Inside the Twins clubhouse, Eddie Guardado was as well known for pranking his teammates as pitching the ninth. So Guardado knew better than to take Rod Carew's word for it when the seven-time batting champion called this week to welcome him to the Twins Hall of Fame.
"I said, 'Hey, I like to play jokes, but I've never gone this far with one,' " Guardado said of his chat with Carew and Twins President Dave St. Peter. "They laughed, and finally convinced me: This is for real. ... I still can't believe it."
He has five months to let it sink it, then, before the induction ceremony on June 14, when "Everyday Eddie," the lefthanded reliever who has pitched more games for the Twins than anyone else, becomes "Forever Eddie" to Minnesotans.
Guardado was elected by a 56-member committee of media members, club officials and past inductees, the team announced Friday. Former Twins second baseman Chuck Knoblauch was runner-up, followed by Cesar Tovar and Dan Gladden.
Guardado, whose 116 saves rank third in franchise history, was known as "Everyday Eddie" for his ability to pitch frequently. Yet he will be joined in the Twins Hall of Fame by someone whose longevity was even greater: Tom Mee, the Twins' first employee in Minnesota, who served for 30 years as the team's media-relations director.
Mee, a St. Paul native who worked for the Twins from their first game in Minnesota in 1961 and held positions as varied as public-address announcer, radio broadcaster and official scorer, was elected by an 18-member Veterans Committee, which includes all living Hall of Famers, Twins officials and local baseball historians.
Guardado played 17 seasons in the major leagues, 12 of them with the Twins, and appeared in 648 games for Minnesota. The two-time All-Star led the American League in 2002 with 45 saves, a club record that stood until Joe Nathan recorded 47 in 2009.
The numbers are nice, Guardado said, but they're not why he played. "I always tried to treat people the way I wanted to be treated -- that's what I'm really proud of," said the 42-year-old Californian. "When I go to spring training next month, there's going to be hugs, laughs, story-telling. That's what it's all about, the people you meet in this game."
Joining the Twins Hall of Fame -- assuming it's not an elaborate practical joke -- is the pinnacle of his baseball career, Guardado said, but it's a challenge, too. Pitching with the tying run on third base, staring down Jose Canseco with a one-run lead, those things never bothered him.
But making an induction speech? "Man, I'm nervous now," Guardado said.
Ticket sales drop
Only 81 percent of season-ticket holders renewed for the 2013 season, St. Peter said Friday, the lowest rate since the move to Target Field three years ago.
The team expects to open the season with a base of more than 19,000 full-season equivalents sold, a drop of more than 17 percent from the approximately 23,000 season tickets sold last year.
"That's still a good number. It still gives us one of the top 10 fan bases in the big leagues," St. Peter said. "I believe that ultimately, our ticket base, long-term, will normalize around 20,000."
Almost 98 percent of ticket-buyers renewed after the 2010 season, the Twins' first in Target Field, and the rate was close to 90 percent last year, St. Peter said.
The Twins might not be done shopping, General Manager Terry Ryan said. "We've still got our eye on the free-agent market," Ryan said, without being specific. The Twins reportedly have considered offering contracts to lefthanded starter Joe Saunders and outfielder Scott Podsednik.
Fox Sports North will televise seven spring training games, St. Peter said, and all 34 spring games will be on the team's new radio flagship, K-Twin 96.3-FM.