Falvey: 'You can't replace Mike Bell'

Twins organization remembers world-class person

March 27th, 2021

Considering that Mike Bell's only year as the Twins' bench coach came in a shortened season marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, it's remarkable to see how much of an impact he had on the organization and how many people -- from top to bottom -- will remember his passion and character.

Bell showed those all around him in the Twins' organization just how much he cared about all of them as people. He's been doing that every stop of the way throughout his career. Manager Rocco Baldelli says that's what made him such an effective bench coach, and that's what the Twins -- and the baseball world -- will miss most after Bell died Friday of kidney cancer at the age of 46.

"His entire goal was how to aid and help people reach their dreams and reach their goals," Baldelli said. "There are things bigger than baseball, and he understood all of these things so well. And learning that about someone, and being able to key in on that was not difficult with him. It was something that was very apparent."

"We all need people in our lives like Mike Bell," he added. "An amazing, amazing, amazing, lovely, thoughtful, beautiful human being. And we’re going to miss him."

The distraught members of the Twins' organization canceled practice and weren't even sure that they should play their evening matchup against the Braves, but when Baldelli connected with Bell's brother, David, the manager of the Reds, he learned that it was the Bell family's wish that the Twins would remember Mike Bell by playing the game that threaded through three generations of their legendary baseball family.

"They said Mike would want us to play," president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said during Friday's television broadcast. "He would want us to play baseball and be out there. He'd be mad at us, quite frankly, if we didn't play. So in honor of Mike and for his family -- I know they talked about it -- we felt the best thing to do was to honor him by going out there and doing what he would want us to do every day."

So after the Twins and Braves lined up outside of their dugouts for a moment of silence and the flags at Hammond Stadium were lowered to half-staff, they played on.

Two copies of Bell's No. 36 jersey hung in the home dugout during the game.

Baldelli will see that jersey and remember the days that the two were able to spend around his home in Rhode Island together during the offseason before the 2020 campaign, when Bell first became his bench coach and flew out to just get to know Baldelli, eat good food and talk.

Miguel Sanó wrote a tribute to Bell on his cap and hit a homer in his bench coach's memory, he said. He remembers when Bell called several times last year to ask about Sanó's family when the slugger was down with COVID-19.

"He had a moment for everybody," Sanó said.

Falvey noted on the Twins' radio broadcast that he'd heard testaments to the countless young lives that Bell impacted in such a way in the D-backs' organization, where he served as both director of player development (2011-16) and vice president of player development (2017-19) before moving to the Twins' dugout. Even in a limited time, the Twins saw that firsthand.

"One of the more genuine human beings you’ll ever meet," strength and conditioning director Ian Kadish wrote on Twitter.

"There are good people in this world, and then there are world-class people like Mike," wrote Triple-A pitching coach Mike McCarthy. "His love and passion for baseball was incredible, but [pales] in comparison to his love and passion for people. We lost one of the best I’ve ever met in baseball and someone I looked up to in ways he will never truly know. His charisma, authenticity and genuine personality are traits I’ve sought to embody on and off the field. He left us all better people for having been inspired by knowing him."

Bell shared with MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi last year that he struggled with the yips, anxiety and depression at points in his lengthy Minor League career from 1993-2005, which was broken up only by one brief 19-game stint in the big leagues with the Reds in 2000.

Still, his love for the people within the game remained with him to the end.

That was clear in part of an email that Bell sent to the Twins' coaching and leadership group just before camp began, as shared by Falvey on the radio broadcast.

"I miss everyone so much," Bell wrote. "It’s not necessarily the game that I miss -- it’s the people. It’s working together. The ups, the downs, even the masks we wear and the protocols. I miss all of it. And I miss doing it together. The game’s about my teammates to me, and I just miss everyone. I want all our teammates to truly care about each other and embrace the incredible year that is before us."

"We expected Mike to rejoin us in person at some point along the way," Falvey said. "We weren’t sure when. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be the case, but those words and his spirit are going to be with us all year and years beyond."

The Twins didn't fill the bench coach role this spring while Bell was away -- and they know that his presence will never truly be replaced.

"You can't replace Mike Bell," Falvey said. "There's just no way. I know many of our staff members are already taking on a lot of the responsibilities that Mike had when he was here in terms of baseball responsibilities. But we're never going to replace the person. He's going to be with us all year."