Home run!

by Jan on December 12, 2011

Clyde and Jan

Clyde and Jan at the new Twins Stadium. Image courtesy of Kris Cooley

I am living the dream,” says Clyde Doepner.

And it all started with a “thank you.”

Clyde is a husband, father, grandfather, retired coach and teacher, and now he is the only full time curator of memorabilia for any team in baseball–his beloved Minnesota Twins.

From the time he was a small boy, playing baseball was all Clyde ever wanted to do. He won a baseball scholarship to college and played until a shoulder injury in his sophomore year forced him to stop pitching. Needing to change gears, he decided to study what he loved almost as much as baseball–history. He stayed with baseball as a coach during his time teaching high school history.

His passion for baseball, history, collecting, and his practice of saying thank you for even small things brought him to his dream job.

Here is how it happened

As a brand new teacher, eager to start out on his very first job on the first day of school, he got to work early. A pile of unopened mail addressed to the baseball coach caught his attention, one envelope in particular stood out. It was from the Minnesota Twins; four tickets were inside, a gift from the team’s owner at the time, Cal Griffith (it was the late 60s – Cal owned the Twins from 1955 until 1985).

Clyde saw those tickets as an opportunity. He saw it simply as a way to share a day at the ballpark with his friends and, more importantly, to say thank you. When he got to the stadium he went up to Mr. Griffith’s office. “What are you doing here?” his secretary asked. Clyde replied, “I came to say “Thank you.” She pointed him towards Mr. Griffith’s office. It turned out to be the first of many visits.

Mr. Griffith, well known for being a curmudgeon, was won over by Clyde’s genuine gratitude and invited him to sit in his box when he came to a game. The two became life long friends.

The last stop before the landfill

In 1982, when the Twins were moving to a new stadium, Clyde saw dumpsters filling up with team memorabilia. He told his friend, “You can’t throw these things away!” Mr. Griffith said, “I don’t have a place to store it in the new place.” So Clyde got his permission to dig through all that material. And he only had 47 days to complete the job.

Saving the team’s history from obscurity brought him into the next phase of his life. He went from being a fan that collected memorabilia to being the unofficial archivist of the team.

Target Field

Image courtesy of Kris Cooley

In 2009 the Minnesota Twins moved again — this time to the beautiful new Target Field.  And Clyde’s life took a new shape with a new full time job with the Twins. He had never imagined that his collecting would become an official job, or that he would one day be the only staff curator in American baseball, or that so many people would see his collection.

What comes around goes around. People see Clyde’s genuine love of what he does. Ever the teacher, Clyde was able to save the first home run ball at Target Field because he and A.J., the boy that caught it, shared a genuine love of baseball. He impressed A.J. with the importance that the ball had to the history of baseball – and gave him something of value in exchange, a signed Joe Mauer MVP jersey, 20 minutes with the catcher after the game, and a place in one of the display cases at the stadium that shows his picture. It was Clyde’s way of saying a big “thank you” to A.J.. Now his contribution will never be forgotten, and a new generation of Twins curators is born…

His dream found him

It didn’t happen overnight. What’s so wonderful about Clyde’s story is that it demonstrates that following your passion sometimes evolves into a substantial contribution. Clyde’s passion to collect baseball memorabilia is a gift to the Twins ball club, their fans, and to baseball history.

His life is a tribute to thankfulness. His appreciation of everything — the great and not so great, saying thank you for each little thing and being truly grateful for each thing in life — has given him a life no one could have predicted.

His thanks continue. He often thanks the Pohlad family and Twins President, Dave St. Peter.  His gratitude overflows for the great chance they gave as the Twin’s curator, and their continuing support.

In our time together he shared his love of his family; his joy overflowing for the good life he has. He talked about appreciation and thankfulness in almost every sentence.

Clyde has inspired me.  He is a hero, champion and most of all a happy man.

One of my goals in life was never to grow up and the little boy in me never died.” ~ Clyde