By Anne Ursu
Special to Page 2

My fellow Americans,

Do you feel that? That great lack at the center of yourselves? That hollow feeling at your very core? That sense that life just isn't what you thought it was going to be, that light beer was actually supposed to taste great, that your job was supposed to fulfill you on the inside, that your children were going to respect you, that it was all supposed to mean more than this -- it was, wasn't it?

Torii Hunter
AP
Come on ... there's something a littler super-human to Torii Hunter.

There was going to be love and hope and joy. There was going to be a barbaric yawp. There was going to be, at the very least, a reason to get out of bed in the morning. There was going to be something to believe in -- truth, beauty, your Pets.com stock? Something?

Ladies, gentlemen, and Yankee fans, worry no more. I have the cure for what ails you. Listen to me, and I'll give you all you need to wake up each day and face the bright new tomorrow.

I was like you once -- depressed and lonely. Food didn't taste right. Reality television seemed contrived and insipid. Media coverage of the presidential race felt uncomfortably devoid of substance. The re-emergence of the poncho as a fashionable item for women upset and confused me. But no more. I discovered something that gave me reason to live.

I discovered the Minnesota Twins.

"How could that be?" you ask. "How could a baseball team change your life? How could they give you the strength to go on living in this uncertain universe? I mean, sure, maybe the Yankees could, for they are a team of genetically-engineered super-humans. Once, I feared American scientists were lagging behind, but now I know they can make genetically-engineered super-humans in order to win a lot of baseball games, and that makes me feel better about America."

Well, my friend, let me tell you. The Minnesota Twins are a motley crew of little leaguers with hearts of gold. That may not sound like much against the glorious prospect of genetically-refined super-humans, but I want you to think for a moment of the story of America. Yes, America. Once upon a time, there was a group of billionaire All-Stars known as the British, and they thought they could boss everyone around and take all their best players and tax them without letting them represent and just have Jason Giambi, like, show up at your house and demand to stay there and you totally have to billet him and his benign tumor.

Well, there was a motley crew of little leaguers with hearts of gold who said, "You know what? You're a bunch of big bullies and we're not going to stand for this. We're going to dump all your Big League Chew in the ocean." And the British said, "Oh yeah? Well, you're in for a world of hurt, chappies." And the little leaguers said, "Oh, yeah? Bring it!"

Don't get me wrong. These little leaguers talked tough, but they were scared. They knew they were overmatched and they knew the British had shiny red coats and they knew they could never beat them at their own game. But they also knew that their hearts longed to be free.

So they challenged the Brits to a game of baseball.

The rest is history. The scrappy little leaguers bunted and stole bases and manufactured runs and relied on good pitching and good defense, while the British sniffed haughtily and thought their superior "talent" would carry them through. It didn't. They underestimated the little leaguers and they lost the game. There is, ladies and gentlemen, no "I" in "Freedom."

And so, we are here again -- not, perhaps, in a battle for independence, but in a battle for the heart and soul of Americans everywhere who need a reason to dream again. The Minnesota Twins will give you that reason.

You want scrappy little leaguers with heart? I'll give you scrappy little leaguers with heart. The Twins' payroll ranks 19th in baseball, which means that most of the players subsist on leftover Metrodome hot dogs and whatever they can beg on the streets. Just yesterday, I gave set-up man Juan Rincon a bit of my cheese sandwich on Hennepin Avenue.

What they lack in nutritional balance they make up for with pluck, luck, and bootstraps. Only eight players on the postseason roster came to the Twins through trades or free agency. The rest are all from the minor league system; and most of those were drafted by the Twins and worked their way up with only a plot of land, a hoe, and a dream of opportunity. And none of them is genetically-engineered.

Take Lew Ford, for instance. Ford, The Dork in this particular motley crew, is kind of an idiot savant with stirrups. He once burned his chest while ironing his shirt, which was still on his body at the time. Last year as a call-up, he was called on to pinch run as he was sitting in the clubhouse cutting his toenails. When a teammate finally found him, he put on his shoes quickly and ran out of the clubhouse -- and into the parking lot.

Lew Ford
AP
If he can remember how to get to the field, Lew will be a force.

When he comes up to bat, fans scream, "LEWWWWW!" and at first, the coaches had to expend a lot of energy to convince him he wasn't being booed. Ford also majored in computer science, scored over 1,400 on his SATs, built his own Internet bulletin board at 13, and was seen during a road trip to Anaheim dining out with two men he met online whilst playing "Doom."

Then there's The Rookie, Justin Morneau. The stalwart Canadian was called up from Rochester in mid-July and proceeded to hit the holy bejeezus out of the ball, causing the very motley Dougie Mientkiewicz to be sent to some team in Boston. Now, at barely 23 years old, The Rookie is the team's best offensive threat. His recent attempt to make himself look slightly less just-off-the-turnip-truck by giving himself facial hair failed when, after three weeks of trying, he couldn't produce an actual goatee.

Not that they're all a bunch of kids. Earlier this year, a crazy old coot was found wandering around the Metrodome grounds muttering to himself about the good old days, and the pitching staff adopted him and made him a mascot of sorts. Eventually, they let him pitch, and now Old Man Mulholland is our fifth starter. We'd call him The Has-Been, because he claims to have played in the bigs once, but no one really believes him.

And then there's Johan Santana, The Ringer, brought in to help this band of misfits make something of themselves. Johan breaks the hearts of the ladies as he breaks batters' spirits, and is the clear choice for Cy Young of all but the most addle-brained of pundits.

But there's more to him than meets the eye. Santana is also a third party candidate for President of the United States. Johan, of course, is far too modest to put himself up for the office, but his fellow citizens (well, he's not really a citizen, so let's just say some other people) have nominated him because he is strong and steady in times of uncertainty, plus he's really good at striking people out. His supporters are confident of victory, because he has 265 strikeouts and only needs five more to win the electoral college. In his spare time, Johan drives around town saving lost puppies, fighting crime, and delivering home-cooked meals to the elderly.

I could go on. I haven't even mentioned sweet-faced Jacque Jones, whose mom once waited on Tony Gwynn at a San Diego Dairy Queen and asked him to help her son with his swing. Or Luis Rivas, otherwise known as Toeless Lou, who recently gave up both his big toenails to the cause. Or Corey Koskie, who had six of his body parts replaced with semi-effective bionic components this season, all of them made in his native Manitoba.

They may not have much, these Twins. They may not have "money" or "clean uniforms" or a "baseball stadium that doesn't suck." But they have hustle, they have heart, they have Johan Santana, and they have love for the game and for each other.

And that, my friend, is no joke, and it is something to believe in. God bless us, and God bless America.

Anne Ursu is a novelist living in Minneapolis.




Anne
Ursu