Monday, the Minnesota Twins announced they're bringing back three very familiar and fan-friendly faces to the organization. Michael Cuddyer, LaTroy Hawkins and Torii Hunter, all former players with the club, will hold new job titles: Special assistant.
OFFICIAL: #MNTwins hire @mcuddy23, @LaTroyHawkins32, and @toriihunter48 as Special Assistants. pic.twitter.com/sYnDbrWN4s— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) November 28, 2016
The trio only overlapped for three seasons with the Twins, 2001-03, but it was a very exciting time in Twins Territory. The team was just on the upswing of a great decade filled with division titles (and yes, playoff series losses to the Yankees). All three are going back to their original baseball roots, since it was the Twins that chose them in the draft.
They'll be key guys in the front office helping out with the trade deadline, draft, act as instructors in spring training and visit minor league affiliates throughout the season.
They all started in Minnie
Hawkins was picked in the 1991 draft and spent nine seasons with the Twins from 1995-2003. He pitched out of the bullpen and acted as the Twins closer for a time. He then spent 12 more years in baseball for a 21-year career.
Cuddyer spent most of his career in Minnesota, from 2001-11. He wrapped up his career with three seasons in Colorado before a year with the Mets. He was on the 2015 roster for the New York Mets when they lost the World Series to Kansas City.
Hunter is perhaps one of the most popular players in Twins history, rivaling the likes of Kirby Puckett after he followed in his center-field footsteps. He wrapped up a 19-year MLB career, including 12 years with the Twins, bookending his career in Minnesota in 2015 after a few years with the Angels and Tigers. He's a five-time All-Star who won nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 2001-09. He brought some energy into the clubhouse in 2015 with the #TwinsDanceParty. He was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame this past season.
With more than 1,000 career games, Hawkins no doubt has some pitching advice to offer. That's good, for a current rotation that could probably use the pep talks and advice. Hunter dazzled with his outstanding catches in center field that had everyone thinking back to the days of Puckett. Cuddy became one of the good guys, too, and developed quite a cannon in the outfield.
The nostalgia meter is running pretty high with the announcement yesterday. I think a lot of fans thought back to 2002, when the Twins won their first of six American League Central Division titles throughout the early 2000s. It was a fun time in the Twin Cities for baseball. They won a playoff series over the Athletics before losing to the eventual World Champion Angels in the ALCS.
That year, they finished 94-67 in the regular season. They had the core of Doug Mientkiewicz, Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, Cristian Guzman and, um, David Ortiz on the roster. It was the start of some great baseball in the Twin Cities, regardless of the playoff results that came along with it.
For me, it was pretty special because this was just a couple years after I became a serious sports fan. I started watching the last couple years of Tom Kelly's tenure, just when the team was on the upswing after the abysmal 90s years. I learned about baseball and learned about these players. So, I guess I'm part of that nostalgic group that really has a special place in my heart to recognize this team.
Some criticize the so-called "Twins way" of doing things, bringing back people who've been in the organization or hiring within. There might be some validity to that in certain cases, but I don't think it's all that uncommon for teams across the league to bring back former players for roles like special assistants.
These aren't huge positions of power, after all, like a manager or general manager. These guys can offer support and draw on their experiences as a player for the Twins to help the current players so they can win more games next year. I'm sure they'll help with the ol' cliche "team chemistry," too.
So, welcome back, fellas!