Twins Caravan battles weather to reach fans
Northern and southern legs wrap up treks through 22 cities across three states
MANKATO, Minn. -- Despite wintry conditions in South Dakota and southern Minnesota, the south leg of the Twins' 54th annual Winter Caravan came to a successful end on Thursday.
With snow and high winds sweeping through the area, the Twins were forced to cancel their three stops during the day but made it to their final night stop at the Kato Ballroom in Mankato on Thursday.
Roughly 300 fans showed up despite the weather, and were treated to a question-and-answer session and autograph session with broadcaster Dick Bremer and Twins pitchers Brian Duensing and Ryan Pressly.
Even with the three missed stops on Thursday, the south leg still hosted 10 events in 10 cities in Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota.
"The week was fun," Duensing said. "It went by fast. We went to some good places and had good turnouts. To be able to say hello and thank you to a bunch of fans and kids is always great and a lot of fun."
It was the fourth caravan for Duensing, but just the first for Pressly, who was a rookie last year as a Rule 5 Draftee from the Red Sox. It was also Pressly's first foray into harsh winter conditions, as the Dallas-area native had never seen blizzard conditions.
"I was just trying to stay warm," Pressly said with a laugh. "And the rides were pretty scary. But it's been fun. I'm definitely going to try to do it again next year. It's been a blast."
The south leg started on Monday with stops at 96.3 K-TWIN studios next to Target Field before heading into Iowa to visit Dale Howard Inc. in Iowa Falls and Cedar Rapids for the first night event of the trip.
It was a special event, as the Twins traveled more than 250 miles for Class A Cedar Rapid's annual Hot Stove Banquet that featured more than 500 fans. Hall of Famer Paul Molitor also joined the Caravan's southern leg on Monday before heading up to Rochester, Minn., on Tuesday to join the northern leg.
"I realize the importance of the Caravan and its traditions," said Molitor, who last went on the trek in 1998 as a Twins player. "The Twins have always been a club that doesn't just rely on the support of the immediate area, but fans from all over the Upper Midwest. The organization has done an outstanding job taking their show on the road, so to speak, during the winter months. It's a fun experience."
The Twins made three more stops in Iowa on Tuesday, with stops at the Hy-Vee in Cedar Falls, the Des Moines Radio Group in Des Moines and the night stop at Legends Event and Social Center in Spencer.
Wednesday featured stops in three states, as the Twins visited the Ickey Nickel restaurant in Sioux City, Iowa; the YMCA in Worthington, Minn.; and the night event that had saw more than 700 fans show up at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The four night events were all well attended, as more than 1,600 fans in total showed up, which impressed Duensing.
"I'm a big fan of the night programs," Duensing said. "I think sometimes the smaller stops are the more important ones, but I always enjoy the big crowds."
The northern leg also came to a close on Thursday, with radio broadcaster Cory Provus on the trip along with pitchers Kyle Gibson and Caleb Thielbar. The northern leg saw the Twins make 12 stops in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The Winter Caravan continues next week with players Glen Perkins, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, Anthony Swarzak going on the road as well as Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven and radio broadcaster and former Twins outfielder Dan Gladden.
This year's Caravan features stops at more than 60 cities with 13 players, five broadcasters and four coaches traveling a combined 4,586 miles throughout Twins territory. And it leads into TwinsFest, which will be hosted at Target Field for the first time from Jan. 24-26.
"It was awesome," Pressly said. "I love the Q&As. You never know what the fans are going to ask and so you never what to expect. So I think it's awesome hearing what they have to say."