January 21, 2016

Torii’s turn: Hunter reflects on his baseball career via The Players’ Tribune

First Michael Cuddyer and now Torii Hunter, both of whom played for the Twins, has penned some thoughts about his playing career on The Players’ Tribune after he retired at the end of last season.

The two pieces are similar, with both thanking those who taught them about life and the game, but Hunter’s farewell is funny, no doubt a reflection of the player who always seemed to have a smile on his face.

It also has a great lede. Hunter describes his early days in Double-A ball as he and a teammate shared a rental car and apartment. Except in this case the rental car and apartment is a Geo Prizm.

“If you remember the Geo Prizm, it wasn’t a big car,” Hunter writes. “To call it a ‘compact’ car would be generous. There wasn’t close to enough room for my 6-foot-2 body to stretch out, but Armann (Brown) and I made it work.”

But life and baseball would get better.

On the day he got the call to The Show:

I broke down and cried tears of joy right there in the hallway. Just a few months earlier, I was waking up with car seat imprints on my cheek every morning and sneaking showers in the clubhouse, ready to quit baseball. Now, I was heading to The Show.

On playing for the Twins:

There was no one team more special than the 2002 Twins. I remember sitting in the clubhouse one day in Spring Training that year with David Ortiz, Corey Koskie, Doug Mientkiewicz and Jacque Jones, reading the newspaper. The Twins were coming off five-straight 90-plus loss seasons, and we were supposed to get contracted that year — ripped apart and all the players dispersed to other teams in a draft. The beat writers talked about us being contracted, calling us the ‘best Triple-A team in baseball.’

So we decided that if that was gonna be our last time playing with each other, we wanted to leave it all on the field. We went out that year with a chip on our shoulder, with an attitude. We wanted to destroy everyone. We won 94 games that year. We won the AL Central and beat the A’s in the ALDS. We did things nobody expected us to do.

On David Ortiz:

David was really messing with all of us a lot early in that 2002 season, always talking and joking and pranking. But (Corey) Koskie thought it was time for payback. So in the middle of a game, he went back into the clubhouse to David’s locker and lined his underwear with peanut butter. After the game, we were all sitting in the clubhouse, and David came out of the showers, went to his locker and started getting dressed. He was talking to us — he was always talking — as he was getting dressed, so when he slid his tightie-whities on, he didn’t even realize that there was a lot of peanut butter in there. We were all just sitting there, waiting for it to hit him…

On Ortiz’s eventual reaction:

He went off. He was screaming, cursing at us, and we were literally rolling on the clubhouse floor while he got undressed and got back in the shower to clean the peanut butter out of his butt. We were like, ‘What took you so long to notice?! Are you used to that?’

On the players he learned from:

Guys like Matt Lawton, LaTroy Hawkins, Eddie Guardado and Frankie Rodriguez, who took care of the 22-year-old kid who came up to the big leagues and didn’t know anybody. They showed me the ropes. Guys like Paul Molitor, who taught me what to look for in a pitcher to decipher what pitch was coming — different arm angles, grips, glove positions. Little things you can’t pick up on unless you’ve played and put sweat and dirt on those spikes.

On No. 34:

Guys like Kirby Puckett, whom I learned so much from just by watching the way he carried himself. How he’d walk into and out of the stadium, and he’d say hi to everybody. Security guards. Vendors, Media. Fans. He shook their hands and knew their names. He was a star, and he still took the time to do this, every day. He never took one day for granted and he always had a smile and positive energy to lift up his teammates and make them laugh.

On the original inspiration:

I watched Andre Dawson hit a home run one day. Then another the next. And another two days later. He hit 49 home runs that year, and I probably saw every one of them. Watching him, I wanted to be like him. I threw like him. I had the leg kick like him. I even had the Jheri curl like him.

 

January 18, 2016

Sam Mele, who guided Twins to 1965 World Series appearance, turns 94 this week

Sam Mele, who won 524 games as manager of the Twins from 1961 to 1967, will celebrate his 94th birthday on Thursday. Mele’s tenure with the Twins wasn’t long, but after the Washington Senators relocated to Minnesota for the 1961 season, it also wasn’t long before the Twins showed improvement. Under Mele, the Twins won... Continue Reading »

January 17, 2016

A State of the Union address for Twins fans

President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address last week, reassuring Americans that the country remains in good shape, despite recent concerns about the economy and national security. The 2011 State of the Union address But this is a blog about one particular baseball team, so I ask: What’s the state of... Continue Reading »

January 11, 2016

Yes, Torii Hunter will be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame

After a 19-year career in the Major Leagues, including 12 seasons spent with the Twins, Torii Hunter retired at the end of last season. He’ll now have to wait five years before he appears on his first Hall of Fame ballot. Torii Hunter But once he does, I believe he will be enshrined. It won’t... Continue Reading »

January 7, 2016

Remembering Brian Harper, baseball catcher

I have a small but growing collection of Twins’ memorabilia: there’s Kirby Puckett’s rookie card, the license plate, the old pennant flag, the Brad Radke bobblehead, a Casey Fien-signed baseball, a ball with Frank Viola and Jack Morris signatures and the Johan Santana autograph. The newest addition, which I received as a Christmas gift, is... Continue Reading »

December 30, 2015

New Billy Martin biography sheds light on Martin’s time with Twins

When one thinks of Billy Martin, synonymous with the New York Yankees as a player and manager, this image doesn’t come to mind: The Martins’ Richfield neighborhood had big, old maple trees and was close to the Twins’ ballpark in Bloomington. There was a backyard for Billy Joe — Gretchen called him B.J. — and... Continue Reading »

December 21, 2015

Former MLB pitcher Philip Humber turns 33 today. Happy birthday, Phil.

Despite winning only 16 games in eight seasons, Philip Humber, who happens to turn 33 today, will be remembered for throwing the 21st perfect game in Major League history. He accomplished that feat for the Chicago White Sox on April 21, 2012, beating the Seattle Mariners 4-0. Humber threw 96 pitches over nine innings and... Continue Reading »

December 16, 2015

Thirteen years ago this month the Twins released David Ortiz

All professional sports teams have their share of bad personnel moves: paying too much for a free agent, getting stuck on the wrong end of a bad trade or letting go of a player who becomes a much improved player elsewhere. Some teams (see the Seattle Mariners) struggle with their personnel moves more than other... Continue Reading »

December 13, 2015

Michael Cuddyer says farewell to playing baseball on The Players’ Tribune

After suddenly announcing his retirement, Michael Cuddyer, a former member of the Twins for 11 seasons, explained his decision Saturday on The Players’ Tribune. It’s a nice piece called “Play Hard and Dream Big” that touches on the game, his approach to it and the path to becoming a professional and professionalism — something the... Continue Reading »

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Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.