ST. PETERSBURG -- Major League Baseball and PEOPLE magazine announced on Wednesday the 30 winners of the "Tribute for Heroes" campaign, a national initiative recognizing veterans and military service members. Each Major League team had one winner, with Patrick Nelson of Eden Prairie, Minn., representing the Twins.
Nelson and the other 29 winners will be a part of the All-Star Week festivities in New York City. They'll get a private tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, a VIP reception on the Intrepid and an appearance at the All-Star Red Carpet Show in addition to attending the Chevrolet Home Run Derby. They will attend and be honored during the pregame ceremony leading up to the All-Star Game at Citi Field.
Fans voted online for the 30 winners from a pool of 90 finalists.
Nelson is a former paratrooper with 39 months of combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and seven years of active duty in the Army. He was wounded in 2005 by a rocket near the Pakistani border, but returned to Afghanistan to continue fighting. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in 2008 and became the first-ever recipient of the NFL-Tillman Scholarship, an honor given to someone who exemplifies Pat Tillman's legacy.
Nelson graduated magna cum laude from Minnesota State University in 2012. After leaving the Army, he started Real Combat Life, a nonprofit that offers veterans an online forum to share their stories. He has also volunteered for the Greater Mankato Tee It Up for the Troops golf event, which raises money for wounded veterans and their families. More recently, he began working with Minnesota businesses to help end veteran unemployment.
Twins hoping hard hits start to fall their way
ST. PETERSBURG -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire tweaked his lineup a bit Wednesday, taking out Chris Parmelee and Brian Dozier while plugging in Clete Thomas and Jamey Carroll atop the order. He dropped Ryan Doumit to the five-hole, leaving Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the third and fourth spots.
It's been a frustrating stretch for Minnesota lately, and Gardenhire hoped the changes would spark his club to a much-needed win. But it's all the more vexing considering the fact that, despite two losses at Tropicana Field to start their series with the Rays, the Twins have actually hit the ball fairly hard.
"I think that's probably the toughest part about it," Gardenhire said. "You know you're scuffling along when you're not scoring runs and everything, and then you have a night where you seem to be on about every pitch that the guy throws in the first three or four innings and you've still got nothing to show for it."
Minnesota's hitters were taking good swings against Tampa Bay's Roberto Hernandez and Chris Archer, with little to show for it. The Twins picked up 10 hits Monday, but went just 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, and their best opportunity came in a 4-for-4 fourth inning in which they scored only two runs and committed two costly outs on the basepaths.
On Tuesday, the Twins had some line drives and well-hit balls against Archer, but almost all were hit right at some well-placed Rays defenders.
"If one of those falls, we score some runs and it's a different ballgame," Trevor Plouffe said Tuesday night.
Instead, they recorded five hits Tuesday -- only three before the ninth inning -- and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
"That's when it gets frustrating," Gardenhire said. "You can see that on their faces, and all we can do is keep yelling, 'Keep swinging, boys. He's gonna make a mistake. If he makes a mistake, keep banging it.' That's kind of what we went through last night. It works out like that sometimes, and other times they fall.
"The game's like that. If you've played it long enough, you've seen it. I've been through stretches like this. But right now, there's a lot of frustration in this clubhouse. They're working hard, and that's what we've got to keep doing."
In tough times, Gardenhire stays positive on bench
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Twins have lost three in a row and nine of their last 10 entering Wednesday night's game against the Rays at Tropicana Field. But it's not the time for big speeches or concerns about the team's clubhouse leaders, according to manager Ron Gardenhire.
Gardenhire picked his spot in Toronto, encouraging his players Friday night to have more fun, and the immediate result was a 6-0 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday. He repeated Wednesday afternoon that it's his and the coaching staff's responsibility to keep the club loose and relaxed, but that doesn't require a constant stream of rah-rah speeches and team meetings.
"We have to be positive on the bench. You can try to beat people down all you want to, but that doesn't work," Gardenhire said. "I know we've got a bunch of kids in this lineup with not a lot of experience that are going to go through some rough things. Some of the veterans are kind of rolling with it.
"You've just got to keep patting them on the back and being as positive as you possibly can and just make sure we're doing all of our work. These guys are working very hard."
Gardenhire admitted the Twins have a relatively quiet clubhouse, with few players who would stand up and try to rally the troops, so to speak. He pointed to Justin Morneau and Glen Perkins as examples of players who will speak to their teammates when necessary, relaying the coaching staff's thoughts and making sure everyone is on the same page.
Of course, winning usually does a lot more for morale than any rallying cry or closed-door meeting. In that regard, the key for the Twins is what happens on the field, not in the clubhouse.
"It's frustrating for everybody involved, but we have to keep playing," Gardenhire said. "One win, and we stop talking about it and we go on. That's the way it normally is. Now, we've just got to get that one win and we stop talking about all this stuff. ... But it takes a win, and that's going to take some guys knocking in some runs."