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O'Connell Tosses 1st Pitch as Vikings Rookies Attend Twins-Guardians Game


Kevin O'Connell's ceremonial first pitch before the Minnesota Twins hosted the Cleveland Guardians on Saturday was … just a bit outside.

But it was all in good fun.

The first-year head coach of the Vikings and former NFL quarterback welcomed the invitation, as well as the opportunity to take Vikings rookies out to the ballgame for a team-building event during Minnesota's rookie minicamp.

O'Connell said the game was a good way to get the newcomers "acclimated to the local sports scene" before the 10-player draft class and college free agents join Vikings veterans on Monday.

"I think it's just a matter, at that point, they'd be sitting in a hotel, maybe we could get them together for a meal, but why not get them out in the community here from the jump?" O'Connell said Friday. "It's going to be a big part of what we do.

"We've got things planned with our whole team over the next five or six weeks of our offseason program, just cause we've got guys who are so willing to be out in the community and make an impact," O'Connell added. "Why not help organize some of that early on and let them take it from there?

"As far as the team building goes, that's completely something that we never want to take for granted. We've got great guys, we've got a locker room that is so dialed in and connected right now, even though it's early," he continued. "Anytime we can build within the schedule, within the rules, something where these guys can bond and spend some time together in a different setting, maybe have a couple of coaches there, it's good for our team and young guys for sure." 

Vikings rookies arrived in the Twin Cities on Thursday and hit the practice fields Friday and Saturday. O'Connell had described Friday's session, which was open to media members, as a "pseudo passing camp."

Players were not in pads, so first-round pick Lewis Cine and others focused on learning and communication to properly steer the ship.

Cine said he is "excited about seeing what Minnesota has to offer" when asked Friday about going to the Twins game.

"The people are great. I've met people at the airport, people driving here, and the people are awesome. They've welcomed me with open arms," Cine said. "I'll enjoy it, I'll soak it in, but I can't wait to see what the state has to offer."