One of the places I’ve felt most comfortable is on a ball field, but today is a different story. I thought for quite some time about all the things I wish I could say to my fans, to my family and my friends, and I realized rather quickly that trying to sum up 18 years in under 10 minutes seemed impossible.
It’s surreal to be at this point today, but I remember like it was yesterday when I first put the No. 7 on for the first time. I was 18 years old in Elizabethton Tennessee playing rookie ball and the No. 7 hung in my locker inside the first professional clubhouse I’d ever been in.
To be honest, it wouldn’t have mattered what number it was hanging in my locker that day. I just couldn’t believe I had a locker in a professional clubhouse with this jersey hanging in it.
As a kid, I had a dream of playing in the major leagues. I would always pretend to be my favorite player. I paid such close attention to their every move. I copied their stances, their on deck routines, I tried to swing the bat like them, run like them, make plays like them. I wanted to be them.
Growing up in a family always nurtured my love of baseball. My dad would invent games to challenge me and to help sharpen my hand to eye coordination. One of the best pieces of PVC piping you had in your garage would later be known as the Mauer quick swing. My brothers and I would play pickup games in the yard that helped hone my skills, even though at the time we just thought we were having fun. My grandfather was there to make sure I stayed on the left side of the batter’s box and to remind me if I wasn’t five minutes early to practice I was late. My Grandpa and Grandma Tierney never missed a game. I could always count on them to be there at the games with their scorecards. And my mom of course my biggest cheerleader and fan always encouraged me to do my best, but more importantly to remind me to have fun.
As I got older my love of baseball continued to grow. My love of a sport and encouragement to turn my childhood dream into a reality. I now know as a father that the phrase it takes a village to raise a child is true. But I feel that phrase need to say a family as well. A huge reason I am standing up here today is because the important people throughout my life challenged me, taught me faith that would set me up for success, not only as a ballplayer, but as a man. I am humbled that so many of them are here tonight.
My immediate family and my extended family are here tonight. Childhood friends I have had most of my life are here. I have high school teachers and coaches, even my host family from Missouri who I stayed with when I was 16 years old is here tonight. My agents, doctors and trainers are here. Teammates I played with I’ve known going back 18 years are here tonight, along with clubhouse staff, coaches, managers and members of this organization that have helped me since I was a senior in high school and all of them played a part in me standing up here tonight.
My family kept me grounded. They supported me no matter the outcome of the game. They believed in me and rooted for me, from my first T-ball game to my very last here at Target Field. My wife held down the fort and took incredible care of our daughters so I could go out and live my dream. She’s a staple of support during the highs and lows that come along with this game.
My beautiful daughters kept things in perspective and were a constant reminder of what’s truly important in this world. My friends, both those I’ve known my whole life, and others I’ve made along the way, have supported me and treated me the same no matter what. My teachers, high school coaches provided a strong moral foundation and helped me navigate my high school years as a student, and athlete and a person. My agents provided me with opportunities, but more importantly with advice, wisdom and lifelong friendship.
My doctors and trainers helped keep me in the game and always put my health and safety their main priority. The clubhouse staff made it possible for me to go out and do my job each night, and in turn became confidants and friends I’ve made for life.
Managers and coaches provided me insight and knowledge. They reminded me not to change things that work, and taught me how to make the right adjustments to improve.
My teammates. They provided me with a brotherhood unlike any other, where we challenged each other, celebrated each other, and picked each other up. Thank you, boys. They are some of the greatest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
This organization demonstrated the importance of giving back to the community, and how the impact of a ballplayer goes well beyond the ballpark.
And the fans — they played a huge role in my career as well. Their cheers made me feel alive, and their disappointment pushed me to work harder. Their letters and fan mail, and signs I could see from the field, made me feel supported and proud to play here at home.
All of you have helped me get to this point, this incredible and surreal point, where the first number I wore on my back is now displayed alongside the very players I pretended to be as a child. I was fortunate enough to have met each one of those seven players, and each one has personally impacted me and my career in some way. Those men are some of the best to play this game, and to say it’s an honor to have my number next to theirs would be an understatement.
I cannot thank the Pohlad family and everyone in this amazing organization enough for bestowing on me such an incredible honor here tonight. Wearing the No. 7 the past 15 years has been my absolute pleasure and being able to play my entire career in that number in front of my family, friends and fans here at home means more to me than any of you will ever know.
Thank you to everyone who traveled here tonight from all over the country. You being here and taking the time out of your busy lives means the world to me. I want to thank each one of you for your love and support not only tonight, but over the course of my entire journey that led me here.
Thank you to the fans for coming out and once again showing me how amazing Twins Territory truly is. Grandpa Tierney, I know you’re smiling down on us tonight. I tip my cap to you and Nana for always being my biggest fan.
And my sweet boy Chip. You may have missed this all, pal, but I can’t wait to tell you all about it. You’re my great reminder that timing is everything, and you and your sisters are my most treasured gifts.
I hope when everyone here tonight sees that No. 7 hanging in the rafters, you all know that you played a role in getting it up there. I know when I see it, I’ll think of all of you and be forever grateful. Thanks again, and go get ’em tonight, boys.