Twins Winter Caravan: Oliva's presence helpful to Revere and Tosoni
Tony Oliva has seen just about everything when it comes to baseball.
He spent all 15 years of his career in a Minnesota Twins uniform and has remained close with the organization ever since.
On Tuesday night, the Twins fans at the Bemidji High School welcomed Oliva with a standing ovation at the 52nd Annual Winter Caravan.
"I have had great experiences on the caravan because I have been doing it for over 40 years," Oliva said. "Every year is different, but I get more and more used to it. When I used to come up to this part of the country in the 60s and 70s there was a lot of ice and a lot of snow. Now it doesn't seem too bad. The best part is coming to see all of the fans that support us and come to the ballpark in the good times and the bad times."
His presence is very helpful to the young outfielders Ben Revere and Rene Tosoni traveling with him on the caravan.
"He's a great mentor," Revere said. "All throughout Spring Training you can find him in the cages. Having him up here with us is great; I like to pick his brain a bit. He's a great mentor, great person, and was a great player. Just to have someone like him with us to talk baseball with is real nice."
Oliva won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in his first full season with the Twins in 1964.
He hit a league-leading .323 with a career-high 32 homeruns while driving in 94 runs.
He followed his rookie season by winning two more batting titles and a total of eight all-star game appearances.
"It has been great driving around with him," Tosoni said. "Tony O is full of stories. He was such a great player and he played with so many great players. He's so full of knowledge and he always keeps us up to date on his life stories."
Oliva says he understands why the Twins had a frustrating season last year.
"Last year was a very tough year for us," Oliva said. "It was easy to understand why we had that kind of year though. Not having Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span and a lot of the pitching staff made it really tough."
Oliva is confident that a more experienced 2012 Twins team will be able to recover from its 99-loss season in 2011.
"Last year, we had to bring a lot of guys up from the minor leagues," Oliva said. "This year they will be more comfortable to play in the big league. Last year was a great experience for those guys that came up from the minors; we will have a good team this year."
For Oliva, now 73, it is clear that his true love for the game of baseball is what keeps him coming back to do the caravan.
"I love what I do," Oliva said. "I love the people and to give them the chance to see me. I like to talk to the people who saw me play and we talk about the past. I remember coming to these towns a long time ago and the towns were not very big, it is great to see them grow as much as they have. I love being able to mingle with the young fans the most, they are the future of Twins baseball."