Former Twins and Gophers star Paul Molitor, one of only 28 major league players to get 3,000 career hits, was asked for his reaction after watching Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter go 5-for-5 Saturday to join the elite group of hitters.
"I've got a lot of respect for him," the St. Paul native said. "I'm sure that being the first Yankee to get 3,000 hits was a little added pressure and doing it as a member of the Yankee franchise, but he seemed to handle it well.
"After coming back from his injury [strained calf muscle], he didn't waste any time with that 5-for-5 performance, and including the home run for his 3,000th hit, joining Wade Boggs as the only guys to accomplish that milestone with the long ball. He's had a heck of a career. He's handled the pressure of New York very well, and you know, it's pretty impressive to watch how he's gone about his business and see him enter the 3,000-hit club."
Molitor said he had an advantage in reaching 3,000 hits because he had the opportunity to watch teammate Robin Yount accomplish it with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1992.
"Anybody who gets to that milestone is an older player, so they should be able to kind of handle some of the things that come with a milestone like that," Molitor said. "For me, I was fortunate that I had a chance to watch Robin Yount march towards his 3,000 hits, so I kind of had an idea of some of the things that you had to put up with in terms of the press conferences and the attention and the fan reaction."
Molitor added: "It is something that should be enjoyed. You want to get it done and sooner rather than later, but it's something that you should be able to enjoy. So watching Robin helped me kind of relax as I went through that. I never imagined getting a triple on my 3,000th hit, but that's just how it worked out."
Molitor reached the milestone with the Twins on Sept. 16, 1996, in a 6-5 loss to the Kansas City Royals. Molitor, like Jeter, had a fantastic day at the plate, recording a single in the first inning (his 2,999th career hit) and scoring a run later in the inning, and then reaching the milestone on a triple in the fifth, the only time in baseball history that a player recorded his 3,000th hit with a triple.
Molitor finished the game 3-for-4. But what might have been most impressive about that 1996 season for Molitor, his first with the Twins, was that at the age of 40, he led the American League in hits with 225. That total was the most for Molitor in a single season during his productive 21-year career.
Eller files suit
Vikings Hall of Fame defensive end Carl Eller has become the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit brought forth by a group of former NFL players seeking better pensions and more medical benefits for NFL retirees in the new labor agreement that the NFL and the Players Association are currently negotiating.
Eller and a number of other players spoke publicly at the Washington Press Club about physical and mental hardships they have endured following their playing days. Eller was quoted in USA Today as saying, "These are real people. This is real pain."
Mike Guentzel, who is returning as associate head coach of the Gophers men's hockey team under Don Lucia after a previous stint as assistant coach with the program from 1994-2008, said: "I worked with Don for nine years [from 1999-2008] and we had a lot of successes. I'm comfortable with that, that it will work out great."
While neither Lucia nor Guentzel will talk about it, there is no doubt Guentzel and John Hill, who was on Lucia's staff until recently, didn't get along. Lucia and Hill had been close friends for years, so Guentzel was let go in 2008.
Give Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi an assist for bringing Guentzel back.
Hockey runs deep in the Guentzel family, with all three of his sons playing hockey. Ryan, who recently graduated from Notre Dame, is going to play in Norway. Gabe is going to be a senior this fall at Colorado College and Jake, who has a ton of potential and is the youngest in the family, will be a junior at Hill-Murray next year. Jake accounted for 50 points for the Pioneers last season.
• Like everybody in the organization, former Twins manager Tom Kelly can't say enough good things about first-time All-Star Michael Cuddyer. "Michael is a pretty good athlete. He knows his way around," Kelly said. Kelly said he has worked with Cuddyer at first base. "We hit him a few balls over there every now and then, yes sir. I think his biggest asset is that he's reliable. You can count on him. He's always ready to play. He's always ready to play at any position. He's accountable for what he does. I think he's just what every manager is looking for in a player. He's that kind of guy."
• The 2011 U.S. Under-18 Select team roster was announced Thursday and Louie Nanne, the grandson of Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne, was the lone Minnesotan to make the team, which will compete at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament Aug. 8-13 in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Nanne will be a junior next year at Edina. As a sophomore, he was the fifth-leading scorer on the team with 29 points on 13 goals and 16 assists.
• Timberwolves President Chris Wright reports the team has sold 7,000 new season ticket packages in the past three weeks, following the signing of point guard Ricky Rubio. ... Montreal Alouettes football coach Marc Trestman, the Minneapolis native and longtime NFL assistant whose team won the Gray Cup last year, has started this season 2-0.
• The city of Minneapolis won't allow an advertisement on the water tower near Target Field, but it has allowed a painted No. 3, Harmon Killebrew's number, to remain there for a long time.
• Former Gophers wrestler Roger Kish has been named North Dakota State wrestling coach. Kish, 27, will be the youngest head coach in NCAA Division I-A. He is replacing Bucky Maughan, who retired in May after 47 seasons, a 467-157-13 record and four NCAA Division II national championships.
• Former Vikings coach Dennis Green was quoted as saying he is hoping to bring back former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper to the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League for a second season. Culpepper had a good 2010 season, throwing for 1,944 yards with 10 TDs and 12 interceptions.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com