How the Twins found out Johnson was leaving

June 29th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Do-Hyoung Park's Twins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

As it turns out, the majority of the Twins’ traveling party learned of the stunning news that pitching coach Wes Johnson will depart for the same role at LSU on Friday in the same manner that most of you likely did -- via Twitter and text messages from friends. Let’s take a look behind the curtain.

Depending on who you ask, the Twins’ team plane was either taxiing to the runway, starting its takeoff roll or in the process of taking off when the Tweet and text notifications began pinging the phones of many aboard on Sunday evening.

The Twins had just completed a 6-3 victory over the Rockies at Target Field, and, as they always do, they immediately made their way to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where they boarded their specially configured Boeing 757-200 jet to head to Cleveland for a four-day, five-game series.

As players, coaches and staff members settled in and started connecting to the plane’s Wi-Fi network in preparation for the one-hour, 26-minute hop to Ohio, the news of pitching coach Wes Johnson’s stunning upcoming departure hit communications vice president Dustin Morse’s phone as the plane’s engines roared to life on the runway. One of the first players to see the news for himself on Twitter was shortstop Carlos Correa.

“The first thing that popped up was a retweet from Betsy [Helfand, of the St. Paul Pioneer Press],” Correa said. “It was official that [Johnson] was going to LSU. Read it again, checked if it was a verified account. It was a verified account. Gio [Urshela is] sitting next to me. I tell him, he reads it, he's like, 'No way.'”

Elsewhere on the plane, others were catching on, too. Tyler Duffey said he got a deluge of text messages from connections around the game, and Joe Ryan was also getting texts from former coaches.

“We all kind of looked at the phone literally as we were taking off, and everybody was like, 'What the hell is going on?’” Duffey recalled. “I looked, 'Is [Wes] still here [on the plane]?' I didn't know if he just kind of Irish goodbye-ed, which is probably what I would do.”

This was obviously not the way Johnson intended for his team to learn of the news. He said LSU sent over a formal offer around Thursday, and he accepted it on Sunday. He had started to inform a handful of pitchers and Twins coaches on the side before the news hit Twitter. At that point, there was nothing he could do.

“Leaks happen,” Johnson said ruefully. “There's going to be one, and then it's gone.”

As Johnson sat at a card table on the plane with other coaches, Correa was the first player to approach him and ask what was going on. Johnson was very forthcoming with him, and though the Twins originally tried to keep things under wraps, it was far too late at that point. Other players followed Correa and got explanations from Johnson. The initial shock aside, manager Rocco Baldelli said the players were congratulatory and happy for Johnson.

“You’d think stuff would get very hectic and crazy, and it didn’t really,” Baldelli said. “It didn’t happen like that. People started to get word because the Internet is a thing.”

"Rocco told me not to tell anyone, but then by the time I walked back to my seat, the guys are like, 'What were you talking to Rocco about?'” Correa said. “And I'm like, 'I don't know, are you talking about Wes? What do you guys know?' ;He's leaving.’ I think everybody knew by the time we landed.”

Given how things played out, the Twins scrambled to find a ballroom at the hotel, where they put together an impromptu team meeting as soon as they reached their destination. Baldelli and Johnson addressed the team there, officially informing them of the news. Baldelli, bench coach Jayce Tingler and president of baseball operations Derek Falvey later talked to the Twins’ coaches in a smaller meeting.

And so went a crazy three or so hours for the Twins’ traveling party.

“I think it was like, ‘Wait, is this actually happening?’ And then it was like, that flight is so quick, that it was like, ‘All right, we’re here.’ And we met up immediately,” Ryan said. “So it was handled very well.”