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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s the as much as a part of the Minnesota Twins television broadcasts as the home run call. Fans from around the region, bringing their signs, begging “Circle Me Bert!” But how does Twins announcer Bert Blyleven decide who he’s going to circle?
“Well, it’s not me,” admitted Blyleven, from an interview in the FSN North press box at the Metrodome prior to the Twins game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“It’s up to the camera guys, it’s up to Matt Gangl in the truck,” he added.
However, Blyleven is being somewhat modest. Although the crew decides what camera shots to provide, Blyleven is the man with the ultimate control: his own telestrator machine.
He traces the origin of the “Circle Me Bert” phenomenon to the original purchase of the Telestrator by FSN in 2002.
“FSN gave me a telestrator and said to use it to help describe the plays. We were on the road in Kansas City, the game was going on, and there was a heavy-set individual in the upper deck who was a Twins fan. I went, ‘Here you go, you are hereby circled,’” he recalled.
Blyleven said the Twins then played on the road in Detroit and there was a Twins fan with a sign, asking to be circled.
“Somebody had a sign that read, ‘We drove 660 miles from Detroit Lakes,’ I said, ‘Here we go, you are hereby circled.’”
When the Twins got back to the Dome, Blyleven said there were many fans with the “Circle Me Bert” signs.
Blyleven is a decorated former pitcher, who started his career with the Minnesota Twins. His career has led him to coming close to being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s the only pitcher with more than 3000 strikeouts not in the Hall.
“I run into a lot of people they introduce me, ‘Hey, it’s Circle Me Bert.’ The heck with my baseball career, I’m the guy who circles people,” he said.
At home games, there are signs everywhere. Even on the road, Twins fans bring their posters begging to be circled.
“We were just in Chicago playing the Cubs and the fan support was unbelievable. There had to be 500 to 1000 signs at Wrigley Field, which is kinda cool,” he said.
“It’s become quite a phenomenon as you can tell by the fans who bring signs on the road,” said FSN telecast director Matt Gangl.
For the past five years, Gangl has been the one deciding which shots appear in front of Blyleven’s telestrator.
“I look at them and try to find most creative or one that was good topically from the night before,” said Gangl.
“The bigger, the bolder, the more unique the better,” he added. “And the key is — hold your sign up, don’t put it down early, so we don’t circle you and you’ve put your sign down,” he explained.
Blyleven said he’s partial to the creative signs held up by young people.
“I like the kids. Because the game is about the kids. It’s a kid’s game,” he explained.
What’s the best way to make sure you don’t get circled?
“Say circle me Dick, I won’t circle that,” said Blyleven, referring to his broadcast partner, Dick Bremer.
“Would you ever let Dick circle somebody?” asked WCCO reporter Jason DeRusha.
“No. The only time he does that is when I’m not doing the games. I told him before that I’ll break his finger, this is my machine,” said Blyleven.