Tony O goes into the hall while soccer scene is buzzing around town
Tony Oliva joined Minnesota Twins teammate Jim Kaat as part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2022 Sunday afternoon.
Oliva, a beloved Minnesota Twins all-time great and Bloomington resident for six decades, thanked the organization for taking a chance on what he called a farm boy from Cuba back in 1961.
Now 61 years later, Oliva remains on the Twins payroll fulfilling various roles from special assistant to ambassador to simply-put baseball enthusiast.
Oliva has remained a staple in the winter caravan which tours “Twins Territory” to interact with fans before heading south to Florida for spring training.
“When people say my name they say Tony O or number six or so and so but now they call me Hall of Fam[er] and I say that’s good,” he said in a press conference before the ceremony. “My goal was to play baseball in Cuba in the winter baseball league in Havana.
“When I first came to Minnesota, I had no money, family and didn’t know any English ... they have a beautiful statue of me at the stadium and every time I drive by the stadium I say wow they did a good job, that is beautiful.
“Who could believe that a guy from a farm in Cuba would have a statue in front of a stadium here in America?”
Seeing and hearing friends say they were looking forward to his inclusion in the hall of fame for a long time was the most important thing to him now.
Oliva was part of a seven-man class to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame, joining one-time Minnesota Twin David Ortiz who went on to become a Boston Red Sox legendary slugger, Kaat, fellow Cuban baseball player Minnie Minoso, Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges and Buck O’Neil.
Selling out soccer matches
Three (pre-professional and professional) soccer matches in one week could be deemed overdoing it but for the second to last week of July, it was normal.
Our family quickly learned what all of the hype surrounding the community-owned Minnesota Aurora FC was all about as we made it out to TCO Stadium to see the team in action in the inaugural USL W semifinal and final.
The 1-0 semifinal win over McLean Soccer seemed more like a 4-0 win given the energetic atmosphere from the sellout crowd of more than 6,000 fans.
Being able to mingle with the team after the game in Autograph Alley left my 10-year-old daughter buzzing as Player of the Year Makenzie Langdok not only signed her handmade sign but took a moment to share her appreciation for the support.
The final brought a similar atmosphere as fans (6,489 to be exact) were ready to go from the start. South Georgia Tormenta FC scored first but Aurora FC’s Addy Symonds shot from near 30 yards out tied the game up in the 22nd minute.
The shot sailed over the outstretched arm of goaltender Sydney Martinez and inside the far post.
The score remained tied through 90 minutes forcing another 30 minutes of overtime to determine the league champion as Tormenta FC scored the winning goal with four minutes to go in overtime.
Five minutes earlier Morgan Turner’s penalty kick glanced off the post while the rebound shot was denied by Martinez who won the Golden Gloves Award given to the top goalkeeper in the league.
Despite the loss, Aurora FC gained a few more fans in what turned out to be a wonderful experience.
Between the two Aurora FC games, my daughter and I witnessed Minnesota United erupt in a 4-0 win over Everton on July 20. The crowd was more subtle in St. Paul given the game’s status as a friendly against the English Premier League side. Once the scoring began with Emmanuel Reynoso’s penalty kick in the early moments, the crowd became more and more engaged in the action on the field.
Everton had its own strong supporters’ group who made their presence known in the opening minutes.
St. Louis Park High grad Emmanuel Iwe came on in the second half to make his first-team debut after playing last season with the NPSL’s Joy of the People and St. Cloud State University. Iwe signed with Minnesota United in March, making him the first Minnesota native to be signed to MNUFC2.
The 2022 Mike Ryan Memorial Golf Scramble to benefit Bloomington Girls Hockey Club is set for Friday, Sept. 9 at Dwan Golf Course in Bloomington. A $110 registration fee includes golf, reception, raffle prizes and a silent auction. Info: jaguargirlshockey.org.