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Blyleven has built tight bond with Twins fans

July 21, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Circle me, Bert.

Nearly 10 years ago, during a Twins roadtrip, Bert Blyleven began using his telestrator during broadcasts to circle Twins fans during games. When the Twins returned home, the Metrodome was filled with “Circle me, Bert” signs, and the phenomenon began.

After spending 11 seasons in his 22-year career pitching for the Twins, Blyleven has been a color commentator on the team’s broadcasts since 1996. Now in his 16th year on the air, Blyleven’s popularity among fans has never been greater.

Blyleven in home stretch for Hall induction

July 18, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — All season, the Twins have been counting down the number of home games until Bert Blyleven’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

That countdown reached single digits over the weekend, and was down to just five games Monday as Blyleven entered the final week before the ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.

It’s a big eight-day stretch for Blyleven, which began Saturday with the Twins retiring his No. 28 at Target Field, and will culminate in Sunday’s induction ceremony.

“It’s kind of a nice stepping stone to the following weekend in Cooperstown,” Blyleven said Friday on a conference call. “The honors are coming my way and it’s very, very nice.”

In the final week before his induction, Blyleven continued his usual broadcasting duties in the TV booth for the Twins during Monday’s doubleheader and Tuesday’s game at Target Field.

Blyleven also will be working on his induction speech, which he said Friday he had yet to finish. It should be a good one considering Blyleven’s experience with public speaking and doing color commentary for Fox Sports North.

“My speech, I’m still working on it,” Blyleven said. “To me, it’s a day of ‘Thank you’ to so many people that mentored me, and that’s what I’m just trying to get down.

“It’s going to be a long one, I’m thinking about going over an hour. … Just kidding.”

On Wednesday morning, Blyleven will fly out to Cooperstown to begin his busy week of Hall of Fame activities. Upon his arrival, Blyleven will have a series of meetings with the Hall of Fame staff and will go through the schedule for the weekend.

Among the things on Blyleven’s schedule on Friday and Saturday are an induction ceremony rehearsal, a Hall of Fame member golf outing, the awards presentation, the Parade of Legends and the Chairman’s party.

The induction ceremony will be held on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. CT) at the Clark Sports Center, located about a mile from the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum. Admission to the ceremony is free, and it will also be broadcast live on MLB Network.

On Monday morning, Blyleven will see his plaque at the Hall of Fame and take part in a program to share his memories before returning home.

He’ll have a lot on his schedule while in Cooperstown, but Blyleven said he’s looking forward to all of it.

“I enjoy meeting people, because that’s part of it,” Blyleven said. “Hopefully shaking a lot of hands of all the fans that come out there, taking time out of their busy schedule to come out and see myself or Roberto Alomar or Pat Gillick. It’s a great honor for me to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with those two gentlemen.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what Cooperstown is all about during the induction weekend. I heard it was a lot of fun.”

Blyleven seemed particularly excited about one particular person expected to be in attendance, flying in just to see him.

“I’m looking forward to also my mother, at 85, is flying in. Most of my family is going to be there,” Blyleven said. “Hopefully the weekend’s going to be very special for her.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Twins to retire Blyleven’s number on Saturday

July 15, 2011 Comments off

 MINNEAPOLIS — Even with two World Series titles to his credit, Bert Blyleven considers being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame to be the highlight of his career.

“It’s the ultimate,” Blyleven said on a conference call Friday. “You’re in a fraternity that is so small and so nationally recognized. All of a sudden … ‘Bert Blyleven, Major League pitcher,’ [turns into] ‘Bert Blyleven, Hall of Fame Major League pitcher.’

“It’s incredible.”

Before he’s inducted on July 24 alongside Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick, the Twins will retire Blyleven’s No. 28 during a ceremony Saturday before their game against the Royals at Target Field.

His number will sit between No. 42 for Jackie Robinson and Kirby Puckett’s No. 34.

“Target Field’s going to be here a long time,” Blyleven said. “Somewhere down the line, 50 years from now when I’m gone, some young kid will go to the ballpark and say, ‘Who was No. 28?’

“Hopefully their father or grandfather will explain who I was and what I did. It becomes almost unbelievable.”

Saturday’s ceremony, which will be emceed by Twins announcers Dick Bremer and John Gordon, will include Rod Carew, Kent Hrbek and Tony Oliva. A special presentation to Blyleven will be made by The Netherlands. The ceremony will also feature a video tribute as well as special presentations by Twins ownership and current team members.

“I’m extremely excited about that,” said Michael Cuddyer, whose locker sits under the No. 28 that has been added in the Twins clubhouse. “He’s a fixture in this organization, obviously as a player and now as a broadcaster. He definitely, 100 percent, deserves that recognition and that honor.”

Special logos honoring Blyleven will be placed on the field behind the pitcher’s mound and along the foul lines. He will also throw out a ceremonial first pitch to former Twins catcher George Mitterwald, Blyleven’s first catcher in the Major Leagues.

The pregame ceremony will begin shortly after 6 p.m. CT.

The club will give away vouchers for Blyleven baseballs, with instructions on how to throw his curve ball, to the first 20,000 fans. The vouchers may be redeemed for the  ball — limited to one per person — starting in the middle of the seventh inning outside all gates at Target Field and at the Main Box Office through July 24.

The Twins have also retired the numbers for Harmon Killebrew (3), Carew (29), Oliva (6), Hrbek (14), Puckett (34) and Robinson (42).

Left-handed reliever Glen Perkins, a Minnesota native, said that while he was too young to remember Blyleven playing for the Twins — Perkins was only four years old in 1987 — he always knew Blyleven was one of the best pitchers in franchise history.

Since Perkins made his debut with the club in 2006, he’s gotten the chance to know Blyleven on a more personal level.

“He’s a great guy, he’s awesome,” Perkins said. “He’s fun because he’s still kind of got the player mentality. If you ask him questions, he’ll answer them, but he’s not a guy that preaches on you. He’s a great guy to have around. He’s a lot of fun and it’s just another great resource if you need it.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.