Listening is better than seeing
I was talking with Marshall Radio General Manager Brad Strootman when I noticed Amy Manning of Hanley Falls patiently waiting and watching as Minnesota Twins broadcaster Kris Atteberry was having a conversation with another baseball fan.
I was waiting for Atteberry as well, but Manning zipped right by me. She just wanted to have a selfie taken with herself and Atteberry. I’m sure Manning also got her autographs from Twins pitchers Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers. The players are the stars, right?
But baseball is a little different than most sports. As a young Brewers fan. I didn’t have the luxury of watching the TV to watch my team play. My father and brothers were Cubs fans. They watched the Cubs daily on WGN. I was the odd guy out.
I would turn the radio on and listened to my team on the radio with Bob Uecker describing the plays. At night I would fall to sleep with the radio tuned to the Brewers game. I had to use my imagination to visualize what Uecker was describing.
The broadcaster was just as important as the players and plays they were describing.
Those days definitely were on my mind when Strootman introduced the Twins players, Atteberry and fellow broadcaster Bert Blyleven Tuesday after the Minnesota Twins Winter Caravan rolled onto the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University.
“When I grew up I didn’t know there was anything else on the radio but Minnesota Twins until I was about 13 years old. And I think that goes for a lot of Minnesotans,” Strootman said.
Twins fan Michael Speltz sat at table next to mine with his two school-age sons.
“I’m a big radio listener,” Speltz said. “I can’t sit and watch a whole game (on TV). I don’t have time. I’ll go out in the garden for an hour, pull weeds, while the game is being played on the radio. I enjoy Kris Atteberry very much. Good to see him.”
So when Manning finally got her selfie, I got my chance to talk with Atteberry. And I found out Atteberry is no stranger to Marshall.
“My first couple years of baseball broadcasting as a professional was with the Sioux Falls Canaries. So we played exhibition games here,” Atteberry said. “We would play at the Legion Field downtown. It’s a beautiful park. This was my first exposure to Marshall.”
“That was 20 years ago,” he said when I asked him to talk about those days.
“They were great, exhibition games and it was independent dudes battling to earn a job. We used to play Fargo as I remember it.”
Atteberry stressed that communities like Marshall are important to the Twins.
“It’s (Marshall) a big speck on the map, and really not that far away,” he said. He said the caravan has traveled to cities a lot farther away.
“You get a whole new appreciation for the distance people travel to see how much the Twins mean to these communities,” he said. “It gives you a fuller version of what you are a part of. I think it’s where it all starts. Blyleven is here, right? Bert doesn’t need to be riding on a bus out here, but he does it. Jack Morris (former Twins pitcher) was out last week. Paul Molitor is in a basement in Winona talking about a youth baseball game he played when he was in the seventh grade.
“We are fortunate because we have this young group that is eager to go out,” he also said.
Hildenberger and Rogers are definitely in that group. They were engaging during the Q&A part of the presentation. They talked with the kids who approached them with baseballs and baseball cards to be autographed.
“I don’t think there is a better way to market your club than to let them see your guys,” Atteberry said. “Because these are really are good guys. Hildenberger is a dynamite kid to talk to. Taylor is a dynamite kid to talk to. So I’m all for letting people see they are more than a number and a jersey and getting some face time and a chance to interact.”
And that’s exactly what baseball fans in Marshall got Tuesday night. Some face time with some Twins players.
And in just few months we will be firing up those radios and listening to Atteberrry and Blyleven describing Hildengerger and Taylor firing that baseball across the plate for a strike.