MINNEAPOLIS — There was plenty of Purple involved in the pregame festivities at Target Field.
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks fired some pitches toward Twins catcher Mitch Garver, Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander played catch with Twins third baseman Marwin Gonzalez and Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins chatted up Twins centerfielder Byron Buxton.
Yes, SKOL Night was in full effect Tuesday as the Twins hosted 10 Vikings for batting practice before introducing the gridiron stars on the diamond.
“It’s cool to have that interaction and kind of come in early and check out their pregame routine and the atmosphere and see how the energy is when the players are on the field,” said Vikings safety Anthony Harris. “To have the opportunity to talk to those guys outside of [hitting] … a few of us got to throw the ball back and forth … it was nice to do some of that stuff.”
Harris was among the large contingent of defensive players in attendance, as he was joined by Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith, Kendricks, Mike Hughes, Alexander, Jayron Kearse and Holton Hill. Cousins and Kyle Rudolph also represented the Vikings.
While Vikings mingled with Twins and Angels players before the game, there was no doubt the group most enjoyed taking some cuts in the cage.
Griffen belted the lone homer last year, but no Vikings players were able to leave the yard this time around. But that didn’t stop the laughs and ribbing back and forth.
“The worst swing? Although JK made more contact than other people, JK’s swing was pretty ugly,” Kendricks quipped about Kearse. “The best swing? Myself, obviously.”
Added Harris: “I got a little bit nervous walking up because everyone’s watching, and you’re a professional athlete, and they want to see how it transitions. But it was fun stepping into a different environment and getting the contact and feeling the ball. We were trying to be competitive and see who could hit it the farthest. I didn’t do so well in that category, but I think I had the most contact.”
Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli also met with Smith and Griffen in his office before the game, where the players presented him with a personalized No. 5 Purple Vikings jersey. Cousins later gifted a home Stefon Diggs jersey to Buxton.
Baldelli, who is in his first season at the helm for the Twins, said he and his players enjoyed interacting with other professional athletes, especially ones who also represent the state of Minnesota.
“There is that connection with people who do similar things, and we’re doing it right next door to each other and we’re all part of the same community,” Baldelli said. “It’s great that all these guys are able to come out and spend some time and really just get to know each other. It’s something we should take advantage of anytime.”
While Vikings players hung out along the first baseline near the Twins dugout, perhaps the biggest Vikings fan was on the opposing side.
Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs is a lifelong Vikings fan even though the left-hander grew up in Southern California.
Skaggs told Vikings.com that since the Los Angeles area didn’t have a team during his childhood, he latched onto a team that featured a certain Hall of Fame wide receiver.
“I grew up being a big fan of Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper. I loved the Vikings … it was like a weird trend,” Skaggs said of his fandom that continues to this day. “I watch every Sunday and go to this hometown bar.
“I’m happy we got Kirk Cousins, and I’m happy about our draft picks. Smith is a Pro Bowler,” Skaggs added. “Rudolph, of course … and Diggs and [Adam] Thielen are really coming into their own. And Griffen is a lot bigger than he looks on TV.”
Skaggs said he also tries to see the Vikings in person whenever he can. He noted he took in the 2018 NFC title game in Philadelphia with Angels centerfielder Mike Trout, who is an avid Eagles fan.
Cousins, Smith and Kendricks each threw out first pitches simultaneously before the Twins earned a 4-3 win over the Angels.
Baldelli’s club now has a 26-15 record, which is second-best in all of baseball and the American League.
The Twins are now 2-0 on SKOL Night with Vikings players in attendance.