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What do California, the Twins and Mondale have in common?

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | May 2, 2021

What do a chance encounter in California, the Minnesota Twins and Walter Mondale all have in common?

Read on to find out.

My wife Pam and I took advantage of having had our COVID shots and the fact that travel and the state of California has opened back up enough to head to that state to visit our son, Nate, and family who live in Ripon, California.

You may recall our son Nate and family lived in Blue Earth for a spell while he was the warehouse manager at Seneca here. And that our granddaughter, Lauren, was born at UHD hospital some 10 years ago.

But, I digress; a little bit anyway.

Our best friends from Tracy, Minnesota, had decided to come with us to California, a place they had never been to. So one of our days there we decided to make the 100 mile or so trip into San Francisco to do some exploring in that city.

We drove about 45 minutes to Pleasanton, California, to board the train called the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) that would take us into San Francisco, which would take about another 45 minutes or so.

We would first go through Oakland, then head under the bay and come up from underground right smack dab in downtown San Francisco.

Pretty cool, huh?

Anyway, after a fun day exploring San Francisco, we hopped back on the BART train to head home.

That meant going back through Oakland. On the way there I had noticed we had gone right by the Oakland Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics Major League baseball team.

I had also noticed that about one half of the parking lot had cars in it, while the other half appeared to be a huge drive-through COVID testing or vaccination clinic.

But again, I digress. At least, just a little bit.

At the BART train stop nearest the coliseum, quite a few people got off or came on the train. One couple who came on our train car and were near us were bedecked in total Minnesota Twins outfits, from hats to jerseys, shirts, and jackets.

I quickly Googled the Twins schedule on my phone and sure enough, they had played the Oakland A’s that day, in Oakland.

So I had to go say hi to these Twins fans in California. And visit with them a bit.

Yes, they said, they had been at the game. And yes, they were big Twins fans.

And yes, they were pretty upset with the Twins. They had lost 13 to 12 in extra innings and had had the lead four times in the game but squandered it away each time.

The guy had grown up in Minnesota, he said, but left the Twin Cities for a job opportunity in California. His wife was from Tennessee originally, but had been converted to be a Twins fan.

He asked where we were from. I told him it was a small town in the southern part of the state, which he might not have heard of.

It is Blue Earth, I said, adding it is about an hour south of Mankato.

His answer was that he did, indeed, know where Blue Earth was. He was born at UHD Hospital in Blue Earth, he explained.

Wow. You have to be kidding me, I answered. That is quite a coincidence. But I run into coincidences like that all the time, it seems.

He said his last name was Heggen, and that his father had been a minister at a church in Elmore, so he had spent the first two years of his life in Elmore, before the family moved away for his father to serve another church.

This guy said he was just like Walter Mondale, he explained, saying both he and Mondale spent some of their youth in Elmore because their fathers were both ministers. We both expressed sadness at Mondale’s recent passing.

That led to me telling him the story of my having spent a day with Walter Mondale in Elmore some time ago.

It was back in July, 2013. Former U.S. Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale was back in Elmore for the town’s Sesquicentennial and the Elmore All-School Reunion.

I went there to get a photo of Mondale and instead wound up spending the entire day with him. We walked around town, watched the town parade together, visited his childhood home, and went to the reunion where he was the speaker.

It was quite a day. One I won’t forget. And three years later, when I visited with Walter Mondale again at the Minnesota Newspaper Convention in Minneapolis in 2016, he told me he remembered that day in Elmore quite well, too.

Fritz Mondale was one of my favorite politicians of all time. Not because he was a Democrat or that his beliefs on all topics were the same as mine or just because he was from Minnesota. No, it was because he was a regular guy, and an absolutely perfect gentleman and, well, just an all around decent human being who cared a lot about people everywhere, whether he knew them or not.

And he spoke passionately about his beliefs whether it was to his political advantage to say what he thought, or not. And he would not say something just to get himself elected, if he did not believe it.

We need more of that kind of person in Washington these days, I think.

R.I.P. Fritz