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Anticipation for baseball beams at Twins Caravan

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CALEB NELSON/DAILY GLOBE Minnesota Twins mascot “T.C. Bear” greets fans and poses for a photo opportunity Wednesday morning at the Twins Caravan stop at the Worthington Area YMCA. 2 / 5
CALEB NELSON/DAILY GLOBE Dick Bremer (left), play-by-play voice of the Minnesota Twins on Fox Sports North, interviews pitcher Ryan Pressley in front of the Twins Caravan crowd Wednesday at the YMCA. 3 / 5
CALEB NELSON/DAILY GLOBE Dick Bremer, play-by-play voice for the Minnesota Twins on Fox Sports North, shares a laugh with Brian Duensing (right) at the Twins Caravan event Wednesday morning in Worthington. 4 / 5
CALEB NELSON/DAILY GLOBE Minnesota Twins mascot “T.C. Bear” greets fans, and distributes calendars for the upcoming season during the Twins Caravan event Wednesday at the Worthington Area YMCA. 5 / 5

On a cold Wednesday morning in January when the baseball season seems as far off as the likelihood of a Minnesota Twins pennant, the Minnesota Twins Caravan came to town.

Listening to the Twins assembled at the Worthington Area YMCA, however, it was appetizing to think that maybe — just maybe — better times might be just around the corner. Fox Sports North baseball play-by-play announcer Dick Bremer and pitchers Brian Duensing and Ryan Pressly struck predictably optimistic tones for the 25-or-so fans who appeared at the 8:30 a.m. event, but Bremer especially made the optimism seem palatable.

“Rather than think of it as three consecutive losing seasons,” he began, warming up his audience with a little humor, “I prefer to think of it as just one long, long season. It doesn’t seem so bad that way.”

He went on to state that the Twins really do have prospects stocked in the minor leagues with bona-fide major league credentials. Today’s Twins team is young, bound to improve with experience. And the organization has —as serious fans already know —invested earnestly in pitching since going 66-96 in 2013.

“Without starting pitching, you really don’t have a chance,” Bremer said.

Two of the Twins’ young pitchers, Duensing and Pressly, were along for the bus ride into Worthington on Wednesday.

The left-handed Duensing, who made his Twins debut in 2009, went 6-2 last year with a 3.98 earned run average in 61 innings of work. He is 34-33 lifetime over his five years of major league experience, being used as a reliever in 2013. The right-handed Pressly, originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox as a starter, began his major league career in 2013 and posted a 3-3 record with a 3.87 ERA in 76.2 innings of relief work.

In Worthington on Wednesday, Duensing admitted he was initially surprised by his major league success, explaining that all his life he had held major league hitters to “a higher standard.” He has since learned that pitching in the majors is “like a chess game.”

When Pressly was asked to reflect on his biggest revelation since going from the minors to the majors, he remarked about the selectiveness of the hitters. He was often taken aback, he said, when major leaguers were able to lay off some of his best pitches.

He was also asked if he preferred starting.

“Whatever I can help the team with. If Gardy (Twins manager Ron Gardenhire) asks me to jump, I’ll say ‘How high?’” he told the appreciative crowd.

As for Duensing, it was clear on Wednesday that after five years in the majors, he is well aware of Minnesota Twins history. In the past — in better seasons — the Twins have managed to win divisions while ranking in the bottom of the big leagues in payroll. Solid coaching and sound fundamentals have been the avenue to success.

“We need some consistency. We need to get back to the roots of the way the Twins play baseball,” Duensing said.

With the day’s program done — after the microphones were laid down and the autograph sessions were accomplished — Bremer courteously allowed a one-on-one interview with a local reporter. Much of his appeal for Twins fans (he has worked regularly in the broadcast booth since 1987) has been his rich and authoritative voice, but also the fact that fans see him as one of their own — a regular guy who enjoys his work so much that it can’t help but carry through from the television to the viewer.

“From the time when I was a little kid, I was a devoted Twins fan. And if someone would have told me then that they would pay me to go to Twins games … I’m tremendously blessed,” he said.

Bremer, who has family ties in Ocheyedan, Iowa, has avoided formulating a signature home run call throughout his broadcast tenure. Many other play-by-play announcers have devised their own catchphrase, but Bremer long ago decided to go against the grain to play it straight. The way he saw it then, and still sees it now, he said, is that every home run he witnesses is different than the one before — different hitters, different pitchers, different counts, different situations — and he wasn’t about to pretend otherwise.

“Why would I try to make them (the calls) all sound the same when they’re all different — like a snowflake?” he said Wednesday.

Bremer left the interview session with one final prediction, coming straight from a lifelong Twins fan who sees the inside of the game better than the average fan.

Are good times REALLY coming soon for the Twins?

“I think everybody would be surprised and stunned if it’s not right around the corner,” he said.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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