Correa's mentorship of young Twins a 'thing of beauty'

February 17th, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It’s undeniable that the Twins would have been much worse off on the field had they not miraculously brought back on a long-term deal. It might have been even more difficult off the field for the young players in the clubhouse who benefited most from the superstar’s mentorship last season.

Fortunately, they don’t need to worry about that, not anymore. Correa is theirs for a lengthy future that started on Friday, when the shortstop arrived in camp well ahead of Sunday’s full-squad report date.

“I probably would have cried if C4 weren’t here [this year],” said. “I probably would have cried. I'm definitely glad he's here. I don't think a lot of people really understand how much this guy impacts the game. I'm glad he's in our clubhouse rather than the one on the other side.”

The thing is, the Twins don’t even need to imagine how it would have felt to not see this day arrive. Everyone in that organization had to think about that twice this offseason, when Correa first agreed with the Giants, then with the Mets, before the weeks-long saga finally concluded in January, when he inked the six-year, $200 million deal with the Twins that finally stuck.

The fact that it took such a roundabout journey for Correa to get back to this home clubhouse made the reunion feel all the more significant.

“For sure,” said. “Obviously more special. We know he's going to be here for a long time. … All the advice that he gives to us -- guys like me, guys like Nicky [Gordon], Royce [Lewis] -- he means a lot to us.”

“Normally, we generally don’t ride many waves, regardless of what those waves are. And if you let yourself do that in the game of baseball, you’re going to end up all over the place,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “So you try to stay as stable as possible. … But when we thought he was signing elsewhere multiple times, you become disappointed and then you become optimistic again. Disappointed, optimistic again.”

For all the impact that Correa had on young infielders like Miranda, Gordon and Lewis during the one year he was originally slated to be in Minnesota, he saw his work as unfinished -- and he acknowledges it does feel different to know that he’ll actually be around to see fully through the development of all of these future teammates.

“Absolutely, it feels completely different,” Correa said. “When you have a short-term deal and then you probably end up with another team, you have to beat that team that you helped build up. Now, it’s good to know and feel that I’m going to be here for a long time and be part of that process, and I’m going to be part of this family.”

The cultural shift that Correa hoped to instill only saw its first few steps last year -- and he said that it was “getting a lot better” by September. He does what he can as an individual to make other individuals better -- Gordon spoke, for instance, about how Correa talked him through advanced hitting metrics to better understand his strengths and weaknesses at the plate, leading him to focus on being much more selective with pitches this season.

It goes beyond that, though. By the end of the season, Correa would have eight or nine teammates in his hotel room after games, talking baseball, hoping to help them understand that real improvement comes from that extra time and care they take for each other.

“The talent, it's good; yeah, you've got to have talent to win,” Correa said. “But also, you've got to have some intangibles in order for your team to be great. That's something we're building here right now.”

All that effort helped those that Correa took under his wing feel cared for and invested in as both players and people -- and that’s what they’re thrilled to see him bring back as he improbably walks through those clubhouse doors once again.

“My dad played, a lot of people played, and they didn't necessarily come around like that,” Gordon said as Correa playfully yelled out his name from across the room. “Just, man, it's a thing of beauty. Even just then, you see him walking around, he's yelling my name. He just makes you feel good. He makes you feel like you want to be here."