MINNEAPOLIS As 11-year-old Annie Buresh and her 8-year-old sister, Alex, ran the bases prior to Sunday's Minnesota Twins game, they had no idea what kind of surprise awaited them at home plate.
The Buresh sisters rounded third base to see their father, Robert, pop out from behind Twins mascot T.C. Bear to greet the girls at home plate. Master Sgt. Robert Buresh recently returned home from Afghanistan, his sixth deployment overseas, and wanted to surprise his daughters on Memorial Day weekend. His wife, Julie, was aware of the secret, but his daughters had no idea.
The Buresh girls took part in a race where each girl had to put on parts of a Twins uniform as they got to each base. With the sisters wearing jerseys too big and pants too long, they sprinted to home plate into the arms of their waiting dad.
The emotional act received a standing ovation from everyone at Target Field as they honored the soldier and his family the day before Memorial Day.
"This is a moment they are going to remember for the rest of their lives," Buresh told MLB.com. "As a dad, I can't ask for any more. That's just fantastic. I can't tell you how grateful I am for doing this."
Master Sgt. Buresh was stationed at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan with the Minnesota Air National Guard as a member of the 109th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron of the 133rd Airlift Wing. He and his family are from Kasson, Minn.
After Buresh greeted his daughters and his wife on the field, several Twins players stopped to meet him, greeting him with handshakes and hugs.
"That was a lot more nerve-wracking than I thought it was going to be," Buresh told MLB.com. "It feels awesome. I can't put it into words."BR>
Blackburn will make two rehab starts: Twins right-hander Nick Blackburn, currently on the 15-day disabled list with a left quad strain, will make two rehab starts with Triple-A Rochester before being activated off the DL.
Blackburn will make his first start for the Red Wings on Tuesday in Charlotte and will start again Sunday in Rochester against Columbus.
"Basically, he threw a complete game in the bullpen (Saturday), 90 pitches," Gardenhire said. "We're hoping Tuesday, he goes out there and gets through it, five, six innings, whatever it takes. He's definitely stretched out. It's not about his arm. It's about his legs and if they're underneath him. We'll see how that one goes, and then another one Sunday."
Blackburn was placed on the DL on May 17. In seven starts this season, he is 1-4 with an 8.37 ERA. He's hoping that coming back healthy can help him correct his struggles on the mound.
"As soon as my foot would land, I could feel a sharp pain in there. Obviously that's not very comfortable," Blackburn said. "The thing is, the majority of my starts this year, I've started off feeling fine even if I've struggled to find the strike zone. My pitches are sharp. There's good movement. . . . It'll just be good to move on and get past everything and go out there."
Perkins hits 98 mph in Sunday's game: Twins set-up man Glen Perkins has routinely touched 96 mph with his fastball this season, even reaching 97 mph at times. But in Sunday's loss to the Tigers, he reared back and hit 98 mph several times in the eighth inning, including the last pitch of a strikeout to Ryan Raburn.
Perkins credited the warm temperatures -- it was in the low 90s in Minneapolis on Sunday -- for helping him boost his velocity.
"I did the same thing I do every time: I throw the ball as hard as I can," Perkins said. "I'm just glad I hit my spot more than anything."
With a scoreless inning Sunday -- he struck out Delmon Young and Raburn -- Perkins has now pitched 6-23 scoreless innings over his last seven outings. He last allowed a run on May 11 against Toronto. Since then, he's struck out eight batters and walked just one.
Attendance strong despite Twins' record: At 15-32, the Twins are in last place in the American League and are struggling on the field. But the team didn't struggle at the box office over the weekend, as they drew over 112,000 fans during the three-game series with Detroit.
Each of the three games drew more than 37,000 fans. That included a sellout Sunday of 38,710, the third sellout of the season and the 141st in the brief history of Target Field.
"You could see it was a sellout. We're obviously not giving them a whole lot to come and watch, but we do appreciate them coming out," Perkins said Sunday. ". . . It's good. Hopefully we can play a little better and keep them interested."
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