Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time.
On Saturday afternoon, that place was Bat & Barrel — the restaurant that used to be known as the Metropolitan Club — down the right-field line at Target Field.
Twins players and fans convened at the stadium for the yearly gathering known as TwinsFest, which caps the club’s winter caravan and begins the road to Spring Training each year. Most of the 40-man roster and a smattering of prospects show up each year to what has to be among the top five or so best fan fests in the game today.
The whole thing is basically a large autograph party, with fun events mixed in where players and fans — especially kids — can mingle on the concourse and surrounding areas of Target Field. Beyond that, it also gives fans a look into the Legend’s and Champion’s Clubs — two exclusive areas that have more restricted access at the stadium.
The Legend’s Club housed food areas, a few games and booths and the WCCO radio setup, while the Champion’s Club housed a large majority of the vendors selling game-used apparel, baseball cards and etc.
Bat & Barrel was set up half as a restaurant, but also a stage for players to take questions from fans or play games with a crowd watching. In this case, it was a quartet of Twins playing Headbandz, a charades game with players teaming up in pairs — Matt Magill with Trevor May and Blake Parker with Kohl Stewart — with a player holding an iPad to their forehead while the other gave clues to the mystery word on the screen.
After Magill and May beat Parker and Stewart, stadium announcer Jim Cunningham said they had a few more minutes left to take some questions from the fans. One kid asked May how he got so good at Fortnite — “Get injured kids, and you’ll have a lot of time for video games.” — and another asked what position each of the players played.
Another humorously asked if he could get autographs from each of the pitchers, but it was the final question that brought the room to a poignant silence.
A young girl got the microphone, and meekly asked Stewart how he handles playing in the big leagues with Type-1 diabetes. Stewart climbed off the stage, knelt down next to the girl and talked to her for a few minutes and took a number of pictures while also signing her jersey.
“Do you have diabetes too?” Stewart asked young Addy Dombrovski, an adorable 5-and-a-half-year-old girl from Woodbury. When she confirmed to him that she did, he told her, “It has never held me back and it won’t hold you back. You can do whatever you want to do.”
Stewart showed Addy the CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) device he wears that tracks his blood sugar level at all times — which he keeps tucked in his back pocket while pitching — and she showed him her Animas pump. “That was my first pump, too,” Stewart told her, though he was diagnosed at a bit later of an age (9) than Addy was (3). Stewart now uses a t:slim pump, which Addy’s mom Shelly says she’ll hopefully transition to when the time is right.
Addy’s infatuation with the Minnesota Twins was stoked at an early age. Her mom and dad grew up huge Twins fans, and according to Shelly, Addy is a fourth-generation Twins fan. She attended her first game when she was just 10 days old, and three years later stuck out a 13-inning game because she knew it was Sunday.
On Sunday, kids get to run the bases after the game.
It was around this time that Addy also started having trouble making it to the bathroom on time. “She’d been potty trained for almost a year,” Shelly said, “but then she started having accidents multiple times a day and night for about four days before I decided to take her in.
“After a couple quick tests at the doctor, we found ourselves at Children’s Hospital for the next three days getting Addy stabilized and learning all we could about how to take care of her. She really struggled with all the finger pokes and shots for the first couple months, but then it became the new normal. She still has times where she gets angry and upset about it, but she is a champ.
“She battles this every day like a superhero!”
After Addy heard that Stewart had Type-1 diabetes, she felt determined to meet him. “She’s been wanting to meet him,” Shelly said, “and it just happened to be the perfect timing (Saturday).”
Being the parent of such a young child with diabetes can be a real struggle, Addy’s dad Noah said.
“I’d say the toughest part for us is seeing her struggle and not being able to fix it,” he said. “Managing the unpredictability of the disease and watching it around the clock has been a big life change for us.
“Right now she isn’t able to just spend a night at a relative’s house or be dropped off at a friend’s birthday party without out one of us there to manage her diabetes,” Noah continued. “We are always checking and monitoring her around the clock. Most nights we get maybe two- or three-hour bursts of sleep throughout the night in between blood sugar checks. Typical childhood illnesses can wipe out her body more than her peers and it usually involves a trip to the children’s hospital.”
Of course, it’s also difficult for Addy, who like all kids her age simply wants to look and feel like everyone else.
“For her, it’s emotionally and physically hard,” Noah said. “She doesn’t like having to do shots or site changes — they hurt. Always checking her blood sugar before eating and needing insulin for every carb that she eats make her feel different from her peers.
“Hopefully as she gets older, she will have confidence in her ability to not only care for herself but live the life she wants and deserves. And maybe someday, she can be an advocate and role model for others with Type-1 like Kohl is for her.”
The Dombrovskis definitely don’t take that lightly, either.
“People like Kohl can give hope to a lot of people living the daily struggle to manage Type-1,” Noah said.
When Kohl approached Addy and Shelly, they had no idea what to expect. That’s not to say that Stewart has a reputation for being an enigma personality-wise; he’s just been in the big leagues for such a short time that the market is still getting used to the former first-round pick.
“It was an awesome moment and made Addy’s day!” Shelly said. “Him taking the time to talk to us meant the world!”
Stewart knelt next to Addy, and chatted her and mom up while signing the jersey the young girl was wearing.
“We talked about a lot of things,” Shelly said about the encounter. “He really wanted to be a support for Addy and wants to help in any way he can. They talked about their insulin pumps and CGMs and the technology that helps keep them alive every day! He told us about a foundation he’s starting to help kids get insulin pumps who normally wouldn’t be able to afford them.
“Life with Type-1 is a 24/7 thing with lots of ups and downs. It can be really tough at times and he wanted us and Addy to know that she can do this and he’s there to support in any way he can. She now has a role model that is showing her the sky is limit and diabetes won’t hold her back!”
Shelly said that Addy will turn six in May. Yet despite her age and energy level, she has no trouble sitting through a three-hour ballgame, her mom said.
And ironically enough, that means she was born right around the time Kohl was drafted by the Twins (June 6, 2013).
Saturday’s interaction was just one of many on a weekend where the Twins announced an attendance of 11,500.
But for Addy Dombrovski, it’s a big-league memory that’ll last a lifetime — and she now has a new favorite big-league player.
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