

And — well, there wasn’t much in the team outside of a few above average players in the field. Our number one starter was Ervin Santana, and the top prospects in the system were still at least two years away from breakouts. The odds weren’t good.

This did nothing to deter my belief, even though pretty much every aspect of my life had changed dramatically in the seven years between playoff games. The will to believe in upsets hadn’t wavered, and quite frankly, it still hasn’t. There’s a feeling to the postseason in sports that’s unlike anything else. It turns us all into our inner child again.

Once again, the heartbreak was at Target Field, though this time it was only broadcast on the big screen, and not played on the diamond. Apart from the top of the first, where everything was bright and sunny and homers, it was a frigid, long night.

2018 didn’t see that ending, but it did end in tears. Watching Joe Mauer take his rightful place behind the plate for the final time as a Twin caused a major draft of pollen to waft into Target Field and immediately into my eyes. Along with losing a club legend, it was hard not to reflect on the symbolic nature of it all.

This was the constant. This was the player that was always in a Twins uniform, from the day I started following the team, to when I wavered from that devoted following in college, and every day in between. Imagining life without Mauer was nearly impossible.

The team would be different, I knew. And boy, were they ever.

Of course, few would have expected a team with total turnover in the offseason to come back and be competitive, let alone win more than they lost. Perhaps no one but Max Kepler predicted how many taters the team would hit, and maybe no one but those in the clubhouse in Spring Training would have seen the potential the team had.

They wouldn’t keep it to themselves for long. From having the best record in the league in the early season, to a Major League record number of home runs, to an AL Central championship, and even a squirrel, this season has had a bit of everything, leading up to what should be an exciting October.

And so, here I am again — rooting for a Twins team in the playoffs, excited for what the future brings and repeating the Twins Win theme song in my head. Less than 24 hours from first pitch, I’m still as excited and hopeful as I was in 2006, in 2009, in 2010, in 2017. History wants me to learn from past pain — but this is baseball. And in baseball, history says anything can happen. History says that 1987 was the first. History says the Twins were the worst team in the American League in 1990. It also says that And of course, it says that

No one can predict what history will say in November, or how Twins fans will look back at 2019. Maybe it will be just a blip on the radar, a memory seared into another fan that reflects back on it, like I did here. Maybe it’ll end in a parade, a full film, another play-by-play call that Minnesota will remember for a lifetime.

However history remembers the Twins in 2019, however it remembers this October, I will enjoy the ride. Just like I always have.

I only have one simple request, one ask in the face of fate.

Dear Minnesota Twins,

Please win an ALDS game.

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J.J.

J.J. writes about sports, video games, social movements and a variety of other things. Also tells bad dad jokes.