UPBEAT MINNESOTA SPORTS SCENE!

First, I must apologize to friend Steve Paul in Pittsburgh for writing on Minnesota sports, I don’t know sports that well in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and to my sister Gretchen, who is simply a sports hater! She has, however, taken an interest in Olympic hockey? By the way Steve, is Western Pennsylvania still a hot bed for high school linebackers? Most of which have gone on to Penn State, thus the nickname, “Linebacker U”.

The number one story in Minnesota right now is the Twins reporting to spring training in Fort Meyers. This is huge for two reasons. First, it means spring is coming and within two months we will start pulling out of this frozen hell we live in. Second, optimism abounds as the team is probably the most talented team coming to camp since the powerhouse days in the ’60’s! Even though the Twins have won their division five of the last six years, they have not been able to get past the first round in the playoffs. Not only have they added talent at positions of need, but the whole roster is coming to camp healthy. Joe “Gas Pipe” Nathan and Justin “I’m too wore out to play into September” Morneau have fully recovered from their respective surgeries and proclaim they are ready to go the distance. With the additions of Orlando Hudson and JJ Hardy they finally have a proven keystone combo that have a history of good hitting, Hardy, with power. They have the power bat of Jim Thome coming off the bench to pinch hit, and they have Carl Pavano in the starting rotation for the full season. Pat Neshak and Glen Perkins are also back and healthy.

The Twins have had a good run in the division for a few years now, and that shouldn’t be challenged this year. The other teams in the division really didn’t do much in the off-season to improve themselves. The White Sox will have a healthy Jake Peavy on the staff from the start, but starting pitching really wasn’t a problem for them. They lost a lot of under-achieving talent over the winter though. Cleveland will continue to slide and Detroit will have to over-achieve again like last year to be in the mix. They lost Granderson and gained 36-year-old Johnny Damon to play center. Look for Kansas City to be better as all those youngsters on their roster gain experience.

Another big story is the recent resurgence of University of Minnesota winter sports. The basketball team lost their hair and learned how to close out an opponent. They absolutely crushed Wisconsin and Indiana last week! Tomorrow night will be a tough test for them, they face Purdue at the Barn. The Barn will save them and I think it will be a tight game. I won’t predict a winner, bit I’m rooting my head off for the Gophers. The Gopher hockey team swept number 7 Colorado College over the weekend. This might have been the best two game series this team has played in two years! The team’s roster is still too thin, and they do have to optimize their talent to win, but if they can keep it up, they might make the Final Five! I hope next year they will be adding some size. They are still too small! In big time hockey, you need more than fast skaters to be competitive. The Minnesota women’s gymnastics team had their highest score of the season last weekend at the Pavillion against the hated Illini. Our own Lucy Ennis, formerly of the Roseville Gymnastics club, had a great meet.

The Gopher baseball team opened up their season in Florida over the weekend with a split with the Akron Zips. This should be a very good season for John Anderson’s(the best coach of anything at the “U”) Gophers. I believe “Baseball America” has them in the pre-season national top 20! Not bad for a baseball situated in this horrible climate.

The high school state tournaments start this week with gymnastics and girl’s hockey. My wife and I, with many of our friends will be attending the gymnastics meets friday and Saturday at the Pavillion at the “U”. Girls hockey also get started this week. I will be going to the “X” on Thursday morning to watch my own Irondale girls team compete. For the second year in a row, Irondale sports the two highest scoring players in the metro area! Now, because Irondale is a smaller school, more known for its academic excellence, especially technology and science, and their top rated marching bands year in and year out, when they do occasionally bust out with a good sports team or individual they tend to get over-looked by the media, especially the Star Tribune. The Strib picked a girl from Roseville Area High School as the top girls hockey player in the metro. I was shocked! Then I came back to my senses when I realized the Strib has had a long love affair with Roseville and Totino-Grace in the northern metro. This is really a slap at Irondale’s Gina MacDonald. Not only has she led the metro in scoring two years in a row, but she has played a major part in lifting a dormant program into the state tournament for the second year in a row! She is a senior who is going to Harvard in the fall to play hockey and get a great education.

My hometown of Alexandria has had another successful winter sports campaign. They will be sending their boys and girls hockey teams to state as well as their girls basketball team. There are indications that Alexandria may be becoming the “factory” in out-state Minnesota as Eden Prairie is in the metro area! Go big Red!

After losing Rodney Williams last year to graduation, I thought Cooper would be ordinary this year. I was wrong on that point. They are good, real good, even better than last year’s one-dimensional look. I am going to see them tonight at Irondale. Irondale also surprised me this year. Last year I proclaimed them as the worst high school hoops team I had ever seen, and now this year they have a winning record and have some good quality wins as well. They might sneak up on some teams this year in the sections. Bryan Sprang is their star, he’s the 4th leading scorer in the metro. His sister competed with my daughter in gymnastics for many years. I’ve seen a few of the power teams in the metro this year and the usuals are there again! Hopkins is really good, I’ve seen them once live, once on TV. This is a team that lost four starters from last year’s team and are back at number two this year! I am going to try to get to another St. Paul Johnson game. They are number one and are fun to watch. They are very athletic and very unselfish. They really are a joy to watch!

From now through March, the snowiest month of the year, we’ll have all the high school tourneys, the WCHA tourney, and March Madness! Spring training will progress, we get a few Twins Grapefruit league games on TV this year, the regular season starts around the first of April, the Twins opener at home is in the first week of April, assuming the snow is gone by then! There is still over two feet of snow on the field at the park, with March on the door step! Of course, the crescendo for the end of winter sports is the Masters. I will be in front of the tube Thursday to Sunday, start to finish. It’s still the top sports spectacle in the world,er, next to the Twins winning the series!

Okay Minnesota, there you have it! Either sit back and enjoy the next six weeks, or get out and see as much as you can, or do a combination, as I will be doing. I do, however, need to get a loan from the bank for ticket purchases. It’s really expensive to watch high school sports! Enjoy, and thank you for reading this.
Cam Obert

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One Response to “UPBEAT MINNESOTA SPORTS SCENE!”

  1. Steve Says:

    Penn State, is, of course, LB U, but SW PA has an amazing football legacy in general: Tony Dorsett [& son Anthony], Mike Ditka, Joe Namath, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, and of course, Johnny Unitas. [maybe a hotbed for QBs?] That’s off the top of my head, & just the best of the best. Football is like the religion in these parts, maybe like hockey in Canada. You’re standing in the checkout line at the supermarket, & 2 blue-haired old ladies are discussing dime & nickel defenses. Swear to god.

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