BISMARCK, N.D. -- Every year, the Twins Caravan visits close to 100 destinations as many of the Twins players, coaches and front-office staff tour Twins Territory to promote the upcoming baseball season. But while all of the visits with Twins fans are special for those who make these treks, there are certain stops that seem to take on a little extra meaning, like one that was made during Day 2 of the western leg of the Caravan.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, hitting coach Joe Vavra, pitcher Jeff Manship and catcher Drew Butera, along with Twins radio announcer Kris Atteberry, kicked off the day Tuesday with a morning stop at the Medcenter One Children's Hospital in Bismarck. During the stop, they visited with children battling various ailments in order to try to bring some smiles to their faces.
"That was easily my most favorite event that we've done so far," said Manship. "It was the most gratifying, for sure. Just being able to go in and brighten up those kids' days was something that was special."
It was a break from the typical baseball talk that takes place at many of the events along the Caravan. Still, there were certainly plenty of avid fans among the children that the Twins got a chance to see, as some of the kids donned Twins hats while they posed for pictures and received autographs from the people they often cheer for on the baseball field.
For the Twins, it was a chance to be a kid again as they talked about everything from one little boy's favorite Transformer character to what color of cotton candy a little girl liked best. While mascot T.C. Bear helped deliver many smiles to the younger crowd, the Twins got a reminder of just how difficult things can be at times, like they are for the families of the children who are at the hospital.
"It's always special for us to be able to go to a hospital and visit young kids that are sick," said Butera. "It puts things in perspective how lucky we are to be healthy, No. 1, and for us, it's all about giving back and paying it forward. The fact that we can bring them some joy means a lot to us."