By Tracy Perlman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — He’s arguably been the most popular player with the Twins for the last decade, but he’s never been in the starting lineup.

That player, of course, is T.C. Bear and today marks a big day for that smiling bear.

“He’s been wearing this uniform now for 12 years and a month, without ever washing it,” joked Andy Price, senior director of game presentation and broadcasting.

That’s not what makes Wednesday’s game a milestone. It’s the fact the bear has never spent a day on the disabled list.

“There are days when he’s had some bad honey and he’s overcome it,” Price said. “But in seriousness, he’s never missed a game. From the day he debuted through tonight, it’ll be 1,000 straight home games from the Metrodome to Target Field.

“T.C. is a true iron man. He worked a doubleheader last July, and it never got under 100 degrees – plus there was humidity.”

Many wonder how the Twins ended up with a bear as their mascot.

Some believe he’s a distant relative of the Hamm’s Beer logo because Hamm’s was a major sponsor of the Twins for many years.

However, it was kids who picked the mascot. The team was struggling with getting families to games in the late 1990s. After drafting a couple variations of mascots, the Twins let elementary school students vote on their favorite one.

There’s only been one T.C. since his debut on April 3, 2000. He’s one of the most talented mascots in Major League Baseball, too.

“Five times he’s won the All-Star game’s Mascot Home Run Championship,” said Price.

T.C. doesn’t only take swings against mascots, he’s taken on, and beaten, some of baseball’s best during the Twins’ hitting contests during Saturday home games.

“He beat Kent Hrbek one time,” Price said. “Hrbek came out and Greg Gagne in the ’91 reunion. Some of the greats have come to take on T.C. in that contest.”

That infectious smile never leaves his face, spreading the love of the game throughout Twins Territory.

“If you watch him in the crowd, he is a gravitational pull of anyone that’s under 4-feet tall,” Price said. “That smile he has, it never leaves his face. It’s infectious. If you watch the kids, that’s what I love about it, watching the kids smile when we hang out.”

We’re told that when T.C. goes to school visits and other events, kids will often scream louder for him than the players who are on the team.

In honor of his big milestone, the Twins are presenting T.C. with a very special gift at tonight’s game.

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