First Pitch—3:10 p.m. Central
Probable Starters—Justin "Cy" Verlander vs. Vance "Can't Dance" Worley
Probable Outcome—Try not to think about it too much
“Awright, ladies!” Ron Gardenhire bellowed as he stuck his head inside the clubhouse door. “Stick your cups in your pants and hit the field, batting practice starts in five minutes!”
Inside, the entire Twins’ 25-man roster stood in a somber circle at the center of the room. Gardenhire walked over and nudged his way inside the group, only to see a battered old steamer trunk sitting on the floor.
“So it finally got here,” the manager muttered as he rubbed his whiskered chin. “About damn time, too.”
Aaron Hicks looked back and forth between Gardenhire and the trunk. “What is it, Skipper?” he asked. “The clubhouse guy just dragged it in a few minutes ago, said it was the last thing to come off the truck from spring training.”
“That’s a hope chest, son,” said the white-haired manager. “We haven’t had one of these show up here since the home opener two or three years ago. I've heard that the Cubs only get one every ten or twenty years.”
“But what’s inside?” asked Hicks, his curiosity gnawing at him like a hound at a hambone.
“That depends,” said Gardenhire as he pushed his cap back on his head. “Everybody sees something different in there. You’ll see whatever you hope for. But just remember, nothing inside that trunk is real unless you have what it takes to make it real out on the field, and that only happens one time out of a hundred, maybe a thousand. But we might as well see what’s in there.”
With that the manager stepped forward, unclasped the latches and pulled open the lid. A few of the players let out small gasps as they looked inside, but most stood silent for a few minutes, taking in the jumble of artifacts and picking out which might belong to them. At about the same time Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau stepped forward and reached inside, each picking out a World Series ring and silver bat, clutching them tightly in as they turned and headed toward their lockers.
Aaron Hicks stuck his trembling paw into the chest and pulled out a Rookie of the Year trophy. Pedro Floriman picked up a stack of 150 lineup cards, each one with his named penciled in at shortstop. Brian Dozier reached deep into the chest and pulled out a bronze glove, for even he knew that a gold one was too much to hope for. Vance Worley snagged a handful of 20 Wins, and Ryan Doumit grabbed a box full of 30 home run balls. Trevor Plouffe selected a bat with the word Consistency on the label and a lightning bolt seared into the barrel. One by one each of the players took something from the chest and ambled out of the room and down the tunnel to the open expanse of green field. Only Wilkin Ramirez left without bothering to take something from the trunk, for he was already wearing the uniform of a major league baseball team on Opening Day.
After a few minutes only Gardenhire remained. Staring intently into the depths of the box, he heaved a heavy sigh. “Ain’t that always the way,” he muttered to himself. “It only takes one day for that damn trunk to get as empty as Kauffman Stadium in September.” He reached inside and picked up one of the last remaining items, a brand new three-year contract, then turned and headed toward the dugout.
A few minutes later, Terry Ryan and Tom Kelly walked through the clubhouse on their way to the field and saw the open trunk. Together they shuffled over and looked inside. Curious, Ryan reached down and pulled out the lineup card for Opening Day and saw Joe Mauer’s name slotted as the second hitter. He looked at the card a long moment, and then at TK. “Well, what do you know about that, Mauer batting second” he said, handing the card to the former manager. “There may be some hope for this team after all.”
Tom Kelly took a few puffs of his cigar, glanced at the card and slowly shook his head as he dropped it back into the trunk. “I wouldn’t count on it, Terry,” he said as they both turned and headed toward the door. “You know as well as I do that hope is tomorrow’s starting pitcher.”