Reporting Shane Kitzman
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The luckiest fan at the Twins’ Opening Day may just have been 6-year-old Keera O’Brien.
Not only does she own a baseball with the signatures of Scott Diamond and Alexi Casilla, but she’s caught a batting practice ball from Tony Batista, and on Monday, she was welcomed to Target Field by none other than Hall of Famer Rod Carew.
“It took me 28 years to get a ball,” her dad Rick said. “And she got hers in no time.”
Both Keera and her 3-year-old brother Christian had the day off from school, giving Rick the chance to spend quality time at the ballpark, buying Keera her standard dog and pop, and getting Christian his non-traditional ballpark favorite.
“I want chicken nuggets,” he said.
As far as Joe Miller sees it, Monday was just another tour of his future job.
The 21-year-old University of Minnesota State, Mankato student is majoring in sports management and eyes working for the Twins.
“One day this will be my office,” he said, attending the game with his girlfriend, Maddie Dahl.
A season-ticket holder, he doesn’t pick a favorite off the roster. But he is hoping for more star power on the pitching staff.
“I like the pitching moves the Twins made,” he said. “I’m glad they finally realized they needed to do something.”
Dan Mruz’s homemade hard hat is a testament to the lore of Twins players’ gritty play.
Mounted atop his cap is a taxidermy South American piranha with a Miguel Cabrera doll inside its mouth, an ode to when former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen nicknamed Minnesota’s chippy squad after the ferocious fish.
“I made these back in 2006,” he said. “Last year I blocked off 200 seats at the opener for my friends, but this year we could only get 100 (in right field). There are 100 helmets and about a dozen of them have piranhas on them.”
He doesn’t purchase the tickets. But he does put in the work so that his close friends can enjoy the game together.
Joe Timmerman’s Monday was better than his 5-year-old classmates’.
His dad, Paul, pulled him out of school and the pint-sized Twins fan spent time before the game scoring baseballs during batting practice.
“My favorite player is Joe Mauer, because his name starts with Joe, too,” he said.
The Rosemount family has a 40-game partial pack and find themselves at Target Field most summer weekends. And they had no issue with Monday’s cool temps.
“It’s OK – it’s Minnesota,” Paul said. “But I do foresee us getting coffee and hot chocolate.”
Janice Thompson has been with the Twins since the club’s inaugural season at the Met back in 1961.
And it’s fair to say her fandom has done nothing but exponentially grow ever since then.
The retired teacher from Pine Island spent spring training having Joe Mauer personally hand her baseballs, she has an autograph from the legendary Twin great Harmon Killebrew, and sits in second-row seats along the third-base line at Target Field.
“I used to love Joe (Mauer), but now I’m all about Aaron Hicks,” she said, as she also toted multiple crafty signs including one titled “No-Torii-Us” in honor of Hunter’s return to Target Field. “I got Hicks’ autograph during spring training when he got picked as the starting center fielder. He was so happy.”
Zach Ebnet dubs himself a “diehard” fan.
If it weren’t for the blanket the 24-year-old Medina golf pro and his girlfriend Hollie Tuerk shared during Monday’s opener, they may have lived out that cliché. Their seats atop Target Field came with a blustery wind that made the 34-degree temp feel as if it were in the teens.
“These tickets were a birthday gift from her to me,” Ebnet said. “Without this blanket it would be unbearable.”
Ebnet is hoping his Twins’ on-the-field product won’t be unbearable this year, and has expectations for new center fielder Aaron Hicks.
“I’m a fan of him, and hopefully he stays up with the team after we got rid of so many outfielders,” he said. “We haven’t had pop like that since Torii Hunter.”
Last year, Lindsey Schlueter nearly fainted when the son of Kirby Puckett welcomed her to Target Field on the home team’s Opening Day.
“Kirby was my favorite,” she said. “He was amazing. His smile sparkled – and I loved his big butt. I miss him a lot.”
Schlueter, of St. Francis, was more than ready for the 2013 opener as she sported heavy-duty hunting gear. She had no intention of missing one of her favorite days of the year.
“This is my 18th year in a row going to Opening Day,” she said.