When the Twins of another era were at the plate, hitting coach Joe Vavra was in the dugout, conversing with players about strategy and their swings. When the defense took the field, he headed inside to the Target Field batting cages and would soon find his son, Terrin.
"I would come in for the defensive side, and he's putting balls on the tees [for the hitters] and having conversations," Vavra said. "As a young kid, he was in the clubhouse with all the veteran guys we had."
That included Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Nick Punto and others.
"Quiet kid," Morneau remembered. "Hung around but never bothered anyone."
But Terrin, the youngest of Joe's three sons, was watching, listening, striving.
Terrin went on to star for the Gophers for two seasons before being drafted in the third round by the Colorado Rockies in 2018. On July 29 this summer, he made his major league debut, but not with the Rockies. He was dealt to Baltimore last year as part of a package for reliever Mychal Givens. That landed Vavra in the middle of the Orioles youth movement. Vavra, 25, has seen time mostly at second base, left field and designated hitter, while batting .271.
Joe Vavra pointed to the times when Terrin said little but soaked in everything he could while in the Twins clubhouse as a reason why he had a good chance of reaching the majors.
"Those were his role models," Joe Vavra said. "He had a front-row seat on what it takes."
Joe Vavra talked through a speakerphone as he drove toward a place he refers to as "the cottage." It's a house in his hometown of Chippewa Falls, Wis., he and his family built during the pandemic.
"My wife learned how to use a nail gun," he said with a chuckle.
Joe and Lesa relax at the cottage, have family over and watch Terrin's games by satellite.
Papa Vavra actually was on hand for Terrin's major league debut in Cincinnati. He came on in the ninth inning as a pinch runner, then went 0-for-3 as the DH the following night in his first start. It was a rough two days for both Vavras, as the father faced life as a spectator in a major league ballpark for the first time.
"I had never been that far away from the field," said Vavra, who was on hand for his son's first six major league games. "The first two games, I was sitting in the middle of a section, and I can't sit still. I can't sit here in the middle of this row. I've got to move, get some seeds, some bubblegum, whatever."
Terrin Vavra eventually heated up, batting .375 during a nine-game stretch. But he tailed off and was batting .229 in September while occasionally being dropped from the lineup. But there was a good explanation for the dip in performance.
"They had a baby in the middle of August," Joe Vavra said. "It was a little girl, and it kind of disrupted things. During and after the delivery there were things that parents are always concerned about. There were some anxious moments, and I can't help to think that it probably reflected in some of his game. But he always handled adversity and situations really well."
Wife, Carlie, and the baby, Tatum, are doing fine now and staying with Joe and Lesa. August was a big month for Vavra family expansion, as one of Joe's other sons, Tanner, had his second son two days after Tatum was born — both delivered at United Hospital in St. Paul.
Things are going so well that Joe Vavra is leaving on Wednesday to spend three days in Baltimore as his son's team takes on Detroit and Houston.
"It's been very exciting," Vavra said. "For a guy that spent 40 years in a major league uniform, to have your son compete at that level is just special. You can't describe it. He's out there competing with the big boys."