I thought it would be cool to look back at the big moments in my career. So let’s talk Twins.
When someone recently asked me about my time with the Twins, I thought: Young, Tom Kelly and Terry Ryan. The key to their success back then (and hopefully they will get back to that with Terry back) was their scouting department. They did a good job scouting guys. They did a great job picking guys in the fifth, sixth, seventh & even later rounds in the draft that ended up becoming big leaguers. That’s where you find your diamonds in the rough. When you end up finding guys that have long, successful major league careers, that’s when you really know your scouting department did a great job.
TK (Tom Kelly) is a unique individual. He was very intelligent. His baseball IQ was off the charts. The way he handles the team, it’s really something. Being with him those years, and being so young at the time, we didn’t really understand the reason why he handled us the way he did. When I left the organization, I realized I was so glad that I had him because he laid the foundation for the type of athlete and player that I became.
Guys that I was tight with? Matt Lawton, Eddie Guardado, Pat Mahomes, Scott Erikson. Mahomes and Erikson were already in the big leagues, but I lived with them my first year. Later there would be Torrii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Doug Mientkiewicz, A. J. Pierzynski, Corey Koskie. We had a pretty good minor league system that produced a lot of major leaguers. We were all in the big leagues at the same time, early in our career. We got a chance to watch each other grow as players, but also as fathers, husbands. Then we all went our separate ways. I think that TK laid that foundation for us. Without it, I don’t know if I would be able to play as long as I have. He instilled in us the importance of being a professional, respecting the uniform, respecting the game. I don’t think I could have gotten that any place else. I was really lucky to be where I was when I was a Twin.
Torrii was the vocal one of our bunch, but when he first came up, he wasn’t always that vocal. I think he got more vocal when Eddie and I left, but when we were there, we were the vocal ones on the team. Torii was definitely a leader; we saw that in him. He would stay in the background, but when we left, it became his team. His catch in the 2002 All-Star Game robbing Barry Bonds of a home run was the greatest moment of that game. Too bad that somebody (then-Commissioner Bud Selig) had a bad decision (ruling the game a tie) that overshadowed that.
Eddie and I spent a lot of time together sitting in that bullpen. He had been with TK a couple of years before I got there and was the epitome of a professional. He came in, got his work done and did everything he needed to get ready to play the game. Then we went out and played. You would have thought he threw 97 MPH, but he didn’t. He had pinpoint control, a great split finger. He was only 5’10,’’ but you would have thought he was 6’10.” I learned a lot from Eddie, and to this day, I still learn from him.
When I was with the Twins, there was a big rumor about us being contracted. Looking back on it now, it was just a big rumor. But during that time, they told us not to worry about it. There was nothing you could do about it anyway. You need to continue to play baseball. We left Spring Training, played some exhibition games, and then went on to Minnesota. We didn’t think much of it. I think if it really came to a point where we had to really start thinking about it, I’m sure the Players Association would have put us in the best position possible to be where we needed to be. It was weird, but we didn’t pay too much attention to it. I’m just glad it happened then, and not now, with all the media coverage we have now. It seemed like a lot of media back then, but nothing compared to what things are like now.
I’m a guy that loved the Metrodome, but it’s pretty amazing that they have a new ballpark. The first time I was there I didn’t like it at all. It was my first time back in Minnesota and I missed the Metrodome. The second time I was there, I had to go upstairs to see some friends, so I went up to the concourse and saw the view of Target Field. I finally saw what all the hype was about. I never had the chance to see that view because my view is always the same…from the bullpen.
Target Field is amazing, but I always look back fondly at the Metrodome, and my time as a member of the Minnesota Twins.