MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins Territory got the chance to stand up and shout for one of the best closers in franchise history one more time.
For eight years, "Stand Up and Shout!" by Steel Dragon played over the speakers at the Metrodome and Target Field when Joe Nathan took the mound for the Twins. On Saturday, the familiar tune played again as Nathan strode onto the mound, but this time, he was clad in a new Twins Hall of Fame blazer after he was officially inducted into the elite group.
Nathan became the 32nd member of the club's Hall of Fame in a ceremony that was delayed by rain for an hour and 22 minutes on a drizzly evening at Target Field. He'll soon be joined by longtime team president Jerry Bell, who will be honored in a pregame ceremony on Sunday.
"To be standing up here, it’s an absolute honor," Nathan said. "And that doesn’t do it justice, to be honest.
"It's about fitting that the weather happened the way it did, because I always had to wait until the ninth inning to pitch. So why not wait a little longer?" he joked.
Nathan almost always made that long wait until the ninth inning worth it for Minnesota fans in the seven seasons he wore a Twins uniform.
After he was traded from the Giants to the Twins in the deal that sent A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco prior to the 2004 season, Nathan converted 260 of his 288 save opportunities (90 percent) from 2004-11, and became the franchise's all-time saves leader, ahead of names like Rick Aguilera, Glen Perkins and Eddie Guardado.
Nathan was named to the American League's All-Star team four times while with the Twins and twice finished in the top five of voting for the AL Cy Young Award. He owned the ninth inning for one of the most successful stretches in Twins history, as he was the closer on three different Twins teams that won the AL Central.
"Obviously, when I got traded here, there was an opportunity to take off," Nathan said. "People gave me an opportunity and said it was my job to lose. That really just kind of allowed me to kind of become a closer and ultimately put a few good years together and become the player I am and ultimately get to where we are now."
But as longtime teammate Michael Cuddyer pointed out as he introduced Nathan, the closer's impact off the field and in the clubhouse was felt by his teammates as much as his lockdown performance on the mound -- and that's part of why 17 other members of the Twins Hall of Fame were present for the ceremony, along with numerous other former teammates.
"As a former teammate, I don't need the numbers to justify Joe Nathan going into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame," Cuddyer said. "If I had a charitable event, or if any of our teammates had a charitable event, Joe Nathan was the first one to come. Any time we had a team function or a team dinner, he either organized it, or you knew for sure that he was going to be there.
"Until the check came. That's when he'd blow a few of those saves."
Nathan's 16-year Major League career also saw stops in San Francisco, Texas, Detroit and Chicago, and he accumulated a total of 377 career saves along the way, good for eighth on the all-time MLB list. But he never forgot Minnesota -- and Minnesota didn't forget him.
"I always knew there was something special about Twins Territory from the moment I got here in 2004," Nathan said to the crowd. "But it was when I returned in 2012 wearing a gray [road] uniform and didn't know what to expect, it was then that your support surprised me and let me know that the fans here are even better than I thought."
Nathan asserted that his favorite memory as a member of the Twins will forever be the 2009 Game 163 tiebreaker for the AL Central crown against the Tigers. At the end of his acceptance speech on Saturday, he addressed the 2019 club, assembled in the dugout, and urged them towards the finish line in creating more playoff-caliber memories for Minnesota.
"I'm excited to be part of Twins Territory and help this house get rocking for this Twins team that has been so fun to watch," Nathan said. "I just want to say to the guys in the dugout: Enjoy the ride and keep grinding. Let's get it done."