It wouldn't be so bad to be a Minnesota Twins fan if it weren't for the bruised
feelings, the years of buying expensive tickets from a man who's already a
millionaire, sitting in a stadium that blocks out the cool Minnesota night with
a gray ceiling and watching a team that won the World Series twice turn into a
team that hasn't won their division in more than 10 years.
Fans of the Twins are hoping Alabama native Donald Watkins, a wealthy
lawyer-turned-businessman, will change their fortunes. They hope Watkins, who
has become the odds-on favorite to buy the team, can restore optimism to the
Twins, a club that seems to be forsaken by everyone but the fans. They want
Watkins to let them forget the current owner they have come to hate.
The fans have watched as the Twins' owner, Carl Pohlad, who saved the team 15
years ago, tried to sell it back to Major League Baseball and send a team with
41 years of history to its grave. Baseball has announced that it plans to do
away with the Twins and the Montreal Expos in a cost-cutting move. A question
exists whether the two teams will even play this season.
And for Twins fans, that possibility is painful.
"They've given me so much," said John Boyle, 24. "I've been
buying their stuff my whole life. It's kind of hurtful."
Boyle has run the Web site, www.savetheminnesotatwins.com
for almost four years now, starting it when the future of the Twins started to
"The owners don't seem to care about the fans," Boyle said.
How could Pohlad simply make the Twins disappear after he learned to love
baseball through the team that won the World Series in 1987 and 1991, Boyle
asked. But just as the Twins fans were about to torch the raft and send their
team to sea, Birmingham businessman Donald Watkins entered the scene.
"One reason I'm really excited about him is the outpouring of support
from fans," Boyle said. "Fans really matter to him. That meant a lot
Boyle's voice dips when talking about Pohlad, but rises when talking about
Watkins, although he admits he was a little bit skeptical of Watkins at first.
Here was a man who was not only going to buy the team, but he was going to build
a stadium, which Major League Baseball had publicly insisted on as a requirement
to have a team. Watkins has since won him over.
Other skeptics have had similar reactions, said Darren Wolfson, producer at
KFAN-AM, a Minneapolis sports talk radio station. Twins fans are in a state of
shock that someone could buy the team and give Major League Baseball all it
wants without asking from any money from the public, he said.
"This is as good as it gets," Wolfson said.
When Major League Baseball recently cleared the way for Watkins to start
negotiating with Pohlad, messages started popping up on the Internet message
boards for Twins fans.
ToriiHunterRules48 wrote, maybe a little prematurely, a message titled
"The Twins are Saved!!!!!!!!!!"
It read: "I knew it, we all knew it. And WE STILL KNOW IT. Donald
Watkins is going to buy the team. Praise the Lord HALLELUJAH."
Boyle doesn't want to see the Twins become yet another Minnesota team to
vanish. He has seen the Minnesota North Stars leave Minneapolis over a
disagreement about public money only to have them win a championship in Dallas
and have an NHL expansion team, the Minnesota Wild, come after taxpayer's money
was used to build a new arena.
"I'm a Twins fan. I really don't want another team," Boyle said.
There is no lack of company for Boyle in the camp that is extremely mad at
Pohlad for seemingly letting his team go into oblivion. A Web-site setup similar
to Boyle's called, www.savethetwins.info
said, "If the Twins are eliminated, Carl Pohlad will certainly become the
most hated man in Minnesota sports history."
But, there are still questions in the minds of the fans. The Twins have had
suitors before who have gotten hopes up only to dash them.
Three years ago, self-described Massachusetts tycoon Socrates Babacas had
interest in buying the team, promising to build a new privately funded stadium
complete with two-dollar hot dogs. But Babacas backed out.
Fans don't know for sure if they can trust Watkins — he hasn't answered
questions publicly whether he has the money to buy the team or not and has
neither confirmed nor denied published reports that he has $1.5 billion.
"I think the people are going to start to come around," Wolfson
said. "At first the fans were a little leery because it seemed too good to
Watkins has used his charm to woo over the fans. Wolfson called Watkins
"very articulate" and "energetic" and said he has given fans
a new optimism. Watkins visited the Mall of America in Minnesota last month and
was greeted by a healthy crowd of fans even though it was on short notice.
Fans were angered again at Pohlad after Watkins' trip. Minnesota newspapers
reported that Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball, owed a Pohlad-controlled
company money, leading to what some thought was a conflict of interest, since
under the contraction rules Major League Baseball would be giving Pohlad money
to fold the team. One Internet message reflected the hate for Selig, who fans
think colluded with Pohlad to fold the team.
"I think that Selig and Pohlad's antics are going to result in Selig
gone and Watkins as the new owner of the Twins. Both results are a good thing
But, Wolfson said, Watkins' charm might not matter to the fans as much as his
money and saving the team.
"I don't think people care if it's Donald Watkins or whoever. They just
care if in three or four years they are sitting in a new stadium on the river
outside. Fans want to watch baseball with the stars above," Wolfson said.
There are fans who believe Watkins may have single-handedly saved the small
but proud franchise. Boyle thinks at the very least, even if Watkins doesn't buy
the team, or Pohlad doesn't want to sell it, Watkins gave the fans one more
season to play.
If the sale does go through, would he be considered a savior?
"He would be everybody's," Wolfson said.
Boyle said if the sale to Watkins goes through, he'll still keep his Web site
up, though his cause will have been won.
"I look forward to the day that I don't have a cause."