This summer I re-discovered my passion for baseball in general and the Minnesota Twins in particular. Although it was a disappointment that the hometown team did not make it to the playoffs for the fourth straight year, the season was a dream come true for this diehard Twins fan.
My employer, Courage Center, and our vehicle donation program, Cars for Courage, partnered with the Minnesota Twins, Dodge, FSN North and WCCO radio to raffle the Ultimate Twins Fan Vehicle. The car in question was a new Dodge Charger RT with hemi (whatever the heck that means) autographed by Twins players, past and present. Heck, even the TC Bear and Wally the Beerman signed the darned car.
As a communications manager and general public relations maven, I’ve been involved in many such promotions and events through the years. But, as a lifelong Twins fan, this promotion was a dream. The highlight of my summer was meeting my childhood idol Harmon Killebrew, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and pitcher Kyle Lohse, and to be one of the volunteers who went onto the field the last game of the season, as we announced the winner of the car.
Through my volunteer efforts, I discovered a new talent, shilling or as they say “carnival barking.” Call it what you will, who would have thought I’d discover I’m good at shouting and drawing a crowd? But I am.
My father taught me to love baseball at an early age. I grew up listening to Halsey Hall and Herb Carneal on my dad’s transistor radio. I was one of those insane people who went to both Twins World Series parades: Parade highlight 1987: Joe Niekro blindly hurling confetti out of his convertible during a lull in the parade, burying me almost to chin level. Parade highlight 1991: Almost being trampled to death by the crowd outside City Center. My first celebrity crush at age 16 was Twins catcher Butch Wynegar. (Calvin Griffith wasn’t the only one who ‘really liked that kid!’). I re-lived that kind of crush briefly this year, doting on current Twins player Michael Cuddyer. So, what if these days, players are two decades younger than me? A girl can still dream!
The raffle was an amazing feat of volunteerism in action. We sold tickets at every home game beginning July 1, until the end of the season, Sept. 30. That’s 40 home games. We needed a volunteer to drive the car to the Dome and back, plus seven other two hour shifts selling raffle tickets. Cars for Courage staff and volunteers also made special appearances with the car at local Dodge dealers, corporations and Twins Pro Shops. By season’s end, 140 individuals volunteered 1,655 hours. The UTFV (whose acronym sounds a bit like a Scandinavian curse) was parked in front of the Metrodome’s Gate F or on the Plaza in 100 plus degree heat index, in rain (okay, I personally avoided the rain) and, by season’s end, cold and early darkness.
On Friday, Sept. 30 the fun ended. We sold more than 10,000 raffle tickets, raising more than $53,000. Mike Sandoval, from Sante Fe, New Mexico, had his name drawn from the overstuffed tumbler. Sandoval, a broker with ING Financial was in town in August for a conference and attended his first Twins game where he purchased a raffle ticket.
On the last day of the season, almost 50 volunteers, including me, gathered on the field, as the UTFV made its last appearance and Jan Malcolm, Courage’s CEO announced the winner during pre-game ceremonies. But, the best part of the day for me wasn’t being on the field. It was being in the stands watching Johan Santana pitch like only he can, Joe Nathan come in for the save, and the Twins sweeping the Tigers in the last series of the year.
Sue Warner is the Communications Manager at Courage Center.