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RIP Bleacher Bums

Posted at 12:29 PM on June 24, 2009 by David Zingler (4 Comments)

As of midnight tonight the Bleacher Bums will cease to exist. I would like to thank all of the readers who have made this so much fun over the past 4 1/2 years. I hope to continue posting my interviews and other content in another forum and am currently in discussions with Minnesota Score.

I would also like to thank Minnesota Public Radio for giving me this opportunity. It was great working with Matt Thueson, Bob Collins, Than Tibbetts and Chris Dall, among others. I wish everyone the best of luck and hope our paths cross again in the future.

Sincerely,
David Zingler

PS - If you would like to keep track of what I am doing, check DavidZingler.com.

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Jose Morales Keeps Hitting, Sitting

Posted at 1:23 PM on June 21, 2009 by David Zingler (1 Comments)

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Eight years ago this month, the Twins selected catcher Joe Mauer with the 1st overall pick in the amateur draft. 76 picks later in the 3rd round, the team selected another promising athlete and would-be catcher, Jose Morales.

While Mauer's fate is well known, Morales is still looking to carve out his niche in the big leagues. In his case however, it has nothing to with production. After a pinch-hit double on Saturday night, Morales is hitting .370 (20 for 54) in three major league stints this season. The 26-year-old sat down with me before today's game to discuss his brief career and future.

DZ: You've had - literally - an up and down season - been up and down a couple of times, could you talk a little about that experience?

MORALES: I have been just trying to stay focused, stay positive. I have been having a real good opportunity here - I have been going up and down like you said - it is just part of the business.

DZ: You made the team out of spring training, but you also knew that Joe Mauer was sitting over there on the DL. Is that a situation where you just take it day-by-day and not worry about (Mauer's return)?

MORALES: Even if he wasn't on the DL, even if he was playing, I wouldn't be worried about that. Like I've always said, we are talking about the best - probably one of the best - players in baseball. As a player, you don't worry about that, you just take what they give you and take advantage of the situation. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to start (the season) with the team, but no, I wasn't worried (about being sent down).

DZ: Let's go back a couple of years when you made your (major league) debut in September '07. You went 3 for 3 before hurting your (left) ankle sliding into 2nd base (and missed the rest of the season). How did you deal with the high and low of that all in one day?

MORALES: It was a big mix of feelings. It was great, I had my dad there - he saw me play, but at the same time...I got hurt. I finally made it to the big leagues and then I had to wait two more years (before I came back). It is something you can't control, things happen for a reason and I am just glad that is in the past.

DZ: Last year you got off to a pretty good start (in Triple A) and were hitting over .300 (.315) when you hurt the same ankle again (in July and missed the remainder of the season). Was it a case of it not being healed or was it just freak accident?

MORALES: I want to say it probably just didn't heal right, but like I said, I am just glad it's over with. I have just moved on.

DZ: You're a catcher and you've been hitting pretty well when you've had a chance, but - like we talked about - Joe Mauer is in this organization. Obviously, every player wants to play everyday at some point, is this just a case where you are trying to showcase yourself right now? Do you think about that at all?

MORALES: Definitely. You want to go out and play everyday or as much as you can, but I don't do the line-up and...the Twins are fortunate to have the best catcher in baseball. We just can't argue about that, I am just going to....I know my time will come sooner or later. I just have to stay positive.

DZ: Is there anything you can learn from watching (Mauer)?

MORALES: (laughs) Definitely. We are the same age, but he's been in the big leagues for almost 5 years, so he definitely has more experience than me - just handling the pitchers, the way he goes about his business - everything. He is just a great guy, a great player and I enjoy watching him play. Just by watching him, you just learn.

DZ: You guys were drafted the same year too, did you play in the minor leagues as teammates at all?

MORALES: For a little bit. Actually, I signed as a shortstop and they converted me as a catcher in '03 or '04, I believe. I was in extended spring (training) learning how to catch and Joe was in the Florida State League which is in the same place in Florida (Ft. Myers) and he got hurt, so I got called up (to replace him). When he came back, I stayed there for awhile. So yeah, we played together for a little bit.

DZ: You mentioned you were drafted as an infielder....is there any chance you'd be out in the field now or are you just strictly a catcher now?

MORALES: I don't make those decisions, but I would love to. Back in Puerto Rico in winter ball, I played first base, outfield - pretty much everywhere. Like I said, anything they want me to do, I will be willing to do it.

DZ: One last thing: this is kind of a goofy little coincidence, but I noticed you are not the first Jose Morales to play for the Twins (the other did from 1978-80). Did you know about that?

MORALES: Yes, yes. He is Puerto Rican too, (but) we are not related.

DZ: He was a pretty good hitter too...

MORALES: Yes, he was a pretty good hitter. I guess he ended up as a pinch hitter in the National League.

DZ: I guess he hit something like .287 in his career, that's not too shabby.

MORALES: No (laughs).

(Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

See more of David Zingler's interviews with Twins players:
June 8: Sean Henn
June 3: Mike Redmond
May 27: Nick Blackburn
May 26: Michael Cuddyer
May 15: Matt Guerrier
May 13: Kevin Slowey
April 30: Brendan Harris
April 28: Jason Kubel
April 18: Justin Morneau
April 15: R.A. Dickey
April 14: Denard Span
April 8: Philip Humber
April 7: Joe Crede

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Unlucky Lynx Lose Augustus for the Season

Posted at 8:19 PM on June 19, 2009 by David Zingler

Despite changing coaches four days before the season began, the Minnesota Lynx jumped out to a 4-2 start and looked like legitimate playoff contenders. During the 2nd quarter of Wednesday's blowout loss in Phoenix however, star forward Seimone Augustus left the game with a knee injury. Today, the team's worst fears were realized when an MRI revealed Augustus had torn her ACL and would miss the remainder of the season.

Candice Wiggins and head coach Jennifer Gillom spoke about the ramifications of the injury and their outlook moving forward today as the team prepared for tonight's game in Seattle.

Candice Wiggins

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On the team's reaction to the injury:
Our initial reaction was that we were all devastated; Obviously for Seimone and especially for the players who had the opportunity to play a full season with her last year. We know how great a player she is. Even more than that - Seimone is such a wonderful person and someone that us younger players look up to. It's really hard. I think that we all had to take a night to think about things and tell ourselves that she's going to come back, it's not over... She was having such a great season. She had such high expectations for herself and the team. It's devastating, but you have to realize that things happen in life. You have to move on from them in a positive way. We're working on that right now and we have a great opportunity and a great test tonight; but, yeah, I was devastated.

On her new role:
I think everyone's role changes, mine especially. I understand that. The start of our season has been about us doing well, especially Seimone having a remarkable start to the season. We kind of caught ourselves watching Seimone - that's how great she was doing. It's not going to happen anymore. Things have changed and I'm ready to take on that role. Being a leader is something that comes natural to me. I know how much I need my teammates. Seimone needed support from us and I will need the same. I just wanna go out there. Tonight is a huge test for our team, and a test for me personally, but I'm confident that we will do great.

On her initial reaction to the injury:
I always have hope in those situations. I always try to be optimistic. Seimone didn't have a history with injuries. She's a tough girl. You have hope and you want so see great things, but it's hard in that situation. You have to move forward and can't be in denial. Of course I was (optimistic). I think everyone was optimistic.

On the team's morale:
The biggest thing is that life goes on. We all know more than anyone - the media, fans - how much we'll miss Seimone. At the same time, we have to move forward. It will be a challenge and we'll face a lot of adversity, but I think it's going to make our team stronger. Your mentality changes when something like this happens. That's the mindset of our team right now. We're sad for Seimone, but we know that she's going to come back from this. This isn't going to stop her from being great.

On Seimone's address to the team:
Seimone sent everyone a nice, long text message yesterday. The reality of playing a sport is injury. Losing someone like Seimone is extra difficult. She did send us a message and she called me this morning when we were on our way to shoot-around and had some really, really great things to say. The bond I have with Seimone is really strong. I really look up to her. She told me that I'm number one now. It was a really good message that she sent.

Jennifer Gillom

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On her initial reaction to the injury:
I definitely feared the worst. With the way she planted and the fact that she was going to the basket really strong... and the weight pushed against her. We knew it wasn't good. I had a girl in high school go down with an injury similar to this. I just saw her knee just buckle... I put by head down. It did not look good. She grabbed it and screamed... I knew it wasn't good.

On the loss of Seimone:
I really think that Seimone really made this a great team. I think everyone learned a lot from her. This team is very talented, and they accepted their roles knowing that Seimone was our go-to player and Candice was our second. This team knows how to step up. I think you're going to be surprised by some of the players that are going to step up and contribute to this team. The players coming off the bench: Roneeka Hodges and Rashanda McCants... who I think can step up and take this role. I don't think one of them is going to be able to do it, but it's going to take a team effort. Seimone is very hard to replace. It's going to take several players to step up, not just one.


On the eventful start to her head coaching career:
I'm sill trying to process this all. It's amazing what my life has been like these past few weeks. On a high-high-high and then in one night, it's completely low. It's just like 'wow, you wonder what the lesson is in all this.' I try not think about it. The only thing I can do is accept this challenge. You go in and you know that there's a silver lining somewhere and that's what I'm looking for. I'm not going to be negative. I'm going to be positive and continue to motivate and bring out the best in this team. We're hoping something good can happen from this.

On who she thinks will fill the emotional role left by Seimone:
I think that's going to have to come from Candice. We saw a lot of that last year when she came off the bench and brought that energy to the team... really getting the team going. She's just a natural leader. I think she took a step back this year because she wanted Seimnone to have this year for herself. She wanted her to become the team leader and be that player that really gets the team going. I think she's taken a step back. I really feel that she's going to step in and flourish under that role. Don't get me wrong - Seimone is going to be very hard to replace. From every standpoint, both on and off the court for these players... I really think Candice will come in and do a great job and lead this team.

On her communication with Augustus:
We talked a bit yesterday. I tried to get her mind away from the injury and try and make her laugh. She was very emotional - she could hardly talk to me. I didn't want to talk to her that long and I just wanted her to focus on getting through yesterday. I haven't talked to her today, but I will. She was devastated yesterday and emotional. I didn't want to prolong it and I'll talk to her when she's able to talk to me.

(Photos courtesy of the Minnesota Lynx)

Kahn on McHale: "Time for a change"

Posted at 1:10 PM on June 17, 2009 by Chris Dall

Minnesota Timberwolves General Manager David Kahn just wrapped up a press conference to discuss the team's decision not to retain Kevin McHale as coach. From the glowing tones in which he spoke of McHale, you'd never know that Kahn didn't want him around anymore.

Kahn repeatedly acknowledged McHale's strengths as a coach and teacher, but said that ultimately he realized there were obstacles that would be difficult to surmount. Kahn never elaborated on what those obstacles were, but he did say that the decision was difficult, especially when it involved a person with McHale's abilties and reputation. "Kevin McHale has enormous gifts," he said. "But at this time we have to make a change." When asked about Glen Taylor's role, Kahn reiterated that the decision was his to make.

As for the reaction of the players, many of whom were openly lobbying for McHale to remain as coach, Kahn said he told the players that he felt it was important to maintain the comraderie and "upbeat spirit" that McHale had instilled going forward. He said he had not heard any players express a desire to be moved because of his decision.

Kahn was asked several questions about what kind of coach he is looking for, but did not get into specifics. He said that there is no list of names, and there will not be until after the draft. When asked if he felt that he might have to hire a big name coach to get fan attention, Kahn said he felt that would be more of a marketing move, and that ultimately to win back fans you have to win. He said any coach would have to understand it will be a few years before the team wins.

As for the draft and any potential trade scenarios, Kahn focused more on the big picture. He said he realizes the team needs help, that management needs to obtain players that make sense beyond the immediate future, and that picking players based on personality would be a mistake.


So, who's the coach?

Posted at 3:54 PM on June 10, 2009 by Chris Dall (2 Comments)

Now that new Timberwolves GM David Kahn is settling into his new digs, it's time to start asking just exactly who is going to coach the team next year. Kahn and Kevin McHale have reportedly shared a few meals together (do you think Kevin asked to trade meals after he made the order?), but Kahn is still not sharing his plans, and he says it's not imperative the team have a coach in place before the draft. I'm not so sure about that.

I've gone on record in stating that I thought McHale did a pretty good job as coach, and that I could see him keeping the position. But given the negativity and apathy of the fan base toward this franchise, I now think the team needs to move on and part ways for good with the man from Hibbing.

So what are the options? Here are some of the names being bandied about:

Sam Mitchell: We all know that Minnesota teams like to have guys with local connections, and though Sam isn't from here, he was an original Timberwolf and is linked to the team's only successful period. His track record as a coach is mixed. In his four+ seasons with Toronto, Sam compiled a 156-189 record, though he did win a coach of the year award and took the team to the playoffs twice. He's considered a motivator who will get guys to play hard, which is good, since that was a problem at times last year.

Avery Johnson: Another guy in the "motivator" mode. Johnson coached the Dallas Mavericks for three+ seasons, compiled a 194-70 record, won a coach of the year award, and took his team to the NBA Finals. He also had an extremely talented team, which leads one to wonder how much of a role he played in their success.

Tom Thibodeau: Currently an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics, Thibodeau is considered a defensive specialist, and that could be good for a team that hasn't paid too much attention to defense the last few years. He's also been in the league for 19 years, which makes you wonder why he hasn't been a head coach yet. He appears to be on the radar of other teams looking for coaches.

Jeff Van Gundy: My personal favorite of the bunch. He's another who guy who stresses defense and gets guys to play hard, and looks like he sleeps in his office with his head on the playbook. Plus he's funny and candid, and probably wouldn't care that he's coaching in an NBA backwater. He may not be the sexiest pick, but I think he'd create a good culture around this team.

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Meet Sean Henn

Posted at 7:00 AM on June 8, 2009 by David Zingler (1 Comments)

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The Twins opened the season with a lot of uncertainty in their bullpen. We knew Joe Nathan would be the closer and not much else. Two months into the season, the situation is still evolving. One of the players currently auditioning for a role is journeyman Sean Henn. The 28-year-old lefthander was called up from Triple A Rochester on April 21 and - Saturday night's loss aside - has pitched well when given a chance.

Henn took a post batting practice break to discuss his career and season with me last week.

DZ: You've been with the Twins for a few weeks now, what are your impressions so far?

HENN: The team is what I expected after meeting a lot of the guys in (spring training) camp. It's a group of young guys who want to have fun. When it's time to go to work, they do that.

DZ: Have you had a chance to go out around town at all?

HENN: Not a whole lot. The times where we were in town - I was downtown - I seemed to run into a lot of the visiting guys. I tried to stay to myself for the most part when we are at home.

DZ: A lot of the fans don't know you very well; could you just give a quick overview of your career - where you've been and that kind of stuff?

HENN: I started in '01 - I was drafted by the Yankees out of a junior college in Texas and was with (their organization) until April of '08. I got designated (for assignment) when (Jorge) Posada got hurt. The Padres claimed me off of waivers; I spent the month of May and a little bit of June in San Diego, got sent down and signed with these guys in December.

DZ: Could you just take us through the process of signing with the Twins; why you chose them?

HENN: I was a free agent; my agent was just fielding calls from different teams. With free agency - in my shoes - I know the big name guys do it a little bit different. When you are looking to sign a minor league deal and trying to find a job out of camp, you have to pick and choose when you want to sign. You don't want to sign too early and then have that team fill up with lefties, in my case because then the competition becomes that much more difficult. And you don't want to sign too late when teams aren't interested in you anymore. I had a few teams out there and the Twins are a great organization - they're young, they like to have fun - I think a lot people in the baseball world see that. They are very consistent and they do things right.

DZ: The Twins are known - more than some other teams - for going to Triple A when they need help instead of looking outside. Did that factor into your decision?

HENN: Definitely. I was with an organization for 7 years that's big on just going out and signing somebody. They definitely gave me my fair share of opportunities to do it there, it just didn't work out. That was definitely one of the things that I took into consideration that "hey, so what if you don't make the team out of camp, go to Triple A, throw well and you have just as good of opportunity as anybody else to get the call. Fortunately, it worked out.

DZ: When you first came up as a rookie - obviously, when you first get to the big leagues, it kind of blows your mind and you are in awe - but, what is it like going to a team like the Yankees with all of those star players and the big city, etc.

HENN: It's definitely a little different. With those big name guys it's a little overwhelming, going to different cities - there's a few places where there are more Yankee fans on the road then there are home fans for the other team. Having people camp out at the hotel - it's definitely different there. But, when it comes down to it, it is still the same game. I find it, obviously, a little bit easier to relax here. That's just the stuff that goes along with playing in New York. I know that a lot of the players that play there know...sometimes it's a deterrent for some guys.

DZ: One last thing - the 3 teams you've played for, the Yankees, San Diego and here - you've been around 3 pretty good closers - (Mariano) Rivera, (Trevor) Hoffman and now, (Joe) Nathan. What have you learned, what have you picked up watching those guys?

HENN: It's funny, I was talking to my agent a few days ago about that...these guys go about their business in completely different ways when it comes to preparing themselves for the 8th or 9th inning. They all are consistent at putting up unbelievable numbers every year. Just watching - especially Mariano and Hoffman, at their age getting themselves prepared to do that. Obviously Joe's a little bit younger...I think it's really just keeping your body in shape, physically and mentally both - the closer position is mentally tough as well.

(Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

See more of David Zingler's interviews with Twins players:
June 3: Mike Redmond
May 27: Nick Blackburn
May 26: Michael Cuddyer
May 15: Matt Guerrier
May 13: Kevin Slowey
April 30: Brendan Harris
April 28: Jason Kubel
April 18: Justin Morneau
April 15: R.A. Dickey
April 14: Denard Span
April 8: Philip Humber
April 7: Joe Crede

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The quiet superstar

Posted at 3:36 PM on June 5, 2009 by Chris Dall

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Most of the focus after yesterday's 11-3 victory over Cleveland, and rightly so, was on Jason Kubel's monster day. Two home runs and six RBI is a pretty good day at the park. There was also talk of Joe Mauer's three-hit day, and Scott Baker's solid outing. Lost in the shuffle, as it often seems, were Justin Morneau's three hits and three RBI. Just another day for Justin.

Morneau is now hitting .348 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI, statistics that put him among the American League the leaders in all three categories. He's third in the AL with a 1.083 OPS. If he remains at this pace, Morneau will end the year hitting well above .300 with 30+ home runs and 120+ RBI, and should be among the candidates, yet again, for MVP. If you take a look at his statistics over the past few seasons, you realize that he's quite simply one of the best hitters in the game right now not named Joe Mauer. He's also a fine defensive first baseman.

But for all his gaudy statistics, it seems sometimes as if Morneau is the forgotten man on this team, both from a local and a national perspective. You rarely hear Morneau mentioned nationally, unless he's stealing the thunder from other media darlings (see Jeter, Derek and the 2006 MVP, and Hamilton, Josh and the 2008 home run derby). Maybe it's that he's quiet and unassuming, and just does his job. Maybe it's the fact that on a team that has a lot of issues, he's one of the guys who can always be counted on. Maybe it's just that he lives in Joe Mauer's shadow. Whatever the case, my hunch is that he's perfectly fine with it.

I just hope that when his contract comes up, his agent doesn't try to convince him he needs to go elsewhere to get more recognition, and that Twins management realizes he's as important to this team as that other guy who plays catcher.

Can Augustus Lead the Lynx to the Next Level?

Posted at 7:33 AM on June 5, 2009 by David Zingler (1 Comments)

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The Minnesota Lynx tip off their 11th season tomorrow at Target Center vs. the Chicago Sky. If the Lynx are going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 (and just the 3rd time in franchise history), they will need a MVP-type season from Seimone Augustus.

I caught up with Augustus last week for a quick chat:

DZ: You had a pretty eventful WNBA offseason - there is no real offseason for you guys - your team won the Euro Cup and you were the Player of the Year. Talk a little about that.

AUGUSTUS:
It was my best offseason by far. It was just a great experience, getting playoff experience, I guess you could say. I had Sophia Young (of the San Antonio Silver Stars) on my team, it was kind of fun to play with a player who had been through the playoffs (in the WNBA) and learn how to get that mentality, that mindset, that confidence to know that you can actually go out there and compete in a tough situation in a playoff atmosphere.

DZ: How would you compare the play over there to the WNBA?

AUGUSTUS: It's more physical. We don't get away with a lot of stuff here as far as knick-knack calls and stuff, but it's draw blood before you get a foul which is good because it tests your physical abilities as well as your mental abilities.

DZ: Is it a little less athletic and more grind it out?

AUGUSTUS:
You kind of grind it out. It depends and who you are playing, sometimes the teams come up from Division II to Division I so the players aren't as good as some of the top teams in that league, but on any given night you can get (a good team).

DZ: How were you able to keep up with the team back home, with all of the moves going on?

AUGUSTUS:
(Former) Coach Z (Don Zierden) called me a couple of times to talk about the decisions being made. I was pleased with the moves. I know what direction the organization is trying to go in. We are trying to build a team to be here for the future and be contenders in the playoffs for years to come. I am happy with the decisions.

DZ:
It's your 4th year now and it's basically your team now. You are the only one who was here even two years ago.

AUGUSTUS:
(laughs) I know.

DZ: Does that blow your mind when you think about it?

AUGUSTUS: I think about it. It's hard when you think about girls like Vanessa (Hayden), people who I have bonded with, who I have had close relationships with. They were like my sisters, (but) they are all gone now. They took me under their wing and taught me the ropes and now I am the one who has to teach players like Renee (Montgomery) and Nicky (Anosike). I kind of feel like the grandma now, but I am glad and I am blessed that I had the opportunity to play with those players and gain a lot of knowledge from them.

DZ: You've been All Star, set scoring records, but haven't been to playoffs. Is it playoffs or bust this year?

AUGUSTUS:
We are always disappointed when we don't make the playoffs especially when we play as hard as we do. With this team that we have being so athletic, so talented, we expect to be there this year, but I wouldn't say it would be a bust - it would be something we would probably regret, not making it but at the same time, I feel like if we give everything we have and go out and compete every night and we just happen to miss it, there's nothing to hang our heads about.

DZ:
One last thing, with the roster reduction (from 13 to 11) and the Comets being gone, the competition should be at another level this year.

AUGUSTUS:
I think so. Many teams aren't changing much and like you said we're losing players, but I don't think you're losing core player...but for the core players it's going to be really hard. Your going to expect the players on the bench to come and perform like the starters do.

DZ: I know I said that was the last one, but I lied - who do you like better, Kobe or Lebron?

AUGUSTUS:
(laughs) I was just reading an article about that in Slam Magazine - woooo - that's a tough one: Black Mamba or The Chosen One. I am going to have to go with The Chosen One. He makes his teammates better; he brings them up a level even if they aren't on his level. Kobe sometimes, he can be the man and get everybody involved and sometimes it can go the other way. I have to say on a night in and night out basis, Lebron always tries to make his teammates better.

(Photo courtesy of Minnesota Lynx)

See more of David Zingler's interviews with Lynx players:
May 19: Renee Montgomery

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Mike Redmond: The Man, The Myth

Posted at 8:22 PM on June 3, 2009 by David Zingler

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Mike Redmond's wacky exploits have been legendary among those in the Twins clubhouse for years, but it wasn't until his recent City Pages cover story that Redmond's legendary status finally reached the masses.

I caught up with the legend himself before tonight's game:

DZ: I just want to talk about the legend that has become Mike Redmond. First, I see you in ESPN the Magazine - a little blurb - and then the big City Pages cover story. How are you dealing with the publicity?

REDMOND: (laughs) It is what it is. It's cool, but it doesn't really affect me one way or the other. Playing here in Minnesota has been great. Obviously, I've gotten opportunities to play and the fans have treated me really well - it's been fun, it's been fun to be part of this community...it's been a tremendous place for me to play.

DZ: With City Pages, you got the cover story, but they didn't put your picture on the cover.

REDMOND: I've seen the article, but I haven't seen the paper so...I never got a copy of it, so I don't even really know what you are talking about.

DZ: Seriously? (I am skeptical)

REDMOND:
I really haven't. I guess you could say the publicity hasn't really affected me one way or the other since I haven't even seen it. (He says this with a sly smirk on his face).

DZ: You are about the only one who hasn't seen it. Did you really go out to the batting cage naked (as stated in the story)?

REDMOND: Yeah. That's true. I did that in 2003 in Florida.

DZ: It wasn't here then?

REDMOND:
I've done it here a couple of times too - not here (the Metrodome) - I didn't walk down (the long hallway) to the cage here.

DZ: I was thinking that would be...

REDMOND: No, no.

DZ: No burned retinas or anything?

REDMOND: (laughs) No, no. It was a lot of laughs, a lot of laughs...you know me, you know I do a lot of crazy stuff.

DZ: Right now, you are the oldest guy on the team - a pretty young team. Does that keep you young or make you feel old or both?

REDMOND: At times it makes me feel young. Sometimes I feel - a lot of guys on this team, I am 10, 12 years older than them. That's a pretty big distance. As a matter of fact (23-year-old Anthony) Swarzak told me that he saw me hit a homerun in Miami when I played for the Marlins when he was in 7th grade. (laughs) I guess that kind of puts things into perspective for you. I thought that was pretty funny. It's cool that I am 38-years-old and still playing in the big leagues with a bunch of young guys. In enjoy it. There is always something to talk about.

DZ: Playing the position you do - even for a catcher - you seem to take more shots than average sometimes. Do you ever think, "How long can I keep doing this?"

REDMOND:
Not really. The pain has never been that big of deal to me. I think, for whatever reason, it's been like that since I've been in A-ball. I've always taken a lot of foul tips and a lot of balls in the dirt. I am not sure why. That's kind of the way my career has gone. But, I've been able to keep going. I'll be honest with you, there's been days where I hope the ball doesn't hit me. It does get old after awhile.

DZ: Could you talk about what Joe Mauer is doing right now?

REDMOND: He's been unbelievable. He's come from not playing all spring training to come up and have the kind of month he had in May is just phenomenal - 11 homeruns. There's really nothing more in the game - other than continuing to keep doing it - that he hasn't been able to do. He can catch, he can throw, he can play defense, he can hit, now he's hitting for power. He's running out of things he can't do. It's just a matter of him staying healthy now and being able to continue going out there and play.

DZ:
As a catcher you can probably appreciate his defense more than the fans or even other players...what stands out about his defense that maybe the average fan wouldn't pick up on?

REDMOND:
One of the parts of his game that has improved the most is working with the pitchers - calling pitches. Most people don't have any idea about that. His ability to learn the hitters and situations and call the right pitches. That's something that another catcher or somebody that really knows baseball would realize. I get to see that every night. He continues to get better and smarter and remember players every single year, that's why he's been able to be such an integral part of this team.

DZ: One last thing - we've talked about age - do you have a set amount of years you want to play or do you want to play until they tell you you can't and tear the uniform off of you?

REDMOND:
I would like to play until I am 40. 40 is kind of my number. I would like to catch in the big leagues at age 40, that's kind of my goal. If I can play a couple of more years, that would be great, but that may not be up to me. It might be up to one of the teams. As long as I feel good and feel like I can still produce, then I am going to keep playing. I was banged up earlier in the year, but I feel great now.

DZ: You are getting rest now.

REDMOND: Not really, I am still playing every 3 days. I thought when Joe came back, he'd play all of the time. He hasn't really caught more than 3 days in a row, which has been great - great for me.

(Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

See more of David Zingler's interviews with Twins players:
May 27: Nick Blackburn
May 26: Michael Cuddyer
May 15: Matt Guerrier
May 13: Kevin Slowey
April 30: Brendan Harris
April 28: Jason Kubel
April 18: Justin Morneau
April 15: R.A. Dickey
April 14: Denard Span
April 8: Philip Humber
April 7: Joe Crede

Lynx Training Camp: The Battle of the Sexes

Posted at 5:52 PM on June 1, 2009 by David Zingler

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It's 7:30 pm on May 27 and the Lynx are in the midst of an intense scrimmage at their Arena Club practice facility. Kelly Miller, Renee Montgomery, Seimone Augustus, Charde Houston and Nicky Anosike are on the floor for the Lynx. Their opponents, wearing red mesh tank tops are local college and recreational ballers. They also happen to be men.

"A couple of years ago we tried to get as many former college basketball players as we could - athletic guys - to try to come in here and push us," Lynx head coach Don Zierden explained. "It serves two purposes; one is they're very good ballplayers and two, it gives us during training camp, extra rest so we don't have to go against each other all the time."

"The guys we have are great," Zierden continued. "They don't cheap shot our women, but they knock them around - they don't cut them any slack. What's really been good for our players is that they play aggressive and they don't let any of that bother them. Right from day one it's full go."

The men welcome the chance to match up with some of the top women players in the world. "I follow the women's college game," Armstrong graduate Tommy Franklin commented. "You walk into the gym and you point out the college they went to, so it's pretty fun."

Albert Green however, believes some men come unprepared for the intensity of the play. "At first, I think all the guys may come in with the mindset that we are going to run circles around them Globetrotter style," the former Minneapolis North standout said. "It's not always like that especially after the ladies get used to you a little bit they become more aggressive, more physical because they realize it's just basketball and everybody is trying to put the ball in the hoop."

While the men's quality of play is consistent, their knowledge of the WNBA and the Lynx varies widely - from Green: "I do know a few of the players, but I don't know all of them. I am learning everyday" to Franklin: "I plan on attending virtually every home game, I am a fan."

Often Zierden will take the role of coaching the men, handing off the responsibility of the Lynx players to assistant coaches. "We like to mix things up; the guys are really good at running what we want," Zierden explained. "Sometimes we want them to run a certain thing - right now we are trying to focus in on our first weekend with Chicago and Indiana - so I was trying to get (the guys) to run some Chicago and Indiana sets. In case of illness, in case I get thrown out, (assistant coach) Jen Gillom is running all of the time outs (with the Lynx players), so that is good."

Star guard Seimone Augustus admits the scrimmages can sometimes be humbling. "We've been practicing against them since the start of training camp. The first day was probably the worst day," the 3-time All Star recalled. "They really gave us the business, I guess. They couldn't miss; they started like 80% behind the three point line. But, as time has gone on, we've progressed and the girls have started to understand how to play against the guys and we are starting to give them a little bit of trouble."

In the end, the purpose of the scrimmages is to prepare the Lynx for the regular season. In that spirit, Zierden manipulates the score to put his team in desired scenarios. For instance, he wiped out an Augustus free throw by calling the guard "over the line" on the attempt when she clearly had stayed behind the stripe. Augustus, understanding the situation, did not protest.

Augustus's "violation" set up a play where the men attempted a buzzer beating, game winning 3-point shot. The men executed Zierden's play perfectly, inbounding the ball, making a pass, setting a screen and attempting a shot that looked good, but rimmed out.

While training camp ends on Friday and the scrimmages come to a halt, Augustus says the men don't disappear, "After a while you get to know them, form friendships, form relationships that you continue to have during the season."

March 2010
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About the Contributors

  • David Zingler, a Milwaukee native, moved to the Twin Cities at age 10 and has been living and breathing Minnesota sports ever since. A St. Cloud State graduate, his work has been featured in local sports magazines as well as the Internet. In addition, Zingler publishes simply-baseball-notebook.com, a monthly, on-line baseball magazine. He lives with his wife Kyla in South Minneapolis.
  • Than Tibbetts is an online production assistant for MPR. He played baseball from tee-ball through high school, later returning to his alma mater as assistant coach in 2007 to pass on his knowledge of the knuckleball. A Twins fan for life, he now roots for the home team from his home in Fargo, N.D.
  • Steve Rudolph grew up in Bloomington and some of his earliest memories are of watching Twins games at Metropolitan Stadium. After graduating from the U of M, he parlayed his love of sports and passion for music into a sports fan's ultimate side job - game day music director teams including the Gophers, Twins, Vikings and Wild. He won the Pioneer Press' "Average Joe Sports Columnist" contest in 2004 and has provided sports commentary on MPR's Morning Edition program since 2005.
  • Chris Dall is an assistant producer for MPR's Midmorning program, and a longtime baseball follower. Originally from New York, he's a die-hard New York Mets fan, but since moving to the Twin Cities has adopted the Twins as his second favorite team.

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