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Librarian is my go-to Twins guy

When I seek feedback on Minnesota Twins or Vikings news and transactions, I turn to two reliable sources in Cloquet. The first is smiling Dave Haapanen, usually found stocking shelves in the cereal or salad dressing aisles at Super One. The second is Justin Dinger, who works with kids in the teen section of the Cloquet Public Library.

This is Justin's story.

Justin grew up in the Twin Cities - Brooklyn Center, to be exact - with his mom and dad, and two younger brothers, and attended Park Center High School, a big school with more than 600 graduates every year. In high school, Justin was active in theater and was a member of the student council. Even though his dad was a tremendous Minnesota Twins fan, a baseball coach, and even attended spring training in Florida, Justin never actively participated in baseball or high school sports.

But he was, like his dad, "a Twins fan from the day I was born."

After high school, Justin attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. It's where he met his sweetheart and future wife, Beth. Justin was an English and history major. He and Beth were married their junior year and started a family shortly after graduation.

Starting his career, he worked as a junior executive for various Target locations in the Twin Cities for a few years. Then Beth got a job working with the band in the Barnum schools music program. After moving to Barnum, Justin preferred to not commute to the nearest Target in Duluth, so he searched for other, closer opportunities. He landed a job with the Cloquet school district, first as a paraprofessional in special education and then as an information technologist. He stayed with the Cloquet schools for about 10 years. Both positions prepared him well for his current assignment, as the youth services (teen) librarian with the Cloquet Public Library on 14th Street.

At the library, Justin has established a rapport with area teens setting up reading programs, tutoring, game nights, technology battles ... and being, as well, a mentor and friend. The library's newly expanded space allows for participant ping pong and air hockey. The REACH program also utilizes the teen space at the library. Video games and computer use fall under Justin's watchful eye and planning, too.

The Dingers have four children now, the oldest graduating from college this year and the youngest 11 years old. As a way of giving back to Barnum, Justin is a member of the city council and Beth is an elected representative on the school board.

"We love living in Barnum," Justin said. "Kids can walk to school and attend extracurricular events - it's been great."

At present, Justin and his youngest daughter are both in the cast of "Charlotte's Web," the current production at the County Seat Theater. Another teacher at Barnum is also in the show, so it makes transportation to and from Cloquet a breeze.

"What's really nice is that me and my daughter are together in respective scenes," Justin said. "We both like that."

Justin's father passed away unexpectedly a couple of years ago. They had always made a point to go together to at least a few Minnesota Twins baseball games each season. Justin bought tickets to the game commemorating the retirement of Joe Mauer's No. 7 uniform. Before the occasion, Justin's dad died.

"We still solemnly went to the game, kept my dad's seat ticket, bought a beer and placed it on his reserved seat and, of course, were wishing he would have been there to join us." Justin said.

Justin already has tickets to the 2023 opening day game at Target Field in Minneapolis.

So, I had to ask the expert prognosticator what he predicted for the 2023 Minnesota Twins.

"It's exciting to have Carlos Correa back at shortstop," Justin said. "The Twins lost last year's third baseman, but on paper we have José Miranda and others to replace him. They've traded and signed two Gold Glove outfielders and added a good catcher. The Twins traded Luis Arraez, who my dad had rightly predicted would be a future AL batting champ, for an established Miami pitcher."

With a twinkle in his eye, Justin predicted: "Twins will be 2023 American League Central Division champs. Buy your playoff tickets now."

Thanks, Justin.

Steve Korby's interest in writing goes back to when he was in fourth grade and editor of the Scan-Satellite school newspaper in Scanlon. He welcomes ideas for human interest stories and tales regarding Carlton County residents, projects, history, and plans c/o [email protected].

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