Tragedy hits close to home for Twins

Tragedy hits close to home for Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- The last thing the Twins wanted to do on Wednesday night was to play a baseball game.

The news of the I-35W bridge collapse, located just a few blocks from the Metrodome, broke just about a half-hour before game time. And rather than preparing for their game against the Royals, many of the players were glued to the television to hear news.

It seemed a difficult thing to even think about taking the field and concentrating on a game. But when the Department of Public Safety requested the game be played due to the concerns over traffic hampering the rescue efforts, the decision was made to continue with the game as scheduled.

And so they played, albeit with heavy hearts.

"It was extremely tough, extremely hard," Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer said of continuing with the game. "I know it was on guys' minds, and obviously hearts, throughout the course of the game. But it's something we had to fight through so they could get emergency vehicles to the scene, and 20,000 people weren't out there making things more congested. Now our sole attention can be projected toward the victims and the families and everything that has happened."

The bridge is well known to anyone in the Twin Cities, as I-35W is one of the main highways leading into the area. That's especially true for most of the coaching staff that lives to the north of the area and travels across the bridge on a daily basis, including manager Ron Gardenhire, who had just driven over it earlier that day.

"As everyone here saw, it was devastating and shocking," Gardenhire said of the images on television. "It's very sad. I just can't believe it happened right outside the doors here."

For some players like Pat Neshek, who grew up in the nearby suburb of Brooklyn Park, the immensity of the tragedy was a little easier to grasp than those who are a little newer to the Twin Cities.

"I knew it was a major road and it really kind of sunk in with me," Neshek said as his eyes welled with tears. "I called my parents right away. I didn't think they would be anywhere near there, because it's not a route we take. But then I called my wife, and it really hit home. Baseball was the last thing on my mind."

Neshek was one of the fortunate ones to get ahold of his family right away. Some of the players weren't so lucky, like catcher Mike Redmond, who was unable to get ahold of his wife, Michele, until the fourth inning.

"Obviously there was a little bit of anxiety there, but something like that, you can't really put it in words," Redmond said.

With so much else on the players' minds, focusing on the game wasn't an easy thing. For a team that has been experiencing its share of emotional highs and lows of what had been a controversial trade deadline, baseball suddenly didn't seem so important.

Tragedies like this one certainly have an ability to put things into perspective, and all the Twins agreed that was the case on Wednesday.

"Under the circumstances really, baseball is secondary," Redmond said. "It's a tragedy that happened. As players, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the people who were affected with this. Really, baseball is way down the list of important things."

The Twins weren't the only ones whose thoughts were with the victims, as the Royals expressed their condolences for those lost in the tragedy.

"We just hope and pray that all of the people that are affected here in the Twin Cities can have a decent night's sleep," manager Buddy Bell said. "That's tragic. Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in the city."

The Twins will have a bit more time to reflect on the impact of the day's events. The contest between the Twins and Royals scheduled for Thursday afternoon was also postponed due to the tragedy, along with the team's scheduled groundbreaking ceremony.

It's unclear just how long the team will wait to resume baseball, as there is a possibility for some cancellations in the weekend series against the Indians. But for now, the team seems content to take at least one day to regroup and focus on life outside baseball.

"I think it needs to be [postponed]," Cuddyer said of Thursday's game. "People were wondering why we even played tonight, but after you hear the reasoning it makes sense. But now I think we need to draw our attention to the tragedy at hand rather than play a baseball game."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.