First leg of Winter Caravan warmly received

Molitor, Twins players impressed by turnout; Dozier's status foremost on fans' minds

First leg of Winter Caravan warmly received

WILLMAR, Minn. -- Despite the Twins coming off a rough season, the first week of the annual Twins Winter Caravan drew large crowds of passionate fans, especially at each of the night stops.

The first leg, featuring manager Paul Molitor, broadcaster Dick Bremer and relievers Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Pressly, came to a close Thursday with the 15th stop of the week at the Kandi Entertainment Center in Willmar, roughly two hours west of Minneapolis.

The event drew several hundred fans, which was typical for the four night stops in Mankato, Minn., Sioux Falls, S.D., Aberdeen, S.D., and Willmar. The largest was nearly 700 fans at Augustana College in Sioux Falls on Tuesday.

It impressed Molitor, who admitted he didn't really know what to expect from the fans after the disappointing season. Some fans had pointed questions for Molitor about how they'll improve this season, but most simply wanted updates on Brian Dozier's trade status and injured players such as Glen Perkins, Phil Hughes and Byungho Park.

"I wouldn't say leery is the right word, but you're at least curious what the reaction was going to be with what we put on the board last year," Molitor said. "There were a few people that voiced displeasure one-on-one, but that's to be expected. But overall, I think most fans are willing to turn the page and give our new front office and young players a chance."

The Caravan featured school stops, a visit to the Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls, a private tour of Schell's Brewery in New Ulm, Minn., and several meet and greets at radio stations and public event centers. Only one event was canceled, as the Twins couldn't make it to an elementary school in Worthington because of an ice storm.

It was the first Caravan for Kintzler, who was impressed by how organized everything was as well as the fan turnout.

"It was a lot of fun," Kintzler said. "The night events were fun, but the children's hospital, to see their smiles was cool to see. They love T.C. Even off a bad year Twins fans had a lot of enthusiasm. That's what's great about Twins fans. They just love the team."

Pressly, on his second Caravan, was similarly enthused and said he enjoyed interacting with the fans, who took part in Q&A sessions hosted by Bremer and also received autographs after the events.

"It was awesome," Pressly said. "We got to see all the fans you don't get to see as much during the season. It's very important because of how bad we were last year. They're still supporting us so we need to go out there and support them. But we know it'll turn around."

The Caravan is far from over, however, as there are still two more legs that leave Monday, featuring Trevor May, Byron Buxton, Taylor Rogers, Jose Berrios John Ryan Murphy and Joe Mauer, among others. It all leads up to the annual Diamond Awards on Jan. 26 and TwinsFest from Jan. 27-29.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.