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MLB: Twins make stop in BLA with lots to be excited about

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Minnesota Twins player Luis Arraez high-fives Shalayla Sturkey with Payden Mayers and Gus Lund after each receive an autographed baseball from one of the Minnesota Twins Tuesday, Jan. 21, at Forestview Middle School. The Twins were making a stop in Baxter during their Winter Caravan. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — With the bitter wind blowing Tuesday, Jan. 21, outside Forestview Middle School, warm thoughts of baseball swirled inside.

The Minnesota Twins Winter Caravan made its annual bus stop to the Brainerd lakes area and helped sneak about 600 fifth graders out of class for an hour.

TC the Bear received the largest cheer when the furry brown mascot appeared in the Forestview gymnasium. Fox Sports North broadcaster and former Staples graduate Dick Bremer emceed the event that featured MLB Hall of Famer Jack Morris and up-and-coming stars Luis Arraez, Lewis Thorpe and Trevor Larnach.

The main topic was the cold outside as Arraez, of San Felipe, Venezuela, hadn’t experienced Minnesota cold yet. Lewis Thorpe flew into Minnesota Monday, Jan. 20, from Australia and he wasn’t ready for the weather outside either.

Morris and his old St. Paul roots were fine with the weather, but his message to the young fans was to be kind to your classmates, thank your parents and teachers and chase your dreams.

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For Bremer, the return trip to Brainerd and the caravan, in general, is a reinvigorating event.

“It’s just a joy to get out here,” Bremer said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I look forward to it every year. By this time of the year, we get fired up for the start of the season. To see that the fans are ready for baseball to get started does wonders for us. Luis was telling me on the bus ride over here today he can’t wait to get the season started now because we had such a great turnout and a great program in Fargo last night.

“It works both ways. We like to get the fans fired up for the season, but they, in turn, get the players fired up as well.”

Prior to hopping on the bus, Bremer expressed his thoughts on the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox cheating scandal that grows stranger by the day.

On his Twitter account, Bremer posted: “My thoughts on the cheating scandal...all of us, every one of us involved, however intimately, in this wonderful game are stewards of the game charged with leaving the game better after we’re done. Cheaters should be exposed. To that end, in my mind, Fiers did the right thing.”

Fiers is former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, now with the Oakland Athletics, who spoke on the record about what happened in Houston.

On Tuesday, Bremer praised Fiers more.

“Mike Fiers, who ended up blowing the whistle on them, put himself out there,” Bremer said. “My tweet was on Twitter where so much that is communicated via twitter is anonymous. This guy stood up and said, ‘You know, my conscience is bothering me. Yes, I got a World Series ring with those guys, but it doesn’t feel right. I don’t feel right about it and the game is going to be better if we clean this up.’

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“I give him a lot of credit for that because he’s still an active pitcher. He has to hopefully extend his career after identifying himself as the whistleblower. That took some courage. Courage is in short supply on Twitter. So I gave him a lot of credit and I suggested that as embarrassing as it was for baseball to have to go through this, but the game is a better game because they got caught.”

One of the highlights prior to the start of spring training is the announcement of those former heroes being selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. On Tuesday, it was announced Derek Jeter with 99.7% of the vote and Larry Walker with 76.6% of the vote will be enshrined in 2020.

“(Jeter) was a tremendous player,” Bremer said. “In the most storied franchise in the major leagues, he became the face of that team for two decades. That’s incredible. Those Yankee teams, you start remembering them and no wonder the Twins had a hard time with them. They were great teams, but they had just phenomenal players. Well deserved and not surprising at all.”

There was also still buzz around the Twins big free agent pick up in Josh Donaldson. Along with his powerful bat that produced 37 home runs and 94 RBIs last year for the Atlanta Braves, Bremer believes the signing is bigger in other areas.

“He’s going to help an already potent lineup,” Bremer said. “He’s going to bring even more intensity to this lineup. People are talking about the 37 home runs, but he’s a plus defender at third base. He’ll make the Twins infield defense better. He’s also, in the years I’ve seen him, either on TV or in person, he’s never given an at-bat away. He’s a really intense competitor and that can only help what already is a pretty good clubhouse.”

The first Minnesota Twins spring training game is Friday, Feb. 21, at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. They’ll face the University of Minnesota Gophers.

For more photos of the Twins Caravan at Forestview go to https://bit.ly/36hVjYx.

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Twins Caravan Comes to Baxter

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