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Gardenhire thrilled to be back in Twin Cities

Ex-Minnesota manager warmly received in return as Arizona's bench coach
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- D-backs bench coach Ron Gardenhire, a former Twins manager, sat on top of a bench and fielded questions from reporters before the series opener against Minnesota on Friday.

His return to Target Field warranted an exceptionally crowded media scrum, as he answered questions about what it means to see familiar faces and be back in the ballpark again. There was one thing that was unique, however, the fact that he was doing all this from the visitors' dugout.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- D-backs bench coach Ron Gardenhire, a former Twins manager, sat on top of a bench and fielded questions from reporters before the series opener against Minnesota on Friday.

His return to Target Field warranted an exceptionally crowded media scrum, as he answered questions about what it means to see familiar faces and be back in the ballpark again. There was one thing that was unique, however, the fact that he was doing all this from the visitors' dugout.

View Full Game Coverage

"In this dugout? It feels great, I've never been in this dugout," Gardenhire said. "It's nice to be back in Minnesota. I got off the plane [Thursday] night and went to the house; that was good. Come out here and see a lot of good friends and a lot of good people who work here."

The Interleague series between the Twins and D-backs granted Gardenhire the opportunity to make his return for the first time as a member of the opposition. Gardenhire spent 13 seasons as Minnesota's manager, leading the club to six American League Central titles.

Video: CLE@MIN: Gardenhire on being diagnosed with cancer

The Twins donated $186,000 for prostate cancer awareness, in honor of Gardenhire, moments before the first pitch. Gardenhire was greeted with a standing ovation and a thunderous applause when he was recognized on the video board.

Gardenhire, who succeeded Tom Kelly in 2002, posted a career record of 1,068-1,039 with the Twins. Minnesota won the division in each of his first three seasons and four in his first five seasons. He was named AL Manager of the Year in 2010, while finishing as a runner-up in the category in '03, '04, '06, '08, and '09.

But Gardenhire was dismissed in September 2014. His victory total as a manager is the second-highest mark in club history, behind Kelly's 1,140 wins. Arizona hired him as a bench coach this past offseason.

"It's more of a chess match in the National League than it is in the American League," Gardenhire said. "It's a little bit different baseball with the pitchers hitting. I think it's a learning experience."

Gardenhire's return coincides with Twins' Hall of Fame weekend, as they plan to induct two members into the team's Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame plaques for Michael Cuddyer and Andy MacPhail will be revealed at Target Plaza on Saturday. Cuddyer will be inducted Saturday, while MacPhail's induction will be held Sunday.

Cuddyer played 11 of his 15 seasons with the Twins and was an All-Star in 2011 under Gardenhire. MacPhail served as a general manager for nine seasons, including the World Series championship teams in 1987 and '91.

"That's what is really cool, getting to see a bunch of things up here," Gardenhire said. "Michael was obviously one of our great players. That's pretty neat. I'm happy to be here for him."

Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins