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Twins Caravan stops by Prairie Elementary

justine wettschreck/Daily Globe Minnesota Twins Trevor Plouffe and Anthony Swarzak look on as T.C. Bear congratulates the winners of an impromptu dance contest Wednesday at Prairie Elementary School in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- Anyone who stepped in the front doors of Prairie Elementary School Wednesday morning could feel the excitement in the air, but if that wasn't enough to tip them off that something unusual was happening, the clothing of students and staff members would have done the trick.

A majority of them were wearing Minnesota Twins jerseys.

Former Twins (and two-time World Series winner) "Dazzle Man" Dan Gladden, along with Twins players Anthony Swarzak, Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee, stopped at the school to visit the students and encourage them to take their careers as students seriously.

As the four men approached the entrance to the gym, the noise level coming from inside had them glancing at each other with a bit of awe.

The door was thrown open, and the mighty roar of students cheering hit like a tidal wave.

The wall of sound didn't slow the players down, and Gladden -- who had experienced ear-splitting cheers in the Metrodome during the 1987 and 1991 World Series games -- smiled and waved as he entered the gym.

Gladden took the microphone, encouraging students to stop in at the principal's office and get pocket schedules for the upcoming Twins baseball season.

He also let the students know that he and the current Twins players had autographed school stationery.

One by one, Gladden introduced the players and asked them to say a few words.

Swarzak reminded the students that discipline is required both on and off the field, asking them to study hard and keep moving to stay healthy and strong. He spoke of the upcoming training camp.

"We have 35 pitchers coming for camp, and we take 12, so there will be a lot of competition," he stated. "It'll be fun."

Swarzak said he's looking forward to the experience. From Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he's a right-handed pitcher who was picked up by the Twins in the 2004 draft. He made his Major League debut in 2009.

Parmelee, a left-handed first baseman/outfielder from southern California, told students they should read lots of books and remember to study for tests. He said his favorite classes as a student were history and math.

"I've always been good with numbers," he added.

In the upcoming season, he intends to work on his game and play whatever position the team needs him to fill.

Plouffe, also from California, was quick to ask the students "Who loves to read?" He admitted he's a reader, and encouraged the students to do everything the teachers asked.

"You need to really listen to your teachers," he stated. "They're the ones who will help you grow up and be smart."

Plouffe told the students he "totally enjoyed" history classes as a youngster, adding that it is important to know where you came from. He said he had been informed by Twins management that he will play outfield this year, so he plans to spend a lot of time at training camp working on his skills.

Several of the Prairie Elementary students were chosen to come up on the small stage and dance, as T.C Bear had done when he entered the gym. The best dancers, chosen by audience applause, were given autographed items.

The Twins players also talked enthusiastically about Target Field.

"It is such a great facility," Swarzak said. "Much nicer than the Dome."

The Twins Caravan started out the day in Rock County at the Luverne Veterans Home, which Swarzak called an "eye-opening experience."

"I have a cousin in the Army that has been deployed four times, so veterans have a special place in my heart," Swarzak said. "To meet all of those people who have fought the battle for our country -- I was pleased to be able to shake their hands."

Gladden said the veterans had a lot of questions about the Twins team and baseball in general.

"They listen to and watch a lot of games, so hearing them talk was interesting," he added.

From Worthington, the Twins Caravan was headed to Windom and then Marshall.