Column: Twins are showing that everyone loves a winner

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 9, 2001

It’s amazing what a few wins can do.

Saturday, June 09, 2001

It’s amazing what a few wins can do.

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Over the last eight years, it’s been tough to be a baseball fan in Minnesota. When your team goes through eight straight losing seasons – often claiming the worst record in the American League – it’s not as fun as it used to be.

As hard as it has been to be a fan, it must have been harder to be a member of the Twins marketing department. Or a radio advertising salesman assigned the task of finding businesses to broadcast their messages during 8-3 Twins losses.

Suddenly, though, the Twins appear to have turned things around. Time will tell if they can hang with the Cleveland Indians, the team fast becoming their arch-nemesis, the entire season. But the first two months of the season have already restored some of the pride – and profitability – of the Twins franchise.

It begins at the ticket stands. Last year, I’d read about Saturday Twins games with 10,000 people in the 55,000-seat stadium.

This year, the Twins drew 36,000 for a week-night game against the Yankees and more than 20,000 for a Monday game against the Indians. Those are still not 1988-caliber attendance numbers, but it’s been a marked increase.

It continues on the radio and TV. Locally, KATE seems to be enjoying the Twins’ resurgence. They’re running promotions – like a free bucket of chicken when the Twins hit a home run, or free groceries when there’s a pitching change. Last year, I wonder if they’d even get to the tenth caller before the phone lines went dead. And every Thursday when broadcaster John Gordon calls for Twins Talk, they’ve actually got something to talk about.

On TV, it’s evident, too. I’ve read that ratings for Fox Sports Net broadcasts of Twins games are more than double what they were a year ago. If you win, the viewers will come.

Twins tickets are also becoming something worth getting these days. NorthBridge Mall in Albert Lea is giving away Twins tickets as part of a Father’s Day drawing. Twins tickets are now apparently something you would want to give your father as a gift, rather than a prank.

One of my wife’s friends from the Twin Cities won a pair of Twins tickets at work last week. Instead of giving the tickets away or pocketing them and forgetting about it, she called to see if my wife wanted to go with her. This friend is not typically a baseball fan, either – in fact, my wife had to explain to her what a foul ball is, and who that guy standing by first base was (the first base coach). But she learned, and they had a blast watching the Twins beat the Indians 11-10.

Rainbow Foods is in on the Twins, too. They sponsor a Friday night ticket promotion that gets you cheap seats, food and a Rainbow gift certificate. One of the Tribune’s graphics employees told me she was going to buy one of those packages with her husband and some friends. She is admittedly not a baseball fan. But the Twins are hot.

Even Jim Lutgens, our sports editor here, admitted to me that he’s been pretty uninterested in the Twins in recent years – but this year, he can hardly tear himself from the TV when the team is on.

That’s right, it’s amazing what a few wins can do.

Who knows how long this will last. Maybe the Twins will fade as the long season wears on. My money, of course, is that they’ll continue winning and make the playoffs.

Maybe that’s too optimistic – after eight years of futility, it’s hard not to wonder. But the Twins season has done one more notable thing: Allowed fans to be optimistic without being naive.

Dylan Belden is the Tribune’s managing editor. His column appears Sundays. E-mail him at