Twins bring big-league conversation to Valley City

As Ron Gardenhire stood up and took the microphone at Trestle's Bar and Grill Tuesday, he saw a bear out of the corner of his eye.
The brown bear, just over seven feet tall, was only feet from numerous Valley City residents and mulling around the platters of beans, grilled hot dogs and potato chips.

Fortunately for the bear, Gardenhire, Manager of the Minnesota Twins baseball team, saw him first.
"T.C., you know they do shoot things out here?" Gardenhire said to the team's jersey-clad mascot. "You've got to get away from the hotdogs."

Gardenhire and T.C. the bear spent about an hour at the Tressel's Tuesday afternoon as part of the Twins' 52nd Annual Winter Caravan.
They were joined on the Valley City stop with Twins pitchers Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, pitching coach Joe Vavra and radio broadcaster Cory Provus.

About 60 people of various ages attended the event, which featured a $5 lunch, but more importantly, the chance to take photos, get autographs and take part in a question and answer session with the Twins representatives.

Prior to the Q&A, Gardenhire took pictures with fans and signed numerous items, ranging from a yard sign brought by Sanborn resident Janice Gernhardt that read "Twins fans live here" to jerseys and photographs.
After Provus asked a few questions to the panel, the floor was opened to questions from those in attendance.

At one point Perkins, who grew up in Minnesota, was asked about the passion of Twins fans.
"I grew up in Minnesota, I know what it's all about," he said. "We're very thankful that we get to come out here and get to see fans. ... That's why we do it. It's a lot of fun to get out and see people and meet new people and see new places."

Several of the attendees were in high school and Duensing was asked about advice for those involved in sports.

Duensing said, simply, "don't give up and enjoy it."
"Stick with it," he said. "Things happen and next think you know you might be playing in college, you might be getting drafted and, for me, personally, it came by too fast. I wasn't expecting it so every day I put on a uniform I feel like its a privilege."

While many of the questions related to the team's off-season roster changes (which can be read about in the sports sections), some fans took the conversation to other topics.

One question that got Gardenhire talking was the subject of "Moneyball", a book by Michael Lewis that was released last year as a movie starting Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics.
The book talks about Beane's ability to keep a winning franchise on the field by using lesser known statistics to find more affordable, but effective players.

Gardenhire, who played with Beane in the minor leagues, said the movie not only got his former teammate's mannerisms down, but emphasized the relevance of statistics in baseball.

Gardenhire said statistics will take a team far and applauded Beane for his work with the team, but said the game also comes down to some instincts.

"You can do all kinds of things with numbers," he said. "It's a numbers game nowadays and everybody uses them. The one thing you can't ever forget to do in baseball is go with your gut feeling and your heart."