CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The Twins' annual Winter Caravan featured a special event Monday night, as the Twins traveled more than 250 miles for Class A Cedar Rapids' annual Hot Stove Banquet.
The Twins added Cedar Rapids as their Class A affiliate before last season, moving from Beloit, Wis., which brought the club's Class A affiliate closer to the Twin Cities. The Kernels, under manager Jake Mauer, had a strong year in 2013, going 88-50 en route to a Midwest League playoff berth behind the play of top prospects such as Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Adam Walker, Travis Harrison and Jose Berrios.
The banquet, which was held at the Doubletree by Hilton and featured more than 500 fans in attendance, featured a question-and-answer session hosted by broadcaster Dick Bremer along with Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and Twins relievers Brian Duensing and Ryan Pressly.
"This is exciting to have the affiliate here," Duensing said. "Hopefully, now we can get some of the young fans here to become fans of the Twins organization and come up to the city. We're not too far. So I think it's good for the fan base."
The event also featured a silent auction and an autograph session from the players as well as the induction of Mike Trout, Chris Sabo, Tom Barbee, Verna Nance and Ron Gonder to the Kernels' Hall of Fame.
It marked the second straight year the Twins made the event part of their annual Caravan, as it's expected to be a regular event on Caravan moving forward.
Molitor joins first stop of Twins' Winter Caravan
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The Twins' 54th annual Winter Caravan kicked off Monday with two different legs beginning a four-day journey through the Upper Midwest.
This year's Winter Caravan features stops at more than 60 cities with 13 players, five broadcasters and four coaches traveling a combined 4,586 miles throughout Twins Territory.
The Caravan officially started with a stop at 96.3 K-TWIN studios across the street from Target Field with Hall of Famer and new Twins coach Paul Molitor joining relievers Brian Duensing and Ryan Pressly and television play-by-play broadcaster Dick Bremer.
It was the first Caravan for Molitor since he last played for the Twins in 1998, and he was excited to be back representing the organization.
"I realize the importance of Caravan and its traditions," Molitor said. "The Twins have always been a club that doesn't just rely on the support of the immediate area but fans from all over the Upper Midwest. The organization has done an outstanding job taking their show on the road, so to speak, during the winter months. It's a fun experience."
It was the fourth Caravan for Duensing and the first for Pressly, who joined the club last year as a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Red Sox. Monday also featured stops at Dale Howard Inc. in Iowa Falls and the club's Class A Cedar Rapids' annual banquet in Cedar Rapids.
"I enjoy going on Caravan," Duensing said. "I enjoy talking with the fans about baseball. It's a lot of fun. The whole experience for me is a good time."
"I get to hang out with Duensing and a couple of the guys so it's pretty fun," said Pressly. "And I get to meet some of the front office people so it's been fun so far."
While Molitor, Duensing, Pressly and Bremer headed south, the other leg featured Twins great Tony Oliva, right-hander Kyle Gibson, left-hander Caleb Thielbar and radio broadcaster Cory Provus heading to Northfield, Minn., Faribault, Minn. and Mason City, Iowa, on Monday.
The Winter Caravan continues next week with players such as Glen Perkins, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and Anthony Swarzak going on the road as well as Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven and radio broadcaster and former Twin Dan Gladden.