Trevor Plouffe turned on his television Monday and saw Ron Gardenhire’s farewell news conference. The Twins third baseman had just returned home from having surgery on his broken forearm at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
Plouffe asked his wife, Olivia, to drive him to Target Field so that he could say goodbye to his manager in person.
“We just kind of dropped everything and rushed over there,” Plouffe said.
Plouffe admitted they ran two red lights — “We carefully did it,” he said — so he didn’t miss his chance to see Gardenhire before he left the ballpark. Plouffe pulled into the parking lot as Gardenhire was signing autographs for a few fans.
Plouffe was able to share a moment with his former manager, who was fired after 13 seasons.
“I just wanted to thank him for giving me my opportunity,” Plouffe said. “I should say opportunities because he stuck with me through some times where other people didn’t want to necessarily have me on the team. Or didn’t think I was good enough. I think Gardy saw something in me.
“I just wanted to let him know that he had the support of everybody in the clubhouse. He was a guy that everyone loved. I wanted him to hear that from a player’s standpoint because he gave so much to us.”
Many of Plouffe’s teammates shared similar reactions after learning of Gardenhire’s dismissal.
“Pretty sad to hear just because he’s a guy I have the utmost respect for,” second baseman Bran Dozier said.
Said reliever Brian Duensing: “I feel bad for Gardy. A lot of the stuff that happened wasn’t his fault. He can’t play the game for us. Unfortunately, though, when changes are made it usually starts with the coaching staff.”
The organization made the move after the team suffered its fourth consecutive 90-plus-loss season. Gardenhire’s players defended him and accepted blame for four seasons of futility, but they also understand professional sports are a results-oriented business.
“It’s just a weird dynamic in sports where a team underperforms and the person who is on the chopping block is the coach or the manager,” Plouffe said. “He can only do so much.”
Starting pitcher Kyle Gibson described Gardenhire as a “player’s manager” and said players collectively “didn’t uphold our end of the bargain.”
“That whole staff meant a lot to us as players,” Gibson wrote in a text message. “As a team, we needed to play better.”
Dozier said he became particularly close to Gardenhire because of the manger’s “pride in his middle infield.” Dozier said Gardenhire earned respect inside the clubhouse for the way he treated players.
“He taught me a lot about the game and being a professional,” Dozier said. “Pulled me to the side when I needed a little chewing out as a rookie. He is really good about knowing each and every guy and knowing what guys to pat on the butt and what guys to chew out a little bit. I think that’s why we loved him so much.”
Several players said they hope the good moments of Gardenhire’s tenure don’t get lost in the frustration of four miserable seasons.
“I just really hope that fans remember everything he and his staff have done for the Twins organization, the city of Minneapolis, and the state of Minnesota,” Duensing said.