5 things that Justin Morneau can teach the Twins as their newest special assistant
Longtime Twins first baseman Justin Morneau has called it a career after 14 excellent years. The 2006 American League MVP spent his last three and a half seasons away from Minnesota, but the Twins have brought him back for 2018, when he'll help the team as a special assistant.
Morneau was a terrific player for the Twins and made the All-Star team four years in a row, so he certainly has a thing or two that he could teach the up-and-coming team. Here are a few.
Don't be afraid to step up and do the job yourself
One of Morneau's finest games came on July 10, 2008, against the Tigers. He tied a career-high with five hits in the 11-inning affair, and the last one was a solo shot off Freddy Dolsi that keyed the Twins to a 7-6 victory.
On another occasion, Morneau came one RBI shy of tying the Twins' franchise record by driving in seven runs against the A's:
The man was a run-producing machine.
No matter the situation, you can always improvise some batting practice
When the Twins were building Target Field in anticipation of the 2010 season, they enlisted the help of Morneau and a couple of his teammates to test out the grounds. The grass wasn't ready yet, but that didn't stop Morneau from belting some dingers:
Morneau later won a batting title in 2014 with the Rockies. You can't win the crown without a complete dedication to the craft, and Morneau had it.
A little superstition never hurt
Morneau was somewhat notorious for being one of baseball's most superstitious players. For a long time, he had the same pregame meal -- macaroni and cheese, microwaved to 3 minutes and 33 seconds (matching his No. 33).
An ESPN article detailed Morneau's particular nature even further, chronicling the good luck charms from his MVP season in 2006:
The man gets $81 a day in meal money, and yet on his way to the Metrodome before every game, he stops by the same Jimmy John's Gourmet Subs, on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, and orders the No. 4 from the menu. Turkey Tom, no sprouts-$4.65. ...
... One day, teammate Nick Punto made him a concoction with the clubhouse Slurpee machine, and now Morneau's gotta have a Punto Slurpee before every game, and only Punto can make it, using the same recipe: one-half Mountain Dew, one-half red or orange stuff. ...
... Morneau steps onto the field at 6:47 with shortstop Jason Bartlett and does four wind sprints. No more, no less. Then he plays catch with Bartlett, or Punto in a pinch.
Every little bit helps.
Never be intimidated by late-game scenarios
Quite often, Morneau was who the Twins wanted at bat when the game was on the line. He belted six walk-off homers in his career, the first of which came on June 9, 2006, against the Orioles' Bruce Chen:
Morneau could even handle the best that baseball had to offer. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera blew only five saves in 47 career opportunities in the postseason, dominating teams with a 0.70 ERA across 96 games. Yet Morneau was an essential part of the Twins' rally in Game 2 of the 2004 ALDS that gave Rivera one of his rare blown saves:
Most importantly, give the crowd a show
While Morneau was a respected power hitter, he wasn't normally considered among the game's elite sluggers. With 247 dingers in his career, though, he could still put up some memorable performances, like this hat trick of homers against the White Sox on July 6, 2007:
A year later, Morneau appeared in the 2008 Home Run Derby at the old Yankee Stadium. Josh Hamilton seized the spotlight, but, in fact, it was Morneau who ended up walking away with the trophy:
May the next phase of Morneau's career be as successful as his days as a player.