Welcome Home Luncheon a hit

Welcome Home Luncheon a hit

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- At the start of every baseball season, the Twin Cities business community hosts a luncheon to welcome home the Minnesota Twins.

This year, the theme of the event was more like "Welcome to Minnesota."

With so many new additions to the Twins' roster for the 2008 season, the fifth annual Welcome Home Luncheon on Friday afternoon was very much an introduction of sorts to the community for the new players.

The event, sponsored by the Minneapolis and St. Paul chambers of commerce along with American Bank, is a chance for many local business people to dine with Twins players and coaches. Nearly the entire team was present at this year's luncheon at the Crown Plaza hotel in St. Paul, including newcomers Adam Everett, Carlos Gomez, Brendan Harris, Livan Hernandez, Mike Lamb, Craig Monroe and Delmon Young -- who were spread among the dozens of tables at the event.

It may have been a new experience for the Twins' most recent additions, but veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer said that those in the community shouldn't notice many changes - besides the new names -- from past Twins clubs.

"One of the things the Twins do a great job of is not just bringing quality players but quality people into the clubhouse," Cuddyer said. "This year is no different. We have new faces, but it's the same character."

Fox Sports Net North's Dick Bremer emceed the event, which included speeches from Twins Sports Inc. president Jerry Bell, Joe Mauer and manager Ron Gardenhire. Anthony LaPanta of FSN also held Q&A sessions with some of the returning Twins such as Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, and Cuddyer.

But the team didn't ignore all of its new players either.

During his Q&A session, Cuddyer called up the team's two official rookies to answer a few questions. Right-hander Brian Bass spoke of his excitement at learning that he would be heading to the Majors for the first time and talked about what it's like for a first-year player.

When asked what was the worst "rookie hazing" he's endured so far, Bass brought up a little contest the team had on the plane ride back from Spring Training.

"I am the Minnesota Twins Idol for 2008," Bass said with a laugh. "I sang the 'We're Going to Win Twins' song."

The man who finished second in that contest also spoke to crowd. Infielder Matt Tolbert talked about the experience of learning that he had made the Opening Day roster, a moment he said was a "lifelong dream."

"It was an amazing feeling, something you can't explain," Tolbert said. "I realize just how fortunate I am to get this opportunity that not many people can say they've had. I'm very excited to be here."

Friday's luncheon was more than just a meet-and-greet, as a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Twins Community Fund. During the luncheon, the local chambers of commerce also presented an additional check of $10,000 to Kevin Cattoor, chairman of the Twins Community Fund.

The money raised at this year's event will be designated for various Community Fund programs and activities in the Twin Cities area. It will aid in building fields for youth baseball, giving grants to support local organizations and other means of helping promote the sport of baseball.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.