On Tuesday at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, the Minnesota Twins broke the longest postseason losing streak in North American professional sports history. After losing their previous 18 playoff games dating back to 2004, the Twins broke free from the curse, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 3-1.
It took the Twins 6,937 days to finally win one postseason game, but it only took them one day to win another as on Wednesday, they again took down the Blue Jays 2-0, giving the Twins their first series victory in the postseason since beating the “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics in 2002.
I am a lifelong Twins fan. One of my first sports memories was that series victory against the Athletics. I fell in love with sports and the Twins right there. It created a fan in me for life and the passion for the Twins and Minnesota sports has only grown in the 21 years since that series.
I went to Game 1 with my Mom, a lifelong Twins fan herself, who during the deciding game of the 2002 series with Oakland got so nervous that she had to sit in the bathroom the final couple innings to take her mind off the game and calm her nerves.
The aspect of the game that stood out to me most was the crowd. Sports fans in Minnesota often have the reputation of being a bit too polite and not as loud or rambunctious as many other fanbases. There is often a nervous energy that seems to amplify any bad play that happens.
If there was any of that nervous energy coming from the crowd during the Twins’ Game 1 on Tuesday, it quickly went away in the first inning when rookie superstar Royce Lewis hit a two-run home run in his very first postseason at-bat to give the Twins a lead they would never give back.
Lewis would incredibly hit another home run his next time up, again sending the Target Field crowd into a frenzy. Royce Lewis now joins Evan Longoria and Twins’ World Series Champion Gary Gaetti as the only three players in MLB history to homer in their first two postseason plate appearances.
Those home runs gave the crowd a ton of energy right from the beginning and lasted through the rest of the game. After every out down the stretch of the game, the crowd would erupt, pumping up the Twins to keep it going and finish it out.
When Donovan Solano dove to his right and flipped the ball to Jhoan Duran for the final out, I was emotional. I turned to my Mom, arms out wide, and gave her a huge hug with tears rolling down my face.
It may seem silly to be so worked up about one postseason win, but that is what 19 years of playoff misery will do. It felt like a weight had been lifted off of every Twins fan, we no longer had to worry about this stupid streak and could now just enjoy baseball again.
There was still one more hurdle to jump for the Twins and that was winning one more game to clinch their first playoff series since 2002.
To put into context how long of a stretch 21 years is, I was seven years old in October of 2002, and I am now 28 with a five-month-old son. I wasn’t able to make it to Game 2 because of a mix of family and work obligations. That is how long it’s been, I’ve gone from a kid experiencing the joys of sports for the first time to a full-blown adult with real-life responsibilities.
Instead, I watched Game 2 at home with my son as Duran struck out the side in the ninth inning to secure the victory. It brings me great joy that at this exact moment, my son has not lived in a world where the Twins have lost a postseason game. He obviously is far too young to appreciate it, but I can’t wait to share my love of the Twins with him as he grows up.
Reflecting on the past couple of days, I can’t help thinking about the young kids who were at those games and are now hooked on the Twins for life. Even by just winning one playoff series, the organization has created a whole generation that are going to keep coming back to Target Field to cheer on their team.
I also can’t stop thinking about how a playoff series victory would be such a big turning point for the Minnesota Timberwolves and their fans.
The Wolves’ playoff series drought is similar to that of the Twins as it will reach 20 years this spring. The fanbase has largely been dormant over that time as there haven’t been many moments of true joy to rally around.
The Timberwolves have missed out on a generation of possible die-hard Wolves fans by not giving them any good memories. Most sports fans get hooked on their team young, so when you don’t provide them with many great moments, it makes it easy for people to give up on the team.
Despite creating a few fun moments recently including a couple of Play-In Tournament victories the past two seasons, and a win over the Denver Nuggets on the last game of the season to break their 14-year-long playoff drought in 2018, the franchise still has a long way to go.
None of those victories were enough to fully revive this fanbase that is so desperate to root for a winning team. Even after their Play-In Tournament win over the Los Angeles Clippers two seasons ago, players and fans were mocked for simply enjoying one of the lone bright spots in a sea of misery and losing.
What can be learned from the Minnesota Twins this week is that to truly get the fanbase back to where it was 20 years ago, the Timberwolves will have to win a playoff series and prove to its fans that these are no longer the loser Wolves.
The Wolves can’t have situations anymore like their year with Jimmy Butler, where after the franchise’s best season in 14 years, their best player on the team sets fire to the entire organization and ruins both the local and national reputation of the team’s young star player.
They can’t have a repeat of last year where their playoff changes ostensibly end with two punches, one teammate-to-teammate and another against a concrete wall, hidden behind a tarp.
The Timberwolves need players like Pablo Lopez, who showed up to his playoff start in a Johan Santana jersey. Lopez then went out and became the winning pitcher in the Twins’ first playoff win since Santana himself won a game in Yankee Stadium in 2004 — the last playoff win in franchise history until Game 1 on Tuesday.
Lopez said after the game, “It was an unfortunate streak, and I’m sorry so many people had to suffer through it. Fans have been so great to us. They support us. They root for us no matter the situation. It just felt right giving this to them.”
If the Timberwolves want to create an atmosphere at Target Center similar to what we saw across the street at Target Field, the formula is simple: give the fans a team that gives them the same feel-good we saw with the Twins without the embarrassment associated with past Wolves teams.
The state of Minnesota is dying for a basketball team to rally around that not only has lovable players but can win in the playoffs. Now all the Wolves have to do is give it to them.