Twins' egg toss competition will have you cracking up

February 29th, 2024

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins manager Rocco Baldelli considers it fun to break up Spring Training with a less serious bonding activity that interrupts the hard work of the buildup for the regular season -- and, for the second consecutive year, the words “2 Sticks” mysteriously appeared on the schedule for Wednesday, which could only mean one thing:

The return of the Twins’ egg toss.

At 10 a.m., communications senior manager Mitch Hestad and head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta emerged from the tunnel underneath Hammond Stadium as they led a procession from the clubhouse to the parking lot down the right-field line, where white lines had been neatly prearranged on the pavement in a clear technical upgrade from the inaugural event one year ago.

The players in camp (except that day’s starter, Pablo López) had divided themselves into pairs, from longtime teammates like Byron Buxton and Max Kepler to offseason workout partners Griffin Jax and Steven Okert to, ostensibly, guys who happen to have lockers next to each other in the clubhouse like Niko Goodrum and Willi Castro.

Instead of the chaotic free-for-all that marked the first event (won last spring by reliever Dennis Santana and outfielder Kyle Garlick), the structure of this event was more orderly: The group split in half, and the winners of each heat advanced to a mystery final. New this year: Losers could buy in again for $100, with proceeds going to the clubhouse attendants.

Athletic trainer Masa Abe had hardly finished his rousing rendition of the national anthem before Trevor Larnach and Michael Helman were the first out of the first heat, with a surprise early exit from Jhoan Duran and Jorge Alcala, who had finished as last season’s runners-up. Josh Staumont was allowed to participate with partner Anthony DeSclafani, despite Staumont somehow breaking an egg before the round even began.

“Let’s go, Farm Dawg, rooting for you!” yelled Louie Varland out of nowhere.

After a Kepler heave fell just short of a screaming Buxton, and Goodrum was called for a violation for crossing the white line on his throw, the pair of Alex Kirilloff and Brooks Lee advanced to the final, along with Kyle Farmer and Royce Lewis, who saved a tough throw with a one-handed grab over his shoulder to preserve the spot.

The second heat was decidedly less highlight-worthy, needing multiple unsuccessful rounds of sudden-death finals between the Kody Funderburk/Chris Williams pair and the Varland/Alex Isola duo before the former finally achieved a successful throw to advance alongside Brock Stewart and Jordan Balazovic.

“Hey, can we buy back in?” Jax yelled to no one in particular as he watched both pairs in the sudden-death matchup fail for a second straight runoff round.

The final was an egg-and-spoon relay race, with one player from each duo needing to walk an egg in a spoon around a cone before doubling back, transferring the egg onto his partner’s spoon before the partner would repeat the process.

“It will be speedwalk only; do you understand?” Baldelli yelled into a megaphone while wearing a bright blue soccer jersey. “You will not run. Two feet must be on the ground at all times. One hand in your pocket at all times.”

Though a very competitive Lee built and handed a big lead to Kirilloff, Lewis got a clean handoff from Farmer and -- of course -- quickly caught up to Kirilloff at the halfway mark, setting up a photo finish during which Kirilloff dropped the egg and threw his hands up in frustration while Lewis cruised across the finish line and hugged Farmer for the victory.

“I've got to make him miss, so I just knew I was pushing him, pushing him to the edge and letting him drop the egg,” said a beaming Lewis after the win. “I love that.”

The grand prize was $2,000, to be split between Farmer and Lewis, who preached the importance of “soft hands” and gloated about how they “did it clean,” as opposed to other duos in the finals who had bought back in after having broken their egg.

“Sweet, this will make up for some of my fantasy [football] losses,” Lewis said as he pocketed the cash.

“Well, we're going to hide this money because people are going to try to steal it,” Farmer said. “I'll probably just go back home.”