Mike Hirschbeck, the son of major league umpire John Hirschbeck, was at Cleveland’s Progressive Field on April 4 to greet the Twins as they took on the Indians. Those who saw him said he was in good spirits and cracking jokes.
But four days later, Mike died at age 27 after a long battle with a brain disease.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire left the team to travel to the Akron, Ohio, area to attend the funeral. Terry Steinbach managed Friday and will do so again Saturday in Gardenhire’s absence.
Mike Hirschbeck’s association with the Twins goes back more than 20 years. Diagnosed with a rare brain disease — adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD — he underwent a bone-marrow transplant at University of Minnesota Hospital in 1992. Then-manager Tom Kelly visited him in the hospital at the time. Mike also got to know Gardenhire and the rest of the coaching staff.
His father is one of the more well-liked umpires in the majors. Based in Sarasota, Fla., during spring training, Mike Hirschbeck would come over to Ed Smith Stadium and serve as Twins batboy when they came to town to play the Reds and later the Orioles. Mike last was a batboy during a spring game in 2013.
“[Gardenhire] was trying to figure out what to do [Thursday], obviously because of his relationship with the Hirschbecks,” Steinbach said.
“You all saw Michael on our bench a lot. So there’s a place in Gardy’s heart for him. We knew he would try everything he could do to get there.”
John Hirschbeck also had another son, John Drew, die from ALD in 1993 at age 8.
The Twins are sending flowers to Mike’s funeral, and the coaching staff is making a donation to Hirschbeck’s foundation.
Who’s the man?
Steinbach filled in for Gardenhire when he was sick during two games last July and replaced him each of the five times he was ejected from a game last year.
Gardenhire wrote out Friday’s lineup before he left for Ohio. And Steinbach expected to speak with him before Saturday’s game.
Steinbach expects to lean heavily on the rest of the coaching staff.
“Yes, I’m managing here, but there is some great talent on our bench,” said the Twins bench coach. “This isn’t my gig. I wear the hat, but I’m going to be tapping into these guys.”
Willingham to DL
Josh Willingham took some swings Friday and still felt discomfort in his left hand.
So the Twins decided to place the slugger on the 15-day disabled list.
“We have played shorthanded as long as we can,” assistant General Manager Rob Antony said.
The Twins will call up righthander Michael Tonkin from Class AAA Rochester to replace Willingham.
Since Willingham hasn’t fully recovered, the Twins will have him undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam Saturday.
He will be placed on the DL retroactive to Sunday, the day he was hit by a pitch in Cleveland.
Tonkin was a late cut from spring training camp but made the Opening Day roster when Brian Duensing left on paternity leave. Tonkin returned to Rochester on April 3, and he was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 4⅔ innings there.
“The starters haven’t been going deep,” Antony said. “It made more sense to call up a pitcher than a position player.”
Bartlett on way back
Shortstop Jason Bartlett, on the 15-day DL because of a left ankle sprain, ran the bases before Friday’s game and said it went great, so he is headed to Fort Myers, Fla., to work out for a couple of days before beginning a rehabilitation assignment.