The starting pitcher scheduled for Friday night’s opener of a three-game Twins-Angels series in downtown Minneapolis is an attention-getter, a familiar name with a unique backstory and a throng of devoted fans who eagerly anticipate his first career performance on the Target Field mound.
Also: Shohei Ohtani.
Yes, the game will match Ohtani, baseball’s only two-way superstar in more than a century, against Louie Varland, the only big-leaguer ever to play for St. Paul’s Concordia College. Maybe that sounds like a name-recognition mismatch, but to the devoted family, friends and frequent travelers of Team Louie, it’s an opportunity to revel in a hometown stage.
And if that’s not enough, it will also be the Target Field debut of Matt Wallner, the Forest Lake native who became the Twins’ regular right fielder on last week’s road trip. The former first-round pick is 8-for-25 (.320) in the first seven games of his career, with two doubles, a home run and four RBI.
“It might be the most memorable game of their careers, in some ways,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I’m sure it will stand out and they’ll never forget it. It won’t be the first time [friends] have packed the place to support them, but it’s going to probably be an emotional day for them, too.”
Varland’s big-league debut came in Yankee Stadium, and he faced a former Cy Young winner in his second game, last Saturday in…