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Stingers land OIiva for Twins Day on Monday

WILLMAR -- Former Minnesota Twins great Tony Oliva will throw out the first pitch before the Willmar Stingers host the St. Cloud River Bats next Monday for Twins Night at Bill Taunton Stadium.

Oliva will also be on hand to sign autographs before the game and after he throws out the first pitch. Twins mascot TC Bear will also attend the game, as well the Twins organist.

"We pretty excited to have someone like Tony come to our ballpark and throw out the first pitch," said Stingers co-owner Ryan Voz on Monday. "He's one of the Twins' most popular players. This is going to be a fun night for everyone."

Oliva had 1,917 career hits during his career, all with the Twins, as a right fielder and designated hitter. He won American League batting titles his first two seasons in the major leagues and finished with three in his career.

In 1964, Oliva became the first player to be named American League Rookie of the Year and win a batting title in the same season. He was fourth in the Most Valuable Player voting that year. He also won the AL batting title in his second season in 1965 when the Twins advanced to the World Series and he was second to teammate Zoilo Versalles in the MVP voting. He finished sixth in the MVP voting again in 1966 when he won his only Gold Glove Award and was second again in 1969. He won his third AL batting title in 1971. An eight-time All-Star, Oliva's career was hampered by knee injuries and he eventually was relegated to designated hitter duties the final four years of his 15-year career. He finished with a .304 batting average with 220 home runs and 947 RBI before retiring in 1976.

After his playing days, Oliva served as the Twins' first base coach and hitting coach before settling into his current job as roving minor league hitting instructor and one of the team's ambassadors to the game. He had his number "6" retired by the team and was inducted into the team's inaugural Hall of Fame class in 2000 with Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and former team owner Calvin Griffith.

MEAL TIME: Many observers have seen players on both teams chow down after a game and many has wondered where the food comes from.

"We have partnerships with several businesses," said Voz. "They get tickets from us and they provide meals for the players on both teams."

Players have had subs, lasagna, barbecues, etc. after the games. Teams that stay overnight are also given breakfast and lunch.

"We try to take care of our players, much like a big-league club does," explains Voz.

DRAFT BONANZA: In the recent 50-round major league baseball draft, there were 162 former or current Northwoods League players selected, including 15 in the first five rounds.

Chris Dale of the LaCrosse Loggers was the highest player selected, going 13th overall by the Chicago White Sox.

The Rochester Honkers had 21 current or former players picked