The Minnesota Twins open the postseason on the road this afternoon agaist the Oakland A's. Game time is 3 o'clock. Sure, one team's from the Midwest, the other from the West Coast. One is in the playoffs for the third straight year, the other hasn't tasted baseball's post-season since 1991. But the Twins and the A's have a lot in common.
Watching the Twins take batting practice the night before the team's first post-season game in 11 years, you're struck by how similar this group is to the Oakland Athletics: Both clubs are made up of mostly young, fun-loving guys who've defied the odds to get to the playoffs.
"This is the matchup that baseball fans should just be dying to see," said Ann Killion, sports columnist for the San Jose Mercury News. "It defies everything that we've had drummed into our heads for the last few years under the Bud Selig regime, that small market teams, low payroll teams, can't compete."
The teams are alike in other ways: Ron Gardenhire and Art Howe are candidates for manager of the year. The A's and Twins both drew fewer fans than they probably should have. They each want a new stadium, but haven't secured one. Minnesota and Oakland have mostly young players, who do the things young people do. Torii Hunter, have you played this series out on the video game console?
"Yeah, yeah, I've played it out a couple of times on the PlayStation. The Twins, they won. I cheated a little bit but we won the game," said Hunter.
One key difference between the Twins and A's: The latter team has recent playoff experience, having lost close series' to the Yankees in 2000 and 2001.
"Hopefully with the experience that we've gained over the last couple of years in the postseason...that can maybe give us a little bit of an advantage," said A's pitcher Tim Hudson.
Hudson's counterpart in today's game, Twins pitcher Brad Radke, concedes that playoff experience could help the A's. But Radke hopes it won't be long before the Twins will become post-season veterans, using the A's as a role model.
"It's a good example for us," said Radke. "We can look out and say look what the A's can do, with the small payroll. We're kind of in the same boat."
One person who'll be rooting for the Twins at Oakland's Network Associates Coliseum is Keith Hedlund. The 31-year-old San Francisco resident grew up in Edina. He has tickets for game two. Hedlund became a diehard Twins fan in 1987 after being allowed to skip out on a high school field trip to see the Twins World Series victory parade in downtown Minneapolis. Now, he follows the Twins by reading newspaper box scores.
"I've never seen them physically move in person or even on television, because they rarely appear here," said Hedlund. "So it'll be fantastic to see them here."
It's a good thing Hedlund has a ticket to one of the first two games in Oakland. That's because the games are playing on something called the ABC Family Channel, a cable station many people don't receive. In Minnesota, they will also air on the Twin Cities Fox affiliate KMSP-TV.More from MPR