Terry and Mary Steinbach, suddenly empty nesters, were driving to Duluth last October to watch their sons play baseball when they heard on the radio that the Twins had shaken up their coaching staff. Longtime bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, bench coach Steve Liddle and first base coach Jerry White were let go after the season.
"We kind of looked at each other and talked about it," Steinbach said. "If the Twins were to call, what would you want to do?''
After all, Steinbach, a three-time All-Star catcher during his career with Oakland and the Twins, had turned down Twins manager Ron Gardenhire before. Gardenhire wanted to hire Steinbach in 2002 when he replaced Tom Kelly as manager. Steinbach declined, citing the desire to watch his children grow up.
"It's just mine and Mary's belief that their high school days are extremely cherished, especially for parents," Steinbach said, "watching them do the high school baseball things, the prom, the homecoming, the graduation, the college searches and all of that stuff. For Mary and I, it was important for us to be around our kids and not miss out on those moments.''
But Jill is 25 and married. Lucas is 22 and a senior outfielder at Minnesota Duluth. Jacob is 19 and a freshman infielder/catcher. When the Twins approached Steinbach this time, the answer was different.
Steinbach, 50, will head to TwinsFest this weekend as the team's new bench coach. His 14 seasons in the major leagues included three World Series appearances. He worked for elite managers Tony La Russa and Tom Kelly. He's played with Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor.
He should be a valuable asset to a team looking for new voices and messages in the clubhouse.
Now Steinbach will be coaching in the majors for his hometown team, able to drive home after games at Target Field and be in range of his children.
Gardenhire is looking forward to seeing how his catchers benefit from Steinbach's expertise.
"It's going to be really good with Terry, with our catching,'' Gardenhire said. "He'll be in their ear. He'll be talking to Joe [Mauer] and [Ryan] Doumit and whoever else is on our staff.
"We'll see how we do with our catching, but he's going to be very valuable, being able to communicate with these guys and talk about game preparation and planning on hitters and all those things.''
Steinbach kept his hand in the game in recent years as a spring training catching instructor with the Twins. He would come down for a week or so and run the catchers through various drills, including one in which he would throw a tackling dummy at them while they caught relay throws, so they could get used to preparing for collisions.
All that spring training work made Steinbach wish for more. The mental part of catching, scheming to get hitters out, that's what Steinbach is eager to immerse himself in again.
"Some people say, 'Well, why didn't you do it the 10 days you were in spring training?' But you really want to monitor what's happening," he said, "look at videos and talk to the catchers and say, 'Hey, what happened in that particular situation? What could've you done?'
"Hopefully this doesn't happen this year, but I was always taught that it's part of the catcher's responsibility that if a pitcher is struggling, let's see if we can get them five innings instead of three. That way, we're going to save on our bullpen. I just think that there's things the catchers can look for and pick up on and hopefully try to work that guy.''