MINNEAPOLIS -- You wouldn't have been able to tell that Bert Blyleven was preparing for the final broadcast of a decorated 25-year career in the booth. When local media interrupted his preparation before Wednesday's 8-1 win over the White Sox, there was no extra emotion there behind the joyful blue
MINNEAPOLIS -- You wouldn't have been able to tell that Bert Blyleven was preparing for the final broadcast of a decorated 25-year career in the booth. When local media interrupted his preparation before Wednesday's 8-1 win over the White Sox, there was no extra emotion there behind the joyful blue eyes and the mask -- no sadness, no wistfulness.
There was only excitement for the baseball game to come and the desire to make the people around him laugh. That, he did. Just over an hour before he said his pregame goodbyes to Twins fans, there Blyleven sat, holding court amid uproarious laughter, the prankster reminiscing about doling out hot foots and giving up moonshots.
That was only fitting, really. That's what Blyleven did for all those 25 years: He talked baseball, shared stories from his Hall of Fame pitching career and made people laugh.
"I learned very early on in this business that you can and should have fun every day at the ballpark, and it's been so easy with him," said longtime play-by-play broadcaster Dick Bremer. "Just think of all the thousands of days and nights that he's spent in a big league ballpark. And I think he would tell you that he's enjoyed every single one of them. So, it's made it pretty easy for me to have fun, because he's always having fun."
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"This game’s not easy," Blyleven said. "We can sit up here and second-guess. I mean, I second-guessed every pitch I threw for 22 years. So, you just go out and enjoy the game, enjoy the crowd and have a lot of fun with it."
They weren't a perfect 25 years, to be sure, with Bremer and Blyleven sharing the booth over an up-and-down era of Twins baseball and Blyleven having to adjust to the changing tides of the baseball world while his fun-loving and often unfiltered personality led to an on-air gaffe or two.
Blyleven made it as a fixture in the Twins' booth anyway, and he started his tenure as a full-time analyst in 1996 on the Midwest Sports Channel, working alongside broadcast partners like Tommy John, Ryan Lefebvre and, of course, Bremer. As he leaves the FOX Sports North booth in 2020, he will retire from Twins media as the longest-tenured analyst in club history on either television or radio.
A full generation of young Minnesota fans grew up with the familiar voices, banter and playful bickering of Bremer and Blyleven illustrating the stories of Twins clubs -- both very good and very bad -- over those long years, from the Piranhas in the Metrodome to the Bomba Squad at Target Field. That era is now at an end.
"We've had a lot of talks about this, internally, with my family, because my kids grew up watching Dick and Bert," Bremer said. "So there are a lot of other kids out there who got to love baseball, who got to love the Twins organization by watching the games on TV and listening to him. So this is a significant deal, and I'm just delighted that he's going to stay in the organization. Professionally and personally, he's meant an awful lot to me."
"He's at the upper echelon of individuals that have impacted this franchise," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "What's really cool about Bert's story, in my mind, is I think he had as much impact off the field as he did on the field. He did that through a variety of ways, largely through the broadcast booth, being part of Twins baseball in a different way and covering a lot of really good Twins teams, a lot of really good Twins players, but also finding a way every night, whether it was a blowout or a close game, whether it was a pennant race or a lost season, he found a way to have fun."
This isn't the end of Blyleven's tenure with the Twins. He'll remain a special assistant in the organization and will continue to serve as an on-field instructor during Spring Training in Fort Myers, Fla., where he lives with his wife, Gayle. He still loves the lifestyle despite the end of his contract with FOX Sports North, and he will stay open to future broadcasting opportunities.
It was, perhaps, unfair that there weren't any fans in the seats of Target Field on Wednesday to hold up "Circle me, Bert" signs between innings, for old times' sake, one last salute to the tradition that began in 2002 and became not only a staple of Twins broadcasts, but also a way of raising funds and awareness for Parkinson's disease.
Instead, Blyleven used his telestrator to draw an unsteady blue circle around a shot of the large sign above center field of Minnie and Paul shaking hands across the Mississippi River, representing all those in Twins Territory in Minneapolis, St. Paul and beyond in the Upper Midwest.
That final circle went out to all those fans joining him from home one last time -- a thank-you for all those years of fun and laughs.
"You are all -- and it's an ugly circle, but you are all hereby circled," Blyleven said before first pitch. "That can't be the last circle. God bless you all, be safe, and now, let's play some baseball."
Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.