After Jim Thome hit his 600th home run in Detroit on Monday, he was asked who has had the most influence on his career. Thome answered without hesitation that it was Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who first met Thome in 1989 in spring training after he signed with the Cleveland Indians.
In a news conference following his 600th homer, Thome said: "Charlie has been very, very special to me throughout my career. I dedicate a lot of those home runs to him because he's been there with a lot of confidence. And in times of struggle, he built us up and pep-talked us."
Thome said Manuel taught him how to practice and how to try to hit home runs and that Manuel was like a dad to him.
On Thursday, Manuel told me he was home watching the Twins and Tigers on Monday. He saw both Thome's 599th and 600th home runs and said what a thrill it was.
Manuel's first association with Thome came when he was spending a lot of time with another Indians prospect, a big lefthanded hitter named Mike Davis. The Indians brass thought Davis had a great future and that Thome didn't seem to have as much potential.
However, the 19-year-old Thome followed Manuel and Davis around and eventually was implementing Manuel's instruction better than Davis. This started their long relationship.
"I remember preaching to him that he didn't have to pull the ball against lefthanded pitchers, and the result is he's hit a lot of home runs to left field against lefthanded pitchers," Manuel said.
Manuel, who was a Twins teammate of Harmon Killebrew, said he saw a little of Harmon in Thome when he was a young player.
Something Manuel divulged that I never knew was that Thome came up to the major leagues as a third baseman. When the Indians acquired Matt Williams in 1997, Thome was shifted to first base, where he played the majority of his career.
Thome played for Manuel in Cleveland from 2000 to 2002 and in Philadelphia in 2005. Manuel said one of the hardest things he had to do was trade Thome after the 2005 season because the Phillies had a great first baseman emerging in Ryan Howard.
And who knows, maybe Thome could wind up back in Philadelphia to help Manuel win another World Series.
Weather no problem
Gophers baseball coach John Anderson wasn't surprised that on the way to winning the American Legion World Series this week, Eden Prairie was able to beat teams from Waipahu, Hawaii; Gaffney, S.C.; Tupelo, Miss., and Las Vegas -- all places where they can play baseball at least 10 months of the year compared to the short season in Minnesota.
"We have a great baseball state with so many small towns with teams and stadiums, and the Twins have had a good influence," Anderson said.
Mike Halloran, a Gophers catcher from 1984 to 1987, is the Eden Prairie High School baseball coach and an assistant to coach Scott Hackett with the American Legion team. He was MVP of the 1983 American Legion World Series for Edina and is in the Legion Hall of Fame section in Cooperstown, N.Y. Hackett is an assistant to Halloran with the Eden Prairie High School team.
Lance Thonvold, who is headed to the Gophers along with Tony Skjefte, not only hit .292 for the Legion team but posted a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings. Skjefte hit .400.
Adam Bray, who is going to enroll at South Dakota State, hit .425 and had a 3.28 ERA; Blake Schmit, who is headed for Des Moines Area Community College, hit .383; Tyler Peterson, who hit .367, is bound for North Iowa Area Community College. Pitcher Tyler Ruemmele, who had a 1.71 ERA, is on his way to North Dakota.
Anthony King-Foreman, son of former Vikings star running back Chuck Foreman, not only was a pitcher on the Legion team but also is a member of the high school football team.
Not only is the contract of Gophers football coach Jerry Kill not finalized, but the same is true of the extensions for basketball coach Tubby Smith and hockey coach Don Lucia. Anderson is going on a year-to-year basis as baseball coach. Agents for Kill, Smith and Lucia are negotiating with the University of Minnesota's attorney on the contracts and apparently are not making much progress.
Former Gophers pitcher Cole DeVries, who was ineffective in the bullpen early for the Twins' Class AAA Rochester affiliate after he moved up from Class AA New Britain, is apparently on a hot streak. He has a 4-2 record and an ERA of 3.93 in 50 1/3 innings for Rochester while striking out 39 and walking 15.
Nick Bjugstad, who will be a sophomore with the Gophers hockey team this winter, recently wrapped up his second consecutive year at USA Hockey's national junior evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. Bjugstad scored one goal in six games. ... Also playing in the camp was Justin Faulk, the South St. Paul native and Carolina Hurricanes prospect. Faulk finished tied for seventh in scoring at the tournament with four points on one goal and thre assists.
Former Eden Prairie standout Madison Boer, who was drafted in the second round of this year's draft by the Twins, has been moved up to Class A Beloit after starting the season with Elizabethton. Boer pitched in 15 games for Elizabethton, throwing 17 1/3 innings with a 2.60 ERA with an impressive strikeouts-walks ratio of 31-2. In three games with Beloit, he has pitched three innings, earned a save and given up one run with three strikeouts and one walk.
For the first time in team history, the Twins have purchased the contract of a St. Paul Saints player by obtaining pitcher Caleb Thielbar. Thielbar, a Randolph, Minn., native who was drafted out of South Dakota State by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 18th round of the 2009 MLB draft, made 43 appearances for the Saints this season, throwing 49 2/3 innings. He was 3-3 with a 2.54 ERA.
Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe recorded another double-double Thursday for Team USA at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, this time in a 94-84 victory over Israel. Mbakwe had 12 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots in 22 minutes. Through five games Mbakwe leads the tournament in rebounds per game at 9.8, is tied for fifth in blocks at 1.8, and is ninth in field-goal percentage at 60 percent.
Team USA's Under-18 hockey team recently finished fifth at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Edina standout Louie Nanne ended up tied for 21st in scoring at the tournament with a goal and an assist.
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. • firstname.lastname@example.org