Huskies blow first half title, gain inspiration

John Gilbert

Born with no left hand, Huskies pitcher Parker Hanson fired a pitch while clutching his glove to his chest. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Born with no left hand, Huskies pitcher Parker Hanson fired a pitch while clutching his glove to his chest. Photo credit: John Gilbert
With a quick switch, Hanson grabs his glove with his right hand after he pitches. Photo credit: John Gilbert
With a quick switch, Hanson grabs his glove with his right hand after he pitches. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Hanson then proves as adept at catching a high throw from his catcher with his pitching hand. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Hanson then proves as adept at catching a high throw from his catcher with his pitching hand. Photo credit: John Gilbert

It doesn’t take much incentive to get young ballplayers fired-up to play their best. Handing them a glove and a bat, and showing them which dugout to go to should be sufficient in the Northwoods League, where college players gather from all corners of the country to fill out the rosters.
The Duluth Huskies are just one example, but after a very strong first half, the incentive seemed to disappear right at the end of the midseason break. The Huskies had surged into the league lead, and seemed a cinch to hold on for the title. In fact, I wrote as much, just a week ago. I took one of those rare journalistic gambles where you are so sure something will happen that you write it before it’s quite complete.

With their hitting, pitching and defense, I did jump to the conclusion that with two games to go, the Huskies only needed to win one to get the title. But after I wrote that, and before it appeared in last week’s Reader, the Huskies instead faltered against the Rochester Honkers and lost the last two games — including an 8-3 embarrassment in the final game of the first half.

That might have been surviveable, except that the Bismarck Larks were in the process of winning 10 of their last 11 games, and when the Larks won their last two, they ended 25-11 to the Huskies, who were 24-12.
It seemed as though the Huskies might continue the fade into the ssecond half, while they could have relaxed a little and evaded the pressure had they won the first half. But instead, the near-miss might be just the tonic the Huskies need for the second half. While other top teams have started slowly in the second half, the Huskies ran up five victories in their first six games going into Tuesday night’s marathon against LaCrosse.

Augie Isaacson and Mike McCann have led the recent offensive surge by the Huskies. Isaacson and Chris Gilbody each got three hits in a 2-1 loss in 11 innings at Rochester, then they went to St. Cloud and won 10-7 after trailing 7-3. McCann’s 2-run double in the eighth tied the game 7-7, then McCann hit a 3-run home run in the 10th for the 10-7 victory. That means McCann drove in the last five runs for the Huskies. Isaacson and Nick Sogard each had three hits as well.

On Monday, the Huskies whipped St. Cloud 6-2 in a quick-return match, with McCann getting three more hits and Isaacson two. That meant Isaacson, who plays left field, had eight hits in three games, and McCann had six.
But the story against St. Cloud Monday was of Parker Hanson, a right-hander from Hawley, Minnesota, who pitched for Minnesota-Crookston. Hanson is a right-hander, both pitching and catching, because he was born with no left hand.
Watching Hanson pitch is amazing. He’s long past the sympathy people might show him; he doesn’t need it. He shut out the Rox through six innings Monday, with a quick fastball and excellent control in a league that doesn’t always show that.
Hanson pins his glove against his chest with the end of his left arm, while he rocks into a smooth windup and fires his pitch. Almost as the pitch is reaching the plate, Hanson has switched in an instant, plugging his right hand into the glove, already prepared to field a ball hit back to him, or in this case, a throw back from catcher Gilbody. Then he switches the glove back off his right hand while he grasps the ball for his next pitch.

The Rox did connect for 10 hits off Hanson, but he held them completely in check through six. He walked none and struck out four, while trusting his defense to come up with several nice grabs. When they broke through, in the seventh, Kieran Shaw came out of the bullpen to continue the Huskies run of strong hurling.

Twins continue to rise, fall, and sputter

Remind me now, are the Twins on a winning streak or losing streak? Just a second; let me check their schedule.
Why does it seem such a mystery to much of the media that when the Twins play a really strong team, like the Yankees, Cleveland, or the Chicago Cubs, they have a real problem winning, but when they play one of the poorer teams, such as the White Sox or Kansas City, they suddenly seem to pitch better, hit better, and win more?

The return of Jorge Polanco helps, and he looks good at shortstop already, while Eduardo Escobar can move to third base effectively. Those two young players are aggressive and bring new life to the Twins, while veterans Brian Dozier at second and Joe Mauer at first try to hit the ball with regularity again. They keep talking about Miguel Sano returning to the club with his big bat, and I’m not convinced that the rotund one can help all that much. I think the Twins are better defensively with Escobar at third.

Of course, Eddie Rosario in left field remains the team’s top standout. t His average is down close to .300, which still leaves him well above everybody else on the club, but his play in left is definitely all-star caliber. He fielded a hit Monday and threw the Kansas City runner out at home by 10 feet when he tried to score from second. Teams respect Rosario’s arm enough now that they no longer take routine chances for an extra base.

There are those who insist the Twins must trade Escobar or Dozier for a couple young players to improve for the future, but that’s insanity at work. If the Twins trade Escobar for three great young prospects, what are the chances any of them will even reach the point of hitting, fielding, and general sparkplugness that Escobar already has. Stand pat, and let’s see what happens in the second half.