Top 5 Minnesota-born Twins in history

December 5th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- Depending on what entrance you typically use when attending games at Target Field, it's not difficult to miss a list that occupies a window facing the outside of the small Gate 14 on North 7th Street, just behind home plate. Nestled behind a statue of Kent Hrbek (for whom the gate is named), it's a list titled "Hometown Heroes" that includes every Minnesota-born Twins player since the club relocated to the Twin Cities in 1961.

Local readers need no reminder that there's an over-the-top amount of state pride in which Minnesotans band together and look out for fellow natives of the North Star State in all manners of life -- professional sports included. The Twins have been fortunate to have had a number of strong performances and careers by Minnesotans as part of their history, a legacy that should continue in 2021 with the return of left-handed pitcher Caleb Thielbar, who grew up in Randolph.

This week, let's take a look at the five greatest Minnesotan players in club history.

1) Joe Mauer (2004-18)
Hometown: St. Paul

No surprise here. The Twins lucked out in having Mauer, a graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall High School, available to them when they secured the second No. 1 pick in club history ahead of the 2001 MLB Draft, and the catcher-turned-first baseman gave them a potential Hall of Fame career through 15 seasons, the longest tenure by any Minnesota-born player with his hometown team and one of three on this list whose Twins career spanned more than a decade.

The personal accolades are plenty. He's the only American League catcher to have won a batting title (he won three), he won the 2009 AL MVP Award, claimed five Silver Slugger Awards at catcher and three Gold Glove Awards. He finished his career first on the club's all-time list in doubles (428) and second in games (1,858) and hits (2,123), giving the team a stable, longtime presence first as the cornerstone catcher and later as the veteran team leader. He was part of four AL Central champion teams and was part of both the Metrodome and Target Field eras.

2) Kent Hrbek (1981-94)
Hometown: Bloomington

Hrbek was a month shy of his first birthday when the Twins played their first game at Metropolitan Stadium in 1961. Of course, he was a fan of the club as he grew up and attended high school in Bloomington, the southern suburb of the Twin Cities that was home to the Twins' stadium until they moved downtown to the Metrodome in '82. A young Hrbek likely wouldn't have guessed that he'd make that move with them -- and finish second in club history in homers (293) and RBIs (1,086).

Hrbek's alma mater, Kennedy High School, remains a short drive down Old Shakopee Road from the Mall of America, the former site of Metropolitan Stadium. It was following his high school career there that the Twins selected him in the 17th round of the 1978 Draft, and he rose through the organization quickly enough to play 24 games for the Twins in 1981, their final season at the park Hrbek frequented in his youth. Upon his move to the Metrodome, Hrbek found his power stroke, locked down first base for the rest of his career and helped bring home both of the Twins' World Series championships, in 1987 and '91, including a memorable grand slam in Game 6 of the '87 Series.

3) Dave Goltz (1972-79)
Hometown: Rothsay

Greater Minnesota needed some representation on this list alongside all these Twin Cities natives, too. That's where Goltz comes in with his steady eight seasons with the Twins, highlighted by the 1977 campaign for which he finished sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting (that was also the season Rod Carew made his run for .400) after posting a 3.36 ERA in a career-high 303 innings. He led the AL with 39 starts and 20 wins, becoming the Twins' first 20-game winner since Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven in '73.

That journey began in Pelican Rapids, where Goltz was born in 1949 before he grew up in nearby Rothsay, a town of 472 on Interstate 94 just southeast of the Fargo/Moorhead area. According to Goltz's biography by SABR, he was a four-sport letterman in high school before the Twins selected him with a fifth-round pick in the 1967 Draft. He debuted for Minnesota five years later and amassed 23.1 career WAR in a 12-year career with the Twins, Dodgers and Angels.

4) Glen Perkins (2006-17)
Hometown: Stillwater

Born in St. Paul and educated at Stillwater Area High School and the University of Minnesota, Perkins earned a first-round selection from the Twins in the 2004 MLB Draft and spent his entire 12-year MLB career with his hometown team, making a smooth transition from ineffective starter to All-Star reliever before he was named to three All-Star teams in 2013-15 and posted three consecutive seasons with ERAs of 2.56 or lower from 2011-13. He finished his career with a 3.88 ERA in 409 games -- all with Minnesota -- and ranks third in club history with 120 saves, behind only Joe Nathan and Rick Aguilera.

5) Paul Molitor (1996-98)
Hometown: St. Paul

Maybe there's something in the water at Cretin-Derham Hall. Molitor enjoyed the best overall career of any player on this list, but the St. Paul native only played the final three seasons of his 21-year Hall of Fame career for his hometown team, following 15 years with the Brewers and three with the Blue Jays. It was good timing, too, as Molitor's .341/.390/.468 season in 1996 was highlighted by his 3,000th career hit -- a triple -- on Sept. 16 to become the first player in MLB history to join the 3,000-hit club with a three-bagger. He added 305 more hits in his final two seasons and later returned to manage the club from 2015-18, joining the legendary Tom Kelly as the only Minnesota-born managers in club history.

Honorable mention
This list wouldn't be complete without a nod to Jack Morris, a St. Paul native and graduate of Highland Park High School who only played one season for his hometown team but made it count, throwing a 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series to clinch the title. ... Dave Winfield was also born in St. Paul and attended Morris' rival high school, St. Paul Central, before attending college at the University of Minnesota. He was a first-round selection in the 1973 Draft before embarking on a 22-year Hall of Fame career, mostly with the Yankees and Padres. Like Molitor, Winfield also joined the 3,000-hit club as a member of the Twins during his two seasons with his hometown team in 1993-94.